SMEAGOL? Means what?

SMEAGOL means Small, Embedded, Advanced, and Generic Objects Laboratory. It is our flagship course that can be taken as project or laboratory course, and it is tailored to be suitable both for M.Sc. student (larger project) or B.Sc. students (4. semester student project).

What is it all about ?

Like its namesake in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit, also our Smeagol have more than one personalities. As mentioned it can be taken in various level of your studies. Moreover, there is no fixed project. The course evolves dynamically with the times and student requirements (and interests). Also pedagogically we have several aims for this project. But most of the all it is supposed to be not only very educational but a lot of fun. Below you will find some of the highlights, and encryption where we are aiming at.

Internet  of Things and Embedded Networks Teaching (“Personality I”)

SMEAGOL was started in 2005 (yes that is 10 years ago) to provide environment for students to learn basics on the embedded networking taking into account both in hardware and software development. It is a classical systems course, as in the end teams have to design, implement, test, and present fully functional system. As the embedded systems require a lot of practical experience, the independent project work is an integral part of the learning process. 

The main engineering concepts what the students have to master and show in the end of the semester are systems design, microcontroller programming, some hardware design, integration of sensors to build cool applications, and there must be (wireless) networking aspect related to the work. SMEAGOL has got ample support from industry to acquire necessary components and tools to provide student excellent environment to build their projects. Originally one of the key programming and execution environments were UC Berkeley Motes and Telos Motes. While these are still used for some projects, we are now supporting in increasing amount Arduino, MPS430, and Rasberry based platforms.

Project Teams and ‘Start Ups’ (“Personality II”)

The modern engineering is inherently team work and based on projects. Anything that is sufficiently complex requires a team to make it, and a sort of hierarchy to run it. SMEAGOL wants to provide a “safe” environment to learn this already in the university. We simulate a classical setup of project, or start up, in our structure. The students will form a project team, which has to make after a short orientation period a proposition to the “management” (professors responsible for the lab) what they want to build and how much it will cost. This is real costs, as we will be provide support also to acquire new components if those are not available in iNETS laboratory. After the acceptance of your business/project plan, it is upto you to execute the project. There are middle-management and support team available (assistants responsible for the lab) to answer your questions and help with equipments. Each team must have its own project manager who is reporting on the progress. In the end of the semester you have to demonstrate your new “product” to the customers and higher management (professors and assistants) for approval.  

Encouraging freedom to innovate (“Personality III”)

We have a number of suggestions for SMEAGOL projects. But what we love even more is that the teams are making their own suggestions. We really aim to the startup mentality, and we do out best to support students own ideas as a semester project. The “Cooler” your project is, the more we are willing to support it. 

Occasional Outside Customers, too!

Sometimes SMEAGOL has been also taking part on our outreach activities. In some cases this means that we have had a sort of outside ‘customer’ providing challenge(s) for our teams. One of the great parts of this has been cooperation with some nearby schools. The teachers and pupils from the school get an idea what they would like to achieve in a school with help of technology. Our clever SMEAGOL teams are then providing that. One of the most successful semester of this was when we build sensor and wireless kits for teddy bears, school children learned about physics of parachutes and built those. Then we combined our efforts, and we had a fleet of parabears which were jumping out out school balconies and bravest one even from the roof of school. SMEGOL system was measuring velocity, tilt, acceleration, and physical conditions of bears and beaming them wirelessly and real-time to laptops and phones of students. We call it cool!

Google got a patent on toys having sensor and wireless in 2015, we did our first Parabear project in 2006. That is something we call “ultra-cool”, beating Google by 10 years.

Recent example projects out of SMEAGOL

Parabears: One of our most successful Smeagol-projects. In this project, the group of talented students were developing daredevil parabears. These teddys are equipped with high quality sensors and wireless radios. Most importantly those furry heroes have parachutes. They are jumping from high and measure all the time their inertial and dynamical state, this information is then sent to school students over the radio. Information can be later used to learn all about parachutes and Newtonian dynamics.

Parabears have been noticed also by press, there was for example a story about them in Süddeutche Zeitung (supplement). Parabears have also travelled to places like Lissabon, Brussels and Berlin to show their great talents.

SpyPlane: a group of students were piling up too many sensors and radios into our remote controllable airplane to make it a real unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to spy around. The real-time radio link provided a lot of different flight information down to a laptop with GUI.

Stratosphere or Bust: What happen if yo give a professional weather balloon to university students with a lot of sensors, mobile phone, and phone number of air traffic security agency. Answer: a project to send a sensor package with the weather balloon to high up to the air, and monitoring capability for ground control to know where it is. We did not harm any animals or cars as a part of this highly successful project.

Mars Rover: remote controllable rover that is sending sensory data and live video communication over radio. Due to budgetary reasons, as our sponsors were not giving us 150 million development budget, the rover is made from Legos and is using only a short range radio to get internet connected gateway PC. Instead of Mars the rover was operated only across the border between Germany and the Netherlands.

Sebastian: the smart Teddy Bear that is helping parents to monitor their children. The Sebastian can detect different behavior towards it and around it. It can also make fire alarm, and with proximity sensors it can find out if there are other Sebastians around, hence it is not just surveillance tool but also a smart toy.