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Education Technology Idle

Automated Dorm Room Causes a School Inquiry 170

Posted by samzenpus
from the dorm-of-tomorrow dept.
First time accepted submitter ElectronicHouseGrant writes "Freshman Derek Low rigged up his Berkeley dorm room with something he calls B.R.A.D., which is short for 'Berkeley Ridiculously Automated Dorm.' The room includes automated lighting, drapes, music, motion detection, and more. He can control everything through voice recognition, but a wireless remote, his iPhone and his iPad are also in on the control party. Derek started the install on February 4 and finished just a few days ago."

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Automated Dorm Room Causes a School Inquiry

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  • School inquiry? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @05:40PM (#39873117)

    Maybe I missed something, but since the headline said school inquiry, shouldn't there be some info about that either in the blurb or the article it's linking to?

    • by mjb (8536)

      That's what I was thinking!

    • Re:School inquiry? (Score:5, Informative)

      by jklovanc (1603149) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @05:48PM (#39873179)

      Here [livescience.com] is a more complete article.

    • by feepness (543479)
      Well, you're inquiring, aren't you?
      • by cayenne8 (626475)
        My inquiry would be...

        What was that laser thing? That was pretty nifty.....however, somehow, and maybe I'm old school...the party music was seriously lacking in cowbell.

        Other than that, I think the kid has a hit!!!

        :)

        • The laser is a common DJ light effect from American DJ.

          AMERICAN DJ Galaxian Green & Red DMX Lazer Light Beams

    • by Auroch (1403671)

      Maybe I missed something, but since the headline said school inquiry, shouldn't there be some info about that either in the blurb or the article it's linking to?

      You know what's even more surprising? That someone at MIT didn't do it first. You know, those west coast silicon valley hipsters havn't been known to do anything progressive in the area of tech progress.

      /sarcasm

      • by rusty0101 (565565)

        Not sure that anyone at MIT would stoop so low as to use X10 modules for a dorm project. Somehow I would tend to expect them to design their own solution that wasn't so noisy, or prone to being affected by someone in the next room with an X10 timer, or lamp control pad.

        • by blackicye (760472)

          Not sure that anyone at MIT would stoop so low as to use X10 modules for a dorm project. Somehow I would tend to expect them to design their own solution that wasn't so noisy, or prone to being affected by someone in the next room with an X10 timer, or lamp control pad.

          I agree, I already did this more than 10 years ago when I was in college. I guess the youtube crowd is easy to impress.

    • by terrab0t (559047) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @05:58PM (#39873251)

      This discussion thread is only for those of us who do not read the article. There will be another post later that actually links to the article to allow those annoying fact checkers to join in.

    • Re:School inquiry? (Score:5, Informative)

      by vlm (69642) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @06:03PM (#39873291)

      Not very hard to guess the problem.

      Take a look a the third or so pic on http://lab.dereklow.co/brad/ [dereklow.co] The one with the light switch hanging out of the wall as he screws around with the wiring. If he could have just stuck to plug in modules like everyone else, but no he has to go all amateur electrician... I love this quote "With no access to the circuit breakers of the dorms, the contacts and wiring inside the wall switch remains live even as I open and try to modify it.". This dude is the stereotype of nothing is more dangerous than a programmer with a screwdriver... damn...

      Screwing around with the drapes might have pissed them off too. Worst case is losing some security deposit unless he can return it all exactly to original operation.

      Oh and the fog machine. My dorm didn't allow gasoline and oil products in the rooms, to discourage people from putting their scooter in the room, or doing oil changes in the dorms. Maybe they're worked up about fog juice and treating it as automotive lubrication oil.

      • Re:School inquiry? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by cayenne8 (626475) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @06:47PM (#39873671) Homepage Journal

        Oh and the fog machine. My dorm didn't allow gasoline and oil products in the rooms, to discourage people from putting their scooter in the room, or doing oil changes in the dorms. Maybe they're worked up about fog juice and treating it as automotive lubrication oil.

        Yeah, all dorms have rules...but they never really enforced any of them...at least not in my day at LSU.

        I mean, we weren't supposed to have hot plates or anything to heat up food...we did. You weren't supposed to have kegs in your room....we did (after dorm crawfish boils, the left over kegs followed us into our room, as did the RA's that we befriended).

