The PENGU Project

The PENGU project was proposed by Edinburgh Zoo in partnership with the Research Institute for Sensors, Signals and Systems (ISSS). The Zoo wished to better monitor the incubation process of their Northern Rockhopper Penguins and their Southern Cassowary birds, which are currently able to lay eggs but struggle to hatch offspring due to embryo deformations.

Researchers at the zoo wanted to be able to monitor 3 main parameters during the incubation period:

  • The temperature at various points around the egg
  • The humidity surrounding the egg
  • The rotation that the egg is subject to

We were given the opportunity to present our project at the Edinburgh Zoo for their conservation education event. Many academics were present, amongst which Abertay, Napier, St. Andrews, Glasgow and of course Heriot-Watt represented by the PENGU group. This gave the project exposure to other universities, some of which showed interest in using our sensory egg for their own research on birdlife. As the main guest of the event, her Royal Highness Princess Anne was also present.

We were also given the opportunity to appear on national television in the first semester. An interview piece was carried out by STV which was aired on the 6 pm news bulletin. It highlighted the achievements of the project during the early stages as well as the future applications of the smart egg. A copy of this interview can be seen below:

I was the Hardware & Software engineer for this project. This role included choosing and prototyping internal components and embedded software development. In addition to this, I developed a web app using Node JS that displayed all the data gathered by the egg to the zookeepers.

Further details on the project can be seen in this poster which I designed. Shown below are pictures of the PCB inside the egg which I designed. The PCB included, an ATMega328P MCU, a motion sensor (BMI160), and I2C multiplexer and multiple connectors.

Below is a demo of the software.

And a live version of the egg sending data wireless to the software:

In this project I used the following tools & programming languages:

  • Eagle (PCB Layout)
  • Atmel Studio (Programming ATMega328P)
  • Google Firestore
  • TheThingsNetwork
  • NodeJS
  • PHP
  • JavaScript
  • HTML
  • CSS
  • Embedded C


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