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Photodetector Bonanza

  1. Mar 2, 2016 #1
    Here's the thing: I'm a god-fearing humble man like yourselves, but I know jack about electrical engineering, yet I've found myself in a rather peculiar situation. In particular, I'm supposed to perform electrical engineering.

    So, we're supposed to design a model of a theoretical city, using our perpetual middle school knowledge of how to do said thing. My team would like to blow **** out of the water and integrate some sort of "dynamic" (pardon my misuse of EE terminology) support for lights in, e.g street lamps. In particular, we'd like so called "photodetectors" to determine which street lamps should be turned on and how much they should be turned on. Where can we buy "photodetectors"? Is this a reasonable project for newbies within a timeframe of ~4 weeks? What are the names of some good brands, so that we can search for reasonable products within the domestic market?

  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 2, 2016 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    if you did have knowledge about photo detectors, would you have the knowledge to incorporate them into the design of a lighting system?

    Go down to the local hardware store and buy a solar garden light for about $2. They have photo detectors to turn the light on and off.
  4. Mar 2, 2016 #3

    jim hardy

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    Any of the kids good with Arduino yet? They're getting down to around ten bucks...
  5. Mar 2, 2016 #4
    Thanks for the replies, much appreciated!

    Did not think of that, what a cheap and simple solution! Thank you!

    Ah, I shouldn't refer to us as "middle schoolers". I guess you could consider the American 9th grade the equivalent of the grade we're currently in. I have limited experience in programming, in particular, I have limited experience with imperative, object-oriented, and generic paradigms within the domain of C-like languages. I have zero experience with Arduino or any other "integrated hardware environment", or whatever you'd call them. Do you think we'll be able to pull something off with Arduino/Raspberry in 4 weeks?
  6. Mar 2, 2016 #5

    jim hardy

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    Only if you've got a kid who's already using them.

    Took me that long to get a $15 Arduino keeping time of day in Roman Numerals... and it needs a $100 display...
  7. Mar 2, 2016 #6
    Very demotivating. Do you believe that we could at least pull of that solar garden light thing with ZERO knowledge about whatever Ohm's law is and everything in between? I'm fine with doing very disgraceful things with what I assume is a very pedantic art form. I mean, surely it shouldn't be harder than setting up one of those light-sensitive lamp layouts you see on some gardens. Thank you for helping us out!
  8. Mar 2, 2016 #7

    jim hardy

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    Sure. The humble flashlight has much to teach a beginner. What you asked i envision as not much beyond a flashlight with light activated switch instead of a pushbutton. The yard light suggestion earlier was great advice.
  9. Mar 2, 2016 #8


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    You might not be aware, but photodetectors of one type or another are already used to automatically turn city street lights on and off according to light levels

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