        Hell, you weren't supposed to have women in your dorm room over night, but I know a guy who had his chick living with him (and his room mate) for a whole semester. Basically in our dorm...there could have basically been an ax murderer come out and take out a whole floor...and no one would have noticed till a week or so later when the smell got even worse that usual.

        *sigh*..those were the days. I remember the 2 day poker/Bourré games we played on a table we'd stolen from a study room, and placed in the elevator....and just rode up and down playing all weekend straight....only taking breaks to pee, grab some food...and replenish the beer in the cooler.

        • by Grishnakh (216268)

          My dorm had a stupid rule against having microwaves, supposedly for safety, but then they tried renting us these massively overpriced microwave+refrigerator combos, and were forced to drop the rule against microwaves since it was obviously bogus.

      • by Nethead (1563)

        My wife gets all pissed at me when I replace switches and outlets without turning the breaker off. I just tell her that I always act like there is live power anyway so it just makes me even more careful. If you know how electricity works and actually THINK about what you are doing...

        • by Grishnakh (216268)

          Yes, I've done it many times before too. It's not that hard if you're not an idiot or a klutz. It helps to wear gloves, however. 110V shocks aren't that dangerous (as long as you're dry), but they're quite annoying, kinda like a bee sting.

          • by Nethead (1563)

            As a kid I got zapped by a neon light transformer (7.5KV) and anything after that seems tame. That did get me into the proper mindset when I was working on broadcast transmitters though.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by axlr8or (889713)
          He has a point, and so do you. You always have to assume there is power anyways. I was a maintenance man at a fab company for tractor trailers. We often had to work with the power on anyways. Heh, about 6 months ago my boss paid an electrician to come in and rewire a messed up network. After examining the system he determined what breakers were to be turned off. After working a few hours he began messing with some wires and BAM! Power went out. Someone plugged an extension cord into a receptacle 50
          • by flonker (526111)

            Another thing that you see is that a wire is connected to two different circuit breakers on either end. Also known as two circuits that accidentally got joined together. Turn off the breaker, and the wire is still powered from the other side. Or if only the neutrals are tied together; turn off the breaker, you think you're safe, someone flips a light switch, and BAM! The white wire bites you.

          • Re:School inquiry? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by spikedvodka (188722) on Thursday May 03, 2012 @08:42AM (#39877331)

            As the saying goes:
            - There are Old Electricians
            - There are Bold Electricians
            - There are no Old Bold Electricians

          • by TheLink (130905)
            I'm not an electrician but if you're moderately paranoid:
            1) Press the breaker test switch to try to turn stuff off, and to test the breaker.
            2) Test the wires with a multimeter to make sure
            3) short the wires, so if some wise guy tries to turn stuff back on you don't get zapped so badly (the breaker should trip as tested in 1) ).
            4) Work on stuff.
            5) unshort the wires
            6) reset the breaker.
            This only applies for lower voltages.

            For the HV stuff you better be more careful - even if stuff is off the residual charge
            • by tuxicle (996538)

              For the HV stuff you better be more careful - even if stuff is off the residual charge can be enough to kill you.

              Aye, grounding sticks are your friend!

        • Re:School inquiry? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Chris Mattern (191822) on Thursday May 03, 2012 @07:12AM (#39877019)

          It's like a gun. You always assume a gun is loaded but you unload it before working on it. In both cases, it's dangerous enough that if you don't want *both* precautions, you're a fool.

      • by tuxicle (996538)

        I'm not an electrician either (I'm an EE), but if you take some decent precautions (insulated sleeve screwdriver, or a stubby), it's not so dangerous to open out a wall switch. What's a lot more dangerous is if you have anything with both hot and neutral close together - then you're in danger of arc flash, which IMO is quite a bit more dangerous than live-to-ground leakage.

        Also, don't fog machines use glycol? It does leave a residue that can, at first glance, look oily, but its not the same thing

      • I don't know about that particular fog machine he's using, but many DJ/Band fog or haze machines these days use water-based fluids rather than oil-based. Oil-based fog/haze juice has a higher likelyhood of setting off fire alarm due to the hydrocarbons in the aerosol, but the haze from an oil-based fluid hangs in the air longer. Also, the oil-based juice leaves more of a residue. Fog machines put out a big puff of smoke that is gone in 2 minutes or less while haze machines make a finer mist that hangs longe
    • Note to Derek Low: My God man, you're in college. How dare you show any initiative and innovation?

