Watershed students engineer monitoring system for Seabright Dam

By Stephanie Grinnell | Jun 11, 2014
Photo by: Stephanie Grinnell Watershed School student Louisa Crane explains the school's engineering project at Seabright Dam to Camden Select Board members June 3.

Camden — The engineering class at Watershed School has devoted months to designing and installing a monitoring system for Seabright Dam.

Students presented their project to selectmen June 3 and explained how they designed the system, what type of devices they used and what type of data they intend to collect. Student Louisa Crane said collection of real-time data is the goal, in the hope to provide that information to town officials and the public.

"The Internet is becoming more a part of our lives," she said, adding alerts will be texted and emailed to Ross Parker, the town's wastewater superintendent.

"We created [computer] programs to create tables and graphs and convert the information into readable data instead of a string of characters," student Jesse Dunn said.

Crane said the system will alert Parker of conditions such as low water or too low rotation in the turbines which can lead to not only a loss of power generation but also to additional power use.

"We learned a lot but also had a lot of challenges," student Jerin Brooks said.

Student Heather Dumond described the process of trying to make each of the programs created by students work coherently.

"It wasn't simple but we resolved it," she said.

Students have installed equipment to monitor electrical output, depth of the river, turbine rotation and a temperature sensor for inside the building housing equipment.

Throughout the process, students posted updates on a blog at watershedengineering.weebly.com. The two goals students intended to meet are listed as instrumentation of Seabright Dam to record data as well as publishing that data online where it is accessible to the public. On the blog, students wrote: "There are many advantages to having this data publicly available: town residents will clearly see the value of owning a productive hydroelectric plant and teachers in the community could integrate the information into class curriculums [sic]." Students started the blog in April when equipment began to arrive and continues to track progress through the select board meeting June 3.

While students expected to have the website live by the end of the week, they've not yet been successful. According to the blog, "Heather [Dumond] is trying to make the website live by using a remote server that runs all the time, as right now the data querying stops when she turns off her computer."

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