Sensing Project

Sensing Project

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Sensing Project

Project brief

A new greenhouse is being developed for gardeners who are concerned
about overheating plants in their current greenhouses.

The new greenhouse has been built with opening windows but
occasionally the windows of the greenhouse slips fully open and allow
all of the trapped heat in the greenhouse to escape quickly. This is a
major concern for serious gardeners. The test is to develop a sensing
circuit that will sense whether the windows are fully open, so a
gardener can be alerted of the problem.


To begin we must know what a sensor is. A sensor is an electrical
component, which produces a signal in response to alteration in its
surroundings, this maybe an alteration in a physical variable or by
movement of objects.

The sensor planned for the sensing circuit ensuring the windows are
not fully open is a rotary potentiometer.

A rotary potentiometer is a component, which has three terminals. When
the angle of rotation is changed on the component's arm then the
potential difference (often called voltage) is also changed. Once the
voltage reaches a specific point a separate circuit could activate an
alarm showing that the window has slipped and is fully opened. The
potential difference is the difference between potential energy
between two separate points.

Alternatively a different sensing circuit could be used. A circuit
with a thermistor (a component sensing change in temperature) could be

In normal situations when the window would be fully closed the
temperature in the greenhouse would be high so the output voltage from
this circuit would be low. However if the windows were to slip open
fully then the temperature inside the greenhouse would decrease so the
output voltage would increase. The circuit could be linked to an alarm
of some type so as when the voltage increases past a certain point
when the window is fully open, the alarm rings alerting the gardener
to shut the windows again.

A circuit containing a LDR (light dependant resistor) could also be

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constructed and applied to the outside or inside of the greenhouse. In
this instance the light dependant resistor would have to be very high
resolution, as the light intensity would not vary great amounts over
the hours of sunlight.

I think that the rotary potentiometer sensing circuit will be better
for this project as temperature will vary a great degree throughout
the day and if the circuit were too sensitive the sensor would keep
activating. The rotary potentiometer senses the occasions when the
window slips so does not need to be as sensitive so will no activate


* 12V power supply

* Wires

* Rotary potentiometer

* Voltmeter

* Fixed resistor

* Crocodile clips

* Protractor

* Pointing device (Lego)

Circuit diagrams



Method and set-up

This circuit is first constructed carefully and for safety reasons
without the power supply switched on.

The rotary potentiometer will be connected to the circuit by two of
its three terminals. A wire coming from the power supply through the
fixed resistor connects to the first terminal. Then the second
terminal is connected to the voltmeter, which is connected in parallel
to the component, which is the rotary potentiometer.

The same fixed resistor is used thought out the experiments so as to
ensure the variables remain constant. The resistor that will be used
in the circuit will be a 10KΩ resistor, which has similar resistance
to the rotary potentiometer. If the resistance of the rotary
potentiometer is 10KΩ at its highest resistance the angle of the arm
will be 3000 (as the arm does not turn a complete 3600). This can be
used to show the rough resistance of the rotary potentiometer at
different degrees.

Angle of Arm (0)

Estimated resistance (Ω)











The maximum estimated resistance for the rotary potentiometer in my
experiment will be roughly 59994Ω as the maximum angle being measured
up to is 1800 as a window would not be able to open wider than this.
So there is not a stage in the experiment when the rotary
potentiometer is has 0 Ω. In practise this is not the case as all
components will have a certain internal resistance in some situations
it is a benefit to have a low internal resistance.

Before results are firstly taken preliminary tests may be used to
check that the circuit is working as expected. When taking preliminary
tests the power supply should only give the lowest input voltage as
possible as it is unknown at this point how the rotary potentiometer
react to higher voltages. If the voltage is increased too high too
quickly the rotary potentiometer may spark. During the preliminary
tests for example the voltmeter may be reading a negative result,
which is easily resolved by swapping the wires connecting to the
voltmeter's terminals. It is also important to ensure that the circuit
does not short circuit. It is possible that the crocodile clips
connecting to the rotary potentiometer touch each other and alter the
readings. This can be avoided by placing a piece of paper between the
two terminals.

As the readings are taken the rotary potentiometer arm with connected
pointer (Lego piece) is rotated to certain degrees. The maximum the
windows could open to would be 1800 so points up to and including 1800
can be tested for voltage change. Once certain the circuit is
functioning and is safe to use then the voltage may be increased so as
the results show larger difference, therefore the accuracy of the
experiment depends less upon the accuracy of the voltmeter. The
measured voltage change can then be used to find a number of different
properties of the rotary potentiometer.