      Clearly, you haven't learned much your freshman year. All innovation and initiative must be pre-approved by your faculty sponsor and the department head. In addition, such projects are reserved to graduating seniors with some exceptions granted for juniors who have shown they know how to behave properly.

      • by Sperbels (1008585)

        All innovation and initiative must be pre-approved by your faculty sponsor and the department head. In addition, such projects are reserved to graduating seniors with some exceptions granted for juniors who have shown they know how to behave properly.

        Well...yes. This is essentially what our society is morphing into. If you show the least little bit technical know-how with electronics, or chemistry, or biology, or anything mechanicky looking (that isn't a car), then you're viewed with suspicion and reported.

        • Re:School inquiry? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @06:30PM (#39873525)

          Messing with the fixed wiring in a room that you do not own is not "initiative", especially when you can't turn off the power while you're working on it. In that case it's called "recklessness". Faulty contacts are a serious fire hazard, and unlike the stuff you just plug in, the installed wires do not simply revert back to safe when you move out.

          • by hughJ (1343331)
            Yep. It means the school will now probably be obligated to double check all the wiring in the room just to cover their butts with respect to electrical code in case of future fire, etc.
          • by Sperbels (1008585)

            Messing with the fixed wiring in a room that you do not own is not "initiative", especially when you can't turn off the power while you're working on it. In that case it's called "recklessness"

            It's actually both. He's a kid, recklessness comes with the territory.

          • X10 isn't worth getting hospitalized over.

            If you're going to get seriously hurt at college, the situation should at least involve several gallons of vodka, unprotected woo-hoo with an entire sorority, and questioning the football team's heterosexuality at a practice while tripping on shrooms. Precisely in that order.

            • The only thing that comes from heavy drinking before sex is soreness, and I don't mean a hangover.
          • Presuming he messed with the wiring to accomplish this is recklessness. There is nothing in the video that requires more than wireless and plugging in to a power socket.

      • by bluemonq (812827)

        He's more than welcome to innovate. The issue is whether or not his modifications violated the terms of his dorm lease, which is ehy residence hall officials want to talk to him. For example, if you sign a lease contract that says you can't drill holes into the walls, and then your landlord heard from folks that you did that anyway, do you expect to be let off the hook for the damages because you've come up with a revolutionary new way of line-drying your laundry?

    • by SeaFox (739806)

      They're undoubtedly upset at changes he made to electrical wiring to get around problems X10 modules have with CFL bulbs he mentions on the project page [dereklow.co]. Also, if they have some strict guidelines about holes in the walls I suppose the mounted lights, motor, and pulleys for the curtains might annoy them.

    • by Dast (10275)

      You must be new here.

    • by Talderas (1212466)

      Yes. Unfortunately it just "Caused a School Inquiry". The article was far more interesting when I believed it said "Causes a School Injury".

    • It's great that he got it done just in time for the school year to end. I'm sure that like most schools, that they'll let him keep all his stuff there all summer.

      Maybe next year he should work more on his planning and scheduling . . .
  • by commodore73 (967172) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @05:47PM (#39873169)
    During romantic mode.
  • /.ed (Score:5, Informative)

    by wbr1 (2538558) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @05:47PM (#39873175)
    Article appears to be slasdotted..and sparse per prior posts. Any better links?
    Oh that's right.. unlike the submitter or the eds.. I can use google.
    http://www.livescience.com/20048-ridiculously-automated-dorm-room.html [livescience.com]
    http://www.berkeleyside.com/2012/05/01/cal-student-creates-a-ridiculously-automated-dorm/ [berkeleyside.com]
    http://www.latimes.com/business/technology/la-video-berkeleys-most-ridiculously-automated-dorm-room-ever-20120501,0,2225746.story [latimes.com]
  • In my dorm here in Italy it's illegal (as for in Dorm rules) just to put a chair from the kitchen in your room.
    And anything like that would not have passed the montlhy control check.

