With Grid-EYE to the Winner Podium - First LEGO League and Panasonic
February 4th, 2017: About four hundred children aged between 9 and 15 have gathered in Zwolle, Netherlands for the Benelux finals of the FIRST® LEGO® League (FLL). Among them are students Jeroen (14), Leon (13), Koen (13) and Sibrand (12) from Delft who have joined each other under the name The Lego Hackerz with a shared goal: to save hedgehogs!
The First Lego League (FLL) is a program that supports children and youngsters in order to introduce them to science and technology in a competitive way. The basis of FLL is a robotics tournament where children need to solve a tricky "mission" with the help of a robot. The theme for the project this year, “Animal Allies” is about the interaction between humans and animals. Jeroen takes up the story "We went to the animal shelter in Zoetermeer because we wanted to help prevent pets and animals being injured. We were told that every year many hedgehogs are injured or killed by lawn mowers, both private lawn mowers and in particular contract mowing of larger areas. That's why we decided to find a cheap and effective solution to save hedgehogs!”
This is where The LegoHackerz began their project. During their research they found at he online publication of TU Delft and Indian Institute of Science, researchers Sujay Narayana, Dr. Prasad and Dr. T V Prabhakar, Mr. Vijay about PIR sensors and the Grid-EYE sensor by Panasonic. A dialogue between the students and the PhD candidates began and shortly afterwards the team designed a simple and inexpensive solution to save hedgehogs.
The knowledge of researchers Sujay Narayana and Vijay Rao proved invaluable. Narayana said: "We are carrying out research on the development of PIR sensors. These sensors can detect humans and animals with the aid of body heat and are already used to automatically open doors, for example Also we examined whether these PIR sensors can distinguish between animals and humans, which appeared to work. Hedgehogs are warm-blooded animals and can be detected in this way. The Lego Hackerz team is now using a Grid-EYE sensor in their design. "
Grid-EYE is an infrared array sensor and the first ever 64 pixel IR camera in an all-in-one compact SMD package. Based on Panasonic’s MEMS (Micro Electro Mechanical Systems) technology, Grid-EYE combines the MEMS sensor chip, a digital ASIC (I2C interface) and a silicon lens. It has 64 thermopile elements in an 8x8 grid format that detect absolute surface temperature without any contact. Unlike conventional sensors, Grid-EYE uses a patented 60° silicon lens etched out of a silicon wafer, which is (with less than 0.3mm height) the smallest available lens in the market. The combination of these technologies from Panasonic enables to reduce the sensor package size to only 11.6mm x 8mm x 4.3mm, which is around 70 % smaller in size than competitor products.
But you don’t need to be an academic to realize these advantages. In the words of tinkerer and hobbist Sibrand from The Lego Hackerz: “The tiny Grid-EYE sensor can even distinguish short distance between my different fingers, which is amazing. The Grid-EYE app and the different resolution settings have helped us a lot in designing our application. If the warm object (in our case a hedgehog) is about the size of single pixel, the Grid-EYE sensor can very accurately detect that warm object".
And there is a lot of truth in what Sibrand says. Compared to single element thermopile sensors and pyroelectric sensors, it is not only possible to detect moving people and objects but also the position and presence of motionless people and objects or respectively hedgehogs for a surface temperature from -20°C up to +100°C. With this wide range of temperature measurement Panasonic is able to reach a NETD (Noise equivalent temperature difference) of +/- 0.08°C @ 1Hz at room temperature.
For the Lego Hackerz team, Grid-EYE turned out to be the perfect way to identify hedgehogs. If the detector is mounted on a lawnmower, the mower can be automatically switched off or lifted as soon as it threatens a hedgehog. The knowledge of the TU Delft researchers was used to reduce the number of false detections and helped the team with improving the analysis software that transformed the thermal input into an alarm signal.
The Lego Hackerz are confident about their project – with good reason! After a day of presentations and demonstrations and competing against more than 50 other teams, Jeroen, Leon, Koen, and Sibrand won third prize and will join the World Festival in St. Louis in the United States. As they still have time to make improvements to their research project, they will investigate whether the Grid-EYE based concept is also suitable for detecting other small mammals and birds.
Follow The LEGO Hackers on their own blog
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Panasonic Industry Europe GmbH is part of the global Panasonic Group and provides industrial products and services in Europe. As a partner for the industry sector, Panasonic researches, develops, manufactures and supplies technologies that contribute to a better life and a better world. Looking back on almost 100 year of engineering knowhow in electronics, Panasonic is the right supplier when it comes to engineering expertise combined with solution competence.