Skip to main content
Department News

Capstone Team Developing a CO2 Sensor to Help Farmers

A challenge many corn farmers face is preventing and detecting the spread of Aspergillus in silos or other grain storages. Aspergillus is dangerous to consume because it produces an aflatoxin that can cause liver cancer and cannot be exported. Having entire storages of corn become infected can be devastating for farmers and a huge loss of income, so developing methods to detect early spread of Aspergillus is extremely important.

Aspergillus grows in hot and dry environments, so grain or vegetable storages often have the proper conditions for it to thrive. To combat this, a team of Capstone students from BYU is developing a cost-effective and user-friendly CO2 sensor to detect early stages of Aspergillus growth. The goal of creating these sensors is to benefit farmers in African countries with the correct conditions for Aspergillus growth. The team is composed of Sam Badstubner, Jacob Brown, and Jonathan de Gaston from Computer Engineering; Didi des Rosiers from Electrical Engineering; and Nate Cruze and Isaac Murri from Mechanical Engineering.

The team purchased oil drums and were donated corn from Cornbelly’s to create two miniature models of grain silos to run tests on. CO2 levels in grain storage are generally higher than regular air, but when levels become too high, it can be an indicator for the level of mold growth. Because CO2 levels are a key indicator of mold growth, the team’s current sensor prototypes each include a CO2 sensor and a microcontroller that is equipped with Bluetooth.

The Capstone team meets every weekday morning for two hours, which may sound like plenty of time, but team members expressed that the time passes quickly. “There is so much to research, prototype, evaluate, decide, and document,” Jacob Brown, a Computer Engineering student on the team shares. “We must work with a constant sense of urgency.” To work more efficiently, tasks are delegated based on the team member’s unique strengths and skills. For example, the main goal of the mechanical engineers recently has been developing an enclosure for the circuitry and figuring out viable options for mounting sensors in the silos. The electrical and computer engineers, on the other hand, have been working on components in the sensors, testing Bluetooth, and evaluating microcontrollers.

Jacob Brown shared, “In just two months, I have learned so much from my teammates, my coach, our sponsors, and our professor. This has been an invaluable experience to me so far.”

The team’s sensor is still in development, and the students will continue meeting together until the end of the Winter Semester in April.