    • by PRMan (959735) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @05:57PM (#39873247)
      Land of the free, and all that...
      • by houghi (78078)

        Darn, no mod points. +1 funny would it have been.

      • by mooingyak (720677)

        In my dorm here in Italy it's illegal (as for in Dorm rules) just to put a chair from the kitchen in your room.
        And anything like that would not have passed the montlhy control check.

        Land of the free, and all that...

        I'm going to start with the assumption that you already noticed he said Italy and just say... I don't get it. Can anyone enlighten me as to the funny?

      • by codepunk (167897)

        I have been to just about any and every country you can name. I don't really consider the US to be land of the free, in fact quite the opposite.

  • by ozduo (2043408) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @05:54PM (#39873233)
    "come up and see my BRAD" doesn't work for me!
  • by Penguinshit (591885) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @06:04PM (#39873297) Homepage Journal
    The ALS Residence Initiative [alsri.org] already built a paradigm-shift in skilled nursing care in Chelsea, MA. The Residence was built as part of the Leonard Florence Center for Living as a place for ALS/MS patients with severe disability to live with maximum independence and with the highest quality nursing care available.

    The Residence was designed by my friend Steve Saling [youtube.com] with his own long-term care requirements in mind. The building is stuffed with automation equipment from PEAC [peacpc.com] which enables people, who can only use their eyes to control a computer, to open doors, operate lights, call an elevator, or summon assistance (among other operations). The Residence is the first of its kind, and the ALSRI is committed to building these across the USA. The second facility is to be built near Atlanta, GA.
    • by sconeu (64226)

      Thanks for the info. My wife also has ALS, and your link is very cool.

      Thanks again.

      • You can contact me directly from the link in my signature if you ever want to talk about anything ALS. I am 7 years in and us "old timers" have a duty to help the newly diagnosed.
  • I misread "inquiry" as "injury." Dang.
  • by LoudMusic (199347) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @06:16PM (#39873403)

    That just looks like a hodgepodge of cheap consumer crap he picked up at Home Depot and literally taped to the walls and ceiling of the dorm room. He even runs free apps on his Apple products to control that stuff.

    Where's the fit and finish of quality hackery? Practically any geek with a spare couple of weekends could throw this together.

    • You're complaining that the budget on this production was too small? He's a college student. I'm sure you could send him a check and he'd improve the quality for you.
    • by dasunt (249686)

      That just looks like a hodgepodge of cheap consumer crap he picked up at Home Depot and literally taped to the walls and ceiling of the dorm room. He even runs free apps on his Apple products to control that stuff.

      The X10 stuff is cheap (at least one ebay) but I wouldn't call it exactly crap. It is what it is and it works well, at least when I used it. It isn't as elegant as other remote control systems, but it doesn't have the price either. ;)

      But using the phone to control things looks like a pain. W

    • There's more to engineering than classwork. This kid's got it in his genes. Go Bears!

    • by ShakaUVM (157947)

      Seriously. While we didn't have smartphones back in college, a friend of mine rigged up his alarm clock to a winch that would slowly lift up his mattress and dump him out of bed in the morning.

      I imagine engineers have been doing shit like this all the way back to the Egyptian days. Those traps protecting the pharaohs' tombs were probably just freshman year hijinks.

  • just in time for the semester to end and to take it all down. Sadly, that emergency party never did arrive.
  • He bought off the shelf X-10 controllers. He used off the shelf controller software.

    Where's the innovation? The creativity? The uniqueness that makes this an engineering project instead of just an assembly of existing parts?

    Back in University, some students in my hardware class wired up a Radio Shack sound generator chipset project. The prof spent 40 minutes tearing them a new arsehole because they did nothing more than wire-wrap a canned project. They didn't design, create, or innovate a single t

  • by Lando (9348)

    Well, the system looks interesting; however, I'm more interested in the camera work a video editing. It seems, especially at the beginning, to have been professionally done. Is that the level of sophistication of today's modern video recorders and editing software, is this guy into video production or was there outside help? It seems a mismatch in skills as the hacking is fairly insignificant in comparison to the video skills.

  • Plenty of cases where schools have to pay out large claims due to accidents. Schools also check for carpentry projects like lofts and too many appliances, both which may be dangerous.

Take care of the luxuries and the necessities will take care of themselves. -- Lazarus Long

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