In mid-July, I had the wonderful opportunity to participate in this year Western Research Fellowship Retreat in Ten Sleep, Wyoming. For the bulk of the Retreat, we spent our time out on the Tensleep preserve taking soil samples using the latest tools such as the soil extractor, the light spectrometer, and even the soil dryer. This experience was very rewarding because it allowed for my partner (Natalie Irwin) and I to get out of the lab and really experience what field techs go through every day and helped us come up with the ideas that will hopefully help the field techs in the future.
One idea that came out of the trip was a moisture meter device. Natalie and I realized that the soil dryer is not 100% helpful if field techs don’t know when to dry the soil. Thus, we decided to build a hand-held moisture meter device that uses two prongs to detect the moisture percentage of any soil sample. The device can be stuck into the ground or the bag of soil sample and will have a small LCD screen that gives the percentage of moisture. With the moisture percentage and the weight of the soil, the field techs can then use an algorithm that will let them know to what weight they must dry the soil to reach the desired moisture level.
Another idea that popped back up after the trip was the need for a spreader. When Natalie and I started this project we had thought of a spreader but never fully acted upon the idea. However, after the trip, we noted that it would be really helpful to have the spreader because it would help flatten out the clumps of soil and speed up the drying process.Currently, the moisture meter device is still a work in progress but I am happy to say that the spreader is finished.