DIY Seed Kit Update

Project by Ziyi, Cody, Inez, and Erin

Our project is about creating a cheap and easy to replicate seed planting kit for the everyday person meant to maintain different plants in different, sometimes harsh environments. It does this by balancing pH and moisture with the inclusion of biodegradable kombucha scoby.


Here is our current setup. We laser cut a box with an open top- four of the sides are wood, the fifth is a type of plastic, allowing us to hopefully view the kit once it’s planted. We had to use duct tape to plug in the holes. We are using small yet biodegradable tea bags (in the green package) to hold everything. The smelly scoby is in the glass jar for now, waiting to be minced and placed in the bag. We are waiting on the soil to be delivered in order to put the whole bag together. Tomatoes were the fastest growing, most acidic thing we could find, so they will be the seeds we place in our test run.

Screen Shot 2017-04-11 at 8.15.15 PM

This is a section of the code we are using. It is the soil sensing example that we have used previously in our class. We are currently trying to work out a cheaper method to the pH sensor to keep the DIY feel, so we will most likely not need pH code but perhaps color sensing code?

Our timeline is as follows:

April 12: Prepare tea bag demo and plant the first bag

April 17: Discuss change in code and price out alternative

April 19: Set up contents for a second, ready to create display

April 24: Pretty up display and test Arduino setup

April 26: Present final project

Our group is fairly well rounded, with everyone contributing fairly similarly. Cody is an exception, with him focusing on coding. Inez and Ziyi are taking care of the scoby and visual setup, while Erin is documenting, posting, and helping all around.


Erin’s Field Observation

Our project involves a DIY Seed Kit with self balancing pH and moisture for tough environments, as well as a readout on a LCD screen.


Because of the homegrown design of our project, I decided to venture outside of my own house. My backyard is divided into 2 sections- the main area with a patch of fake grass and a fire pit- this is generally where we hang out and play with the dogs and the like. We also have orange trees that we take care of. In the second section, we have a below ground pool and our garbage cans. On this side, we also have pine trees growing in a separate area that is supposed to be blocked off by bricks.


As you can see, we have kind of neglected the care of this area since the trees have gotten bigger. Sure, we water them, but the surrounding rocks have made their way inside and the brick barrier has been knocked over. This is mostly due to my dogs running around and wrecking things.


I remember my mom being an adamant gardener- we used to have big sunflowers and even some edible things- which I don’t remember due to it being so long. They actually grew in the same spot as the trees are now. I asked my mom why she stopped growing stuff like that, and she told me “because the trees are there.” All joking aside, she elaborated by saying it was an awful lot of work. The dogs get into everything, it’s very very hot, and the soil and rocks are so dry that the trees are really the only thing that are hardy enough to stay there with little effort. My parents are getting older, and the sort of upkeep some plants require due to the extremities of Arizona are just too much.


Well, I’m around, so I decided that I’ll try to plant something. I chose tomatoes because my mom is a fan of them.

Several of the trees have fallen and had to be removed due to a really bad storm a couple years ago, so it left me with a nice open spot to plant in. Unfortunately, the ground was also very hard and rocky. I had to water down the soil in order to actually dig anything significant enough.


Once finished, I threw all 15 seeds in the trench, spread out as much as possible. I also watered down the soil once again to start them off once I covered them up again.


I haven’t grown anything by myself since I was in biology in my freshman year of high school. I’ve read there’s quite a bit of upkeep on tomatoes due to them growing out on a vine and presumably getting tangled over time. This spot is also in direct sunlight for a significant portion of the day. Based on some research that I did, tomatoes like warm soil, but do not fare well when they begin to grow if it is extremely hot. Thankfully, it will not reach 100s for a little while yet.

I am hoping my tomatoes will do well enough to even just begin growing. I want to show my mom that she can start a garden again.


Good luck, little tomatoes!

DIY Seed Kits

Project by Erin, Inez, Ziyi, and Cody

Our motivation is the struggle of growing certain types of plants in the desert. The ground is dry, and pH levels are hard to balance. Similarly, plants are prone to being destroyed by pests, but pesticides have a very harmful impact on the environment.

Is there a way to make plants hardy enough for different environments, while avoiding methods harmful to the ecosystem?

So far, people have used kombucha scoby to balance the pH of a plant environment. It is usually placed on the surface around a plant after it has begun to grow. The downside to this attracts bugs.

