The Internet of Plants: Students Win with Social Media

Graduates from the Intensive English Program (IEP) continue to shine on campus. A group of four international students – Riken Shah (Computer Science), Ziwei Liu (Electrical Engineering), Ling Chao Mao (Industrial & Systems Engineering), and Beliz Ilica (Design Studies) – called themselves Team IDK and were awarded the “Best Use of Social Media” prize in a recent Make-A-Thon competition. Three members of the team were IEP graduates. 

Make-A-Thon is NC State’s annual sustainability challenge and is a great opportunity to learn, create, collaborate, and have fun at the same time. This year, there were 148 students and 39 teams participating in this challenge, and Team IDK worked hard throughout the weekend to find a solution to inefficient irrigation methods. Their project, named IoP, which stands for Internet of Plants, provided a plant with its own Twitter account which allowed it to tweet its needs online while interacting with people.

Based on plant research, the students calculated the ideal moisture level for the test plant and respectively programmed the sensors. To collect real-time data, they connected moisture and raindrop sensors to an Arduino Uno microcontroller board to monitor the moisture level and weather conditions (raining/about to rain/not going to rain) for a particular area of soil.

Afterward, they used an Esp8266 Wifi Shield and a Raspberry Pi to allow the plant to wirelessly connect to a server and wrote a Python script to automate postings on Twitter. The plant became “alive” on this social media platform and could interact with Twitter users in real-time.

The students credited their time in the IEP in helping them develop the skills they needed for success.  

“The IEP was such a unique experience that it prepared us for the upcoming challenges in college,” said Beliz Ilica, one of the three IEP graduates on the team. “We used the skills we learned in the IEP throughout the challenge. We had to present our idea with a one-minute pitch, which we practiced many times with our instructors in conversation and presentation classes. We had to take practical notes in a very short time to form our idea, which we knew very well how thanks to our note taking classes. Lastly, we had to do a lot of research and read multiple articles on our topic, for which we were prepared by our fabulous reading instructors.”

Not only did the IEP develop the students’ academic skills, but it also helped the students form lasting friendships and adjust to life in the United States.

“All classes we took, all people we met, and all the memories we collected help us have the best out of our college life. The long-term friendships we made in the IEP were also special. Coming to the U.S from different countries, we all needed support and role models to adjust. And that is exactly what the IEP gave us. Rather than having classmates and instructors, we had a small family that always supported each other no matter where we were or what we were doing. We are so glad to be a part of the IEP family and are thankful for all they have done for us,” said Ilica.

The IEP faculty and staff are proud of their students’ successes and would like to remind all graduates that they are always welcome to stop by if they need any support, a kind word, or a just a smile.