Firstly the sensitivity can be calculated using the formula;

Sensitivity=Δ Output

Δ Input

The sensitivity of a measuring system is the ratio of the change of
output to change of input. In this case of this experiment the change
in output is the change in voltage and the change in input is the
degree interval.

We can then use this information to see if the sensitivity of the of
the rotary potentiometer changes as the degrees increases. The
sensitivity will be measured in the units V 0-1.

The resolution of the rotary potentiometer can also be calculated
using the formula;

Resolution= Δ Output


The resolution of the sensor refers to the smallest change the
component can detect in the quantity it is measuring or the precision
with which a measurement is made. Different resolutions can be
calculated to see if there is a change in resolution throughout the

The angle cannot be tested with a protractor in this instance, so some
type of marking system can be made up on paper showing the angles and
the position for the rotary potentiometer. Then the experiments should
be repeated three times to hopefully similar results. If any of the
results seem to be anomalies then that experiment should be repeated
to find a clear result. The anomalies result should however but noted
and accounted for.


I predict that the voltage will decrease with an increase in the angle
size as preliminary rough calculations have shown that the resistance
will increase as the angle increases. Voltage and resistance are
linked to each other in Ohm's Law which states that V=IR (Voltage
equals current multiplied by resistance) so an increase in resistance
means less current if flowing through the circuit therefore the p.d is
lower so as the angles are changed at regular intervals the voltage
will decrease accordingly in a linear fashion.

I also predict that voltage decreases in a linear fashion so I would
expect there would be no changes in the sensitivity or the resolution
throughout the experiment.

Angle (0)

Voltage reading (Volts) (Attempt 1)

Voltage Reading

(Volts) (Attempt 2)

Voltage Reading

(Volts) (Attempt 3)









































Results table

Now that results have been collected they can be plotted on a graph
against number of degrees to identify any trends or anomalies results.
To make the graph firstly the mean average (found by adding together
the frequency of the data and number it by the number of pieces of
data) of the results must be taken this decreases the chance of any
singular anomalies results becoming apparent in the graph.

O0 Average= (5.25+5.29+5.26)/3 = 5.26V

200 Average= (5.15+5.18+5.15)/3 = 5.16V

400 Average = (4.98+4.92+4.93)/3 = 4.94V

600 Average = (4.73+4.69+4.65)/3 = 4.69V

800 Average = (4.41+4.37+4.37)/3 = 4.38V

1000 Average = (4.06+4.05+4.06)/3 = 4.05V

1200 Average = (3.93+3.87+3.86)/3 = 3.88V

1400 Average = (3.53+3.55+3.51)/3 = 3.53V

1600 Average = (3.20+3.23+3.22)/3 = 3.21V

1800 Average = (2.81+2.76+2.79)/3 = 2.78V

(See Graph)

The graph shows that as the degrees of rotation increase towards 1800
of rotation the voltage decreases in a linear fashion as predicated in
the hypothesis through Ohm's Law.

Now with the information available the additional properties of the
rotary potentiometer can be calculated.

Sensitivity=Δ Output

Δ Input



Sensitivity=0.005 V 0-1

This is the sensitivity at the beginning of the experiment

Sensitivity=Δ Output

Δ Input



Sensitivity=0.016 V 0-1

Sensitivity at the end of the experiment (N.B 1800 of rotation has not
been used, as it is clearly an anomalies result)

So from these calculations we can see that the sensitivity has changed
by 0.011 V 0-1 which was not what was predicted in the hypothesis,
however this difference may be explained.

Looking of the graph it is noticeable that the P.d at 200 is slightly
above the line of best fit therefore could be assumed as a slightly
anomalies result. If the value taken for 200 on the line of best fit
is taken we may find a more accurate overall sensitivity.

Sensitivity=Δ Output

Δ Input



Sensitivity=0.013 V 0-1

This result is similar to the result found for sensitivity at the end
of the experiment, so this data shows that the sensitivity remains
constant throughout the experiment.

The resolution may now been found from the sensitivity values
previously calculated.

Resolution= Δ Output


Resolution= 0.32



This is the resolution at the end of the experiment.

Resolution= Δ Output


Resolution= 0.26



Resolution at the beginning of the experiment.

As predicted in the hypothesis the resolution value remains constant
throughout the experiment when using the more probable result for
sensitivity at the beginning of the experiment.
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