December Update


At the beginning of December we posted our first update video on YouTube that showed the team interaction and how we work together. ( )

On the communication side, our primary objectives for this month were to focus on social media, outreach and the press release.

We created a social media schedule to identify when to post and update our team information. In addition we drafted our press release and identified additional media that we listed under our outreach listings.

We also brainstormed ideas on what to include in the press kit we plan on releasing to the media.  These ideas include original creations using the laser cutter, such as key chains and laser cut chocolate, as well as ornaments and business cards.

During our school’s exhibition on the 18th of December, we organized a fundraiser selling original ornaments using laser cutter. We were able to raise over $300.

During Winter Break our team met for team bonding and went to Sunset Cliffs as well as at a nearby park to get to know each other better. We shared our strengths and weaknesses and discussed how we can be more efficient for our project and our work as a team.

For January we are planning to:

  • Create a cover photo for Facebook page.
  • Set up a calendar to document when certain photos and other important information will be posted.
  • Finalize our Press Kit and send our press release to media to announce our Mid-Year Grant Review scheduled in February.
  • Create more buzz for our social media accounts.
  • Draft the letter to the editor.
  • Post another video to show the progress of our project.
  • Finalize our outreach/communication plan.
  • Write an article for the High Tech High Connections Newsletter


At the end of last month, we were just beginning to get readings from the oscilloscope, so we started our December first meeting continuing work there, as well as exploring a new product we purchased, the IComsat SIM900 GSM/GPRS shield for Arduino to send SMS messages. All the meanwhile we were of course continuing our work experimenting with a physical electric fence.

After a few meetings of research on what arduino shield would best suit our needs for sending a SMS message (we favor the arduino setup because a good amount of people on the team have worked extensively with the hardware and software) we decided to use a shield called the IComSat (below).

The IComSat proved to be a hard nut to crack, as we had many problems involving libraries for the shield, hardware errors, and the very worst luck. We still not have solved this problem, but we are to the point where we know that it works, but a tiny technical difficulty keeps us from successfully using this method.

Next Month’s Goals

Now that we have set up and figured out how our GMS shield works, we need to gather baseline data about the voltage output of our fence so we can start applying and integrating our knowledge of the device to and with our actual fence.


Send pertinent files to Sharon, like the latest CAD, or summary of experiments, and calculations. Compress the files into one .ZIP file per month and ask Sharon to upload it to TeamAccess. Label the files appropriately, with the team name and subject matter.


As of now we have not met the monthly spending goal of 60%, we are closer to 20%.
Next month we would like to meet the monthly budget goal of $1,000. We are going to do this by buying supplies used for prototyping. We forecast prototyping costs to raise our spending significantly.
The biggest issues thus far financially are that we aren’t meeting budgetary goals set forth, but prototyping and further technical work will use up a significant part of budget.


Throughout the course of this month, we have had three meetings that were about two and a half hours long each. As a team, it has become increasingly clear that although we all get along, our greatest weakness is organization. We have struggled to organize our thoughts, our work, and our data once it is collected. In order to combat this, we have begun to have each participant take notes on what they completed each meeting and keep digital records of our data. Hopefully we can create an organized atmosphere that will encourage the team to continue utilizing the new tools put in place. In order to do this, we will (at least in the beginning) need to be more strict about documentation.


January 15, 2015

Technical Work: Fence Set Up

Before our winter break, we left off our data collection discovering that the fence gave different voltage outputs depending where we chose to measure on it using the oscilloscope. We had previously assumed the voltage would be constant throughout the fence since it is a single circuit, so we were surprised to find it had varying voltages at different locations. When we measured the fence at different distances from the energizer we got different results. Unsure as to why this was happening, we wanted to be able to test multiple regions of the fence simultaneously; that way we could eliminate that other factors that were causing the variance. However, after an unfortunate accident broke part of our oscilloscope, we could only utilize one of its two channels, so we decided to order a new oscilloscope to measure and compare two spots on the fence.

