Friday, August 5, 2016

URSP Student Highlights: Jeremy Johnston

I am a student in the Civil, Environmental and Infrastructure Engineering department at George Mason. The fields in our department are primarily geared toward developing structurally sound and sustainable infrastructure as well as analyzing and modeling natural events to help develop infrastructure improvements. My research has been focused more on the latter aspect and collecting useful environmental data such as air quality, water quality, and weather data to be used for the improvement of current storm water systems.  I also hope this data will improve our understanding of environmental changes during extreme weather events.

 Working with the guidance of Drs. Viviana Maggioni (CEIE), Paul Houser (GGS), and Celso Ferreira (CEIE) I have been developing a new type of sensor system. While most sensors are programmed to send data at an unchanging rate, I have been working to create a reactive network. This network is capable of responding to environmental factors like thunderstorms, high winds, temperature extremes and any other sensed variables by collecting data at a higher temporal resolution (more data points, higher quality data). If any sensor station in this network senses a value above a predetermined threshold (such as high wind, rainfall, high or low temperature etc.) it will respond. What makes this system unique is the ability of the sensor to not only respond itself, but to send out radio signals to the other sensors in the network causing them to increase their sensing rate as well. This is why it is referred to as a “Smart Sensor Web”.

Personally, I have been in charge of programming of the sensors, building and setting up the sensors in the field, as well as analyzing incoming data. The process has been very time intensive, but very rewarding. I have expanded by knowledge of computer programming having worked with C++ and python over multiple operating systems. I have also learned a lot about what to expect in my field, how to carry myself, and how to solve problems in team environments. Beyond this I have learned about sensor operation and Arduino/Waspmote technology, circuitry and electrical wiring, as well as radio communication.

It has been a wonderful experience to this point and I have learned a great deal. I anticipate the growth of this network on campus in the future and I hope to be around to help improve this system following my time in the URSP program. While many improvements need to be made, I believe the most difficult challenges have been met and I hope to witness this system working up to its full potential in the near future.