Another project in progress is by a company called Pivot Bio. Their research lies in breeding microbes to cover plant seeds and defend it from predators without the use of pesticides, while also yielding healthier fruit. This project is mainly for mass producing farmers, however, and most likely will not be accessible to the average gardener for a while.


We want to make healthy gardening accessible.

In short, we want to make a gardening kit of sorts that provides the basic capabilities of microbe plants without the cost.

The kit would include:

A seed of your choice (most likely a plant that is resistant to more acidic environments)

Starter soil

Biodegradable empty tea bag

Small amount of minced kombucha scoby

All that is required of the person is to combine all of the elements in the tea bag, dampen it with water, and plant the entire thing in the ground.

The scoby should act similarly to the microbial tests of Pivot Bio, but is far cheaper and easy to produce at home. It balances the pH and defends from pests- something that is much more effective when placed into the soil alongside the seed.

For sensing purposes, we will build a pH and soil sensing Arduino setup, with an LCD screen as an output.

Ideally, they will be sold in cheap kits of differing seed types. Additionally, there will be encouragement to try to create your own setup, with emphasis on DIY gardening. The electronic sensors, however, would probably be sold separately or as part of a larger kit.


We are hoping for the impact to be something similar to a gardening culture. People could very easy grow their own food, and do so in a healthy manner for the environment. Kombucha and the scoby production would become far more well known- entire businesses could sprout up for providing people with ingredients to feed their garden. Industries will begin to grasp a feasible replacement for harmful pesticides. Not only will this benefit the environment, but the farmers themselves. Scoby (or microbes) are far cheaper to produce than the massive amount of chemicals needed for large fields. The resulting crop is also healthier, plentiful, and hardier- strengthening future generations of the crop.


The group work will be divided up as follows:


Erin: Documentation and presentation

Cody: Arduino setup

Inez and Ziyi: Scoby supply and visual setup

Anthony & Erin’s Skill Review

In our BioDesign experiment, we are interested in the fashion theme. More specifically, we want to tackle the problem that runners and cyclists have about running at night. They are hard to see, and reflective tape is not always very effective.

Our solution was to follow the bioluminescent design of a Comb Jellyfish. These creatures have comb-like cilia to help them move, scattering light in straight lines down their bodies.


To mimic this, we created a pressure sensor hooked to a row of LEDs. When pressed, the LEDs would flash in a row. Let go, and the LEDs shut off.

Essentially, the runners can be seen but also be stylish. It works for the jellies in the deep, dark portions of the ocean!

Here is our code:

int left = A0;
int right = A1;

int led1 = A2;
int led2 = A3;
int led3 = A4;
int led4 = A5;
int led5 = A6; 
int led6 = A7;

int valueLeft, mapLeft;
int valueRight, mapRight;

void setup() {
  // put your setup code here, to run once:

  pinMode(left, INPUT);
  pinMode(right, INPUT);

  pinMode(led1, OUTPUT);
  pinMode(led2, OUTPUT);
  pinMode(led3, OUTPUT);
  pinMode(led4, OUTPUT);
  pinMode(led5, OUTPUT);
  pinMode(led6, OUTPUT);

void loop() {
  // put your main code here, to run repeatedly:

  valueLeft = analogRead(left);
  valueRight = analogRead(right);

  mapLeft = map(valueLeft, 0, 300, 255, 0);



  if (valueLeft < 100)

  if(valueRight > 1000)


void fromLeft(){

  analogWrite(led1, 255);
  delay (200);
  analogWrite(led2, 255);
  delay (200);
  analogWrite(led2, 0);
  analogWrite(led3, 255);
  delay (200);
  delay (200);
  analogWrite(led4, 0);
  analogWrite(led5, 255);
  analogWrite(led5, 0);
  analogWrite(led6, 255);
  delay (200);
  analogWrite(led6, 0);


void fromRight(){


Loren and Erin’s Soil Sensor

Our sensor uses an LCD screen to dictate if the soil in question needs to be watered. Once the sensor is inserted in the soil, the LCD screen will display the water level and change colors and messages depending on what is required.

If the water level is very low, the screen will turn red.


If the water level is okay, but needing water very soon, the screen turns yellowish green.


If it is watered and ready to go, it will turn fully green. You can see this version in our documentation video (thanks to the lovely rainstorm we had over the weekend).

Here is our code: