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Senior Design

Power Distribution System

The Problem

At a refugee camp in Jordan, power distribution was dangerous and unfair. People would die attempting to hook up power to their tent, getting shocked when they wrapped cables around the power lines. The wealthier people in the camp would attempt to use more power than the transformers could handle, so the transformers constantly ran at around 140% capacity.

These safety concerns formed the basis for our project.

The power distribution system that we designed for the refugee camp in Jordan had 2 goals:

  1. Prevent injury from electric shock.
  2. Relieve the power draw on the overloaded transformers powering the camp.

Each box had 12 connectors that could be tapped for power. Each box could have up to 12 families that could plug in to the boxes, which would prevent injury from hooking up to power directly to the power lines.

I was the sole software engineer of the project. I used four ATMega328P microcontrollers to monitor the amount of current being drawn, and kept a running total to measure the total power draw. Each family would be alotted a certain amount of power each day. We used C-clamps to measure the current amperage draw, and I set the microcontrollers to count the total amount of amperage used on each plug. After the day's alotment was used up, the microcontroller would turn off the power to that plug with a relay.

I also programmed the microcontrollers to turn off if enough power was being drawn at one time. This was primarily to prevent people from using too much electricity at once which would overload the transformers. I used the incoming measurement from the C-clamps, and if a plug's power draw was over a certain threshhold, it would turn off the power to that plug.

The combination of the total power limit and the current limiting features of this system solved the second goal.

Box Layout

Microcontroller Context Diagram