IoT Edi Hackathon and a Victory for Wastr

IoT Edi Hackathon

The IoT Edi hackathon happened quite some time ago, but finally I decided to sit down and write about it. So, here’s a brief overview of how it went for me and the team.

Finally, after a long time Edinburgh got a hardware hackathon that it deserved. It was organized on 28-29th May, alongside the IoT conference on 29th May. As being the first hardware hackathon in Edinburgh (at least the first one that I’ve heard of) it was quite small, but very fun to participate. Each team got a couple of ST Nucleo F401RE boards, two ST BLE shields for the boards, some jumper wires, breadboards and components. Everything else that we needed had to be sourced, salvaged or hacked from other devices.

As in any other hackathon we had very limited time to think of a project, build and program it, so without any time to waste, we started working on our ideas. Together with the team we spent the first day brainstorming ideas and various problems that need solving. Our ideas ranged from intelligent coathangers, which suggest what to wear depending on the weather, to devices which inform the council about small public offenses, like playing golf in the park. However, we decided to stick with the idea of an intelligent trash bin and call it the Wastr.

Wastr - the IoT trash bin

Wastr – the IoT trash bin. Front view

The idea here was to raise awareness of how much trash people throw away, by giving them some feedback right from the trash bin, thus encouraging them to reduce the amount of trash at home. This might not have a huge impact overall, but it would help raise awareness, and thus help form a “green” mindset.

So how it works? Wastr is fitted with sensors, which indicate how full the bin is, when the bin is emptied and how much trash were taken out:

  • an ultrasound sensor fitted at the top of the bin. It measures how full the bin is, and when it is filled, a notification is pushed to your phone, which keeps annoying the user until the trash is taken out
  • a hacked digital scale monitors the weight of the trash bin, and records the weight of the trash when the bag is taken out
  • a light sensor at the bottom of the bin is used to indicate when the trash bag is taken out. Then it saves the data from the scales for synchronization with the phone.

Essentially, this is Wastr – your IoT trash bin, which annoys you and your Twitter followers until take the trash out :)

Wastr - the IoT trash bin

Wastr – the IoT trash bin. Rear view

When we started working with the hardware we found out that it was poorly documented, and there were some hacks needed just to make the BLE shield work with the board it was made for. Even though it was only a jumper wire to connect some pins on the shield, it still was quite confusing, because none of the online examples worked without this fix. More on this, in my other post.

As I mentioned before, the IoT Edi hackathon was running alongside the IoT Edi conference, so on the second day of the hackathon we had quite a lot of people coming over to check our projects. It was pretty cool, as everyone seemed to be interested, and couple of guys even gave us some advice, which is always appreciated :) In the afternoon, at 5pm sharp we had to stop working on our projects and present our work to the audience and the panel of judges.

Hackathon Pitches

Another team pitching their project to the judges

After our short pitch of the idea, we had a short demo of the project showing how the Wastr works. Basically, it sent data from the trash bin – level of trash and light sensor values – to the phone, where this data was nicely presented to the user. Unfortunately we did not have enough time to connect our app with Twitter, but it would have been fun! :) I think because our idea was slightly unusual (trash – how fun can this be?), it stood out from other projects which were mainly home automation or plant irrigation/garden watering solutions, and we received a lot of grilling from the judges. Nonetheless, we managed to successfully defend our idea, prove it’s worthiness and take the first place :) We were very happy that our project generated so much interest. Rory Gianni (@digitalWestie) even included our project in his presentation in the Edinburgh EcoHack.


Team Wastr celebrating victory!

Unfortunately, we did not have time to attend any of the conference talks, because of our busy schedule :) but at least the conference was recorded, so we had a chance to catch up on all the action. More pics and videos from the conference can be found here.

Once again, I wanted to thank my team-mates Marijonas, Dovile and Erin for doing a great job, and of course, Simon Montford, who organized the conference and invited us to the hackathon. Thanks, and hope to see you all at other hackathons 😉

5 comments to IoT Edi Hackathon and a Victory for Wastr

  1. Domenico says:

    Where can I found the code that you used to using BLE module and the Nucleo board ? Thanks

  2. […] came accross this problem when I was testing the hardware for the IoT Edi Hardware Hackathon, and couldn’t make the BLE shield work as it should. First of all, I tried an example called […]

  3. Hi Dom

    Great write up of the IOT//EDINBURGH Conference & Hardware Hackathon. Many thanks for taking the time to write this blog! Just a small point,the event took place on 28/29 May, not April.

    I had a great time, and really enjoyed meeting the contestants. Let’s organise another one soon, if you’re still in town.


    • domas says:

      Thanks for pointing that out! :) will correct that.

      Likewise, I really enjoyed helping out with organising it, and participating as well! We should definitely organize one again. Even if I’m out of town, I’ll come back for a hackathon or a conference :)

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