Project Lead, Developer
"De Verweidklok" is an unique smart clock inspired by the cuckoo clock. This device is capable of helping a sheep farmers to know when the lots are invested with parasites to a degree where it can harm the health of the sheeps. This device uses methods that helps the farmer to prevent (over)using medicines against the parasites. This also has an positive impact on the environment.
CONCEPT AND GOALS
The first semester of my third year we were assigned a client based on our top 3. My client was Dr. A.F.G. Adriaan Antonis. Together with him from University of Utrecht (UU) and Wageningen University and Research (WUR) we were given a complex issue.
He had done 8 years of research on parasitic intestinal infections with sheeps and the impact of medicines on those as well as alternative methods that could be more effective. His goal was to make people act smarter when it comes to those infections which gave birth to his project Wise with Worms. The task given to us was to come up with something that would allow the target audience to use less medicines when it comes to sheep and parasitic gastrointestinal infections.
Together we were a team of 7 in which none of us had a background that was related to animals or related fields. In this team I was given the role of Project Lead, Contact Person, and of course Developer.
We had 3 game developers, 2 game artists, 1 game designer, and 1 interaction designer.
My goal as the Project Lead was to ensure that during the 20 weeks none of my team members would work overtime nor should they reach stress levels that were unhealthy caused by the project.
As the Contact Person my goal was to ensure that all parties were well informed of our development and overall progress. This included our university, the client, and other relevant third parties. I wanted to make sure to arrange meetings ahead of time that would match the schedules of most people.
Lastly as a Developer my personal goal was to build a complex system that is extremely smart and could potentially be used for AI in one of my future projects.
The first 6 weeks consisted of us doing extensive research on the subject in order to familiarize ourselves with the terms related to the field. We also started brain storming and concepting at this point.
Within the first half of the project we came up with the solution to the problem, "De Verweidklok". As our focus was within the Netherlands we kept the name Dutch. We also tested this concept with Dutch people that were part of our target audience.
I did manage to achieve all my goals even though it wasn't all smooth sailing. We also managed to become a pioneer in the industry by being the very first ones to create this marvelous unique product which will be used in the field. It will also be developed further on by most likely a different team as we each are still students and have our studies to focus on.
The first version of De Verweidklok was a prototype that Kyra, our interaction designer, created. The first iteration was quite simple but solid and effective. It completely eliminated the use for medicines when used properly.
In Dutch we call it "verweiden". It is the process of moving your animals from lot A to lot B. In order to understand why we need to zoom in a little bit on the nematodes; the parasites that reside in the stomach of the sheep.
The small worms breed inside the stomach of the sheep. The sheep gets infected when they consume the larvae at a particular stage. At that stage the larvae don't get digested. At that point it uses the insides of the sheep in order to breed and to create eggs. Those eggs eventually hatch and get pooped out onto the lots. In the lots the larvae proceed to grow and they get consumed by the sheep eating grass. This is the essentially the circle. So our thinking process was to eliminate the moment that the sheep are supposed to eat them when they are in too large quantities, because a small amount does not immediately equate to danger.
The second problem with the parasitic infection is their resistance. Throughout the years plenty of medicines have been used. The problem is that if the worms are not immediately wiped out that they will grow immune to it and all following generations will be immune as well. In a way it is science versus nature in a heated battle.
From those medicines only up to 2% of it is actually used in the sheep the remaining 98% ends up in the environment. These medicines can be extremely harmful to the surroundings as it affects plants, other animals, and the waters. So in the ideal scenario you would only use medicines when you really need it.
With verweiden the sheep farmer can completely ensure that the sheep don't consume too many larvae. As the lot has no animals on it the larvae will die off and it will become clean over time. The farmer can also decide to mow the lot, this will also clean the surface from the larvae.
De Verweidklok keeps track of the lots, the weather, and other conditions. All this data gets flushed through a formula designed for the Haemonchus Contortus. The answer of this formula tells you how save the lot it and allows you to predict how much longer it will remain safe. Once it is no longer save the cuckoo mechanism will activate with a little sheep coming out. This is the sign that it is time to start moving your sheep from the corresponding lot. If you don't then the chances are very high that they will end up deceased due to the high levels of larvae. Or you will have to spend a lot of money on the medicines in order to cure them and risk the chance of getting immune larvae.
The Wurm API
We worked with 3 developers in this team. Caspar, Tjaard, and me. They each had their own goals to work on for this project, so I wanted to create something that could bring their systems together in a very low level way.
I devised a complex system that is capable of handling 120+ different requests and all you need to access is 1 simple method with 2 parameters. This is the Wurm API. This clever system was designed by me in such a way that both developers only need to know what data they require or what data they want to update. The Wurm API does everything else, literally. In the technical structure I will go in depth about the how and in the database I will cover the what.
The main objective for the method was that it was clear, easy to implement and easy to maintain if anyone wanted to delve deeper into it. I do think that I have achieved this as I had tested this with various peers. The method itself was so simple to understand that even non-developers were able to know what would happen.