In order to measure two locations at once, we needed to change our fence set up. Previously, we had been measuring the voltage output with this set up:


We measured the voltage at the energizer, at the start of the fence, and ten feet out

In order to compare greater distances with our oscilloscope, we changed our fence setup to look like a wave. This way we could utilize the device’s two channels to test and compare the fence at two spots simultaneously to determine if the fences voltage was changing constantly or independently and in accordance with the region we were testing. Our new fence set up looked like this:


Or in person:


Distance Measurements:


25ft 25ft 25ft 30ft 30ft 30ft 55ft 55ft 55ft
Input 18.0kv 18.0kv 18.0kv
Output 17.6kv 17.6kv 17.6kv

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At 25ft, our voltmeter sometimes reads the same voltage (low resolution)

Written by Phillip Steiner and Adrian Maya, Technicians for High Tech High’s 2015 InvenTeam

November 17th, 2014

Learning Through Application

We continued our process of finding the best ways to accurately measure and detect breaks in a wired fence system. We used two different fence energizers this time: one, a lower voltage, continuous stream system and the second, a high voltage 3 second pulse energizer. On the low voltage system, we experimented with reading the voltage directly, while with the high voltage system, we used some new equipment (a voltage divider and the accompanying adapters) to read it with an oscilloscope.

The oscilloscope allowed us to read more accurately the output of the energizer, giving us the opportunity to graph the peak to peak as well as compare individual readings to each other, which became valuable when trying to measure the discrepancy between pulses.

With the ability to accurately measure now at hand, we created data sheets and documentation systems to allow us to efficiently conduct and document experiments testing different scenarios in which a wired fence system may be interfered with and broken. With this information, we plan to try and better understand how to tell the difference between a break and mere interference, and start setting standards for which the actual detection system can go by.

Written by Dayyán Sisson, Technician for High Tech High’s 2015 InvenTeam

November 10th, 2014

Technical Update

On this day we decided to experiment with the different variables that come with setting up a fence. Since we’d be working with improving and detecting breaks in electric fences, we thought it would work in our favor to have a deep understanding of them. If we do not have all the facts early on, when we really get into prototyping and refining, we could be making a big mistake in our design and be set far back. In order to obtain the necessary information, we decided to test two variables: How far apart the fence posts are, and how far the grounding pole for our fence is in the ground. As a team we realized these contingencies could be key factors in making our device.

First, we set up a fence that was 100 ft long, all four poles were about 20 ft apart, and the grounding pole was two inches in the ground. After that we took our oscilloscope and measured the voltages we got coming from the fence. We got around 450 volts for our measurements on that. We then re arranged the fence, and put all the posts 7.5 feet apart with a altogether length of 30 ft, and put the grounding pole 4 in in the ground. We got the same exact measurements as last time. Finally, we tried putting the poles 2.5 feet apart, creating an overall length of 10 ft, and put the grounding pole 6 in into the ground. We set up all our equipment and there was no difference. For our last attempt, we used only three posts, each about 1.6 ft apart, creating an overall length of 5 ft; and put the grounding pole 6 in into the ground. Still there was no difference in voltage. After reviewing the measurements of all our setups, we concluded that the length between posts and how far the grounding pole is in the ground are independent variables. They do not affect the amount of voltage going throughout the fence.

Written by Lexi Colmenero, Technician for High Tech High’s 2015 InvenTeam

July 8th, 2014

Looking for Inspiration: The San Diego Zoo

Today was the starting point of our 10 month journey toward creating our project. Thanks to the San Diego Zoo, who was kind enough to sponsor and give us tickets to the park, we were able to enter and observe the Zoo. The main objective of going to the zoo was to try and identify problems we could fix. To help guide us, we were aided by a guide who toured us around the zoo and introduced us to professionals who pointed out problems they faced. After visiting the electric fence section of the tour we found out that they had durability issues with their fences. Collectively, as a group, we were captivated by the problem and became interested on finding a way to improve it. The reason why it intrigued us was because the workers told us a story about  a rhino escaping, and we realized that this a situation that we can prevent in the future.

Once finished with lunch, the zoo provided their conference room to let us consult our ideas as a group. We first started playing games to help us get our brains working to brain storm. From there we divided into groups of two and wrote down a couple ideas that we felt needed to be improved.After we finished writing, we went around and shared our ideas with the group. Next this lead us into a deep conversation and talked about numerous problems that needed fixing. A hot topic that we frequently came to was the electric fence situation. When we went through all the topics as a group. The electric fence was the most popular, so we then quickly changed our conversation and put it into focus. After discussing the topic we made a final decision and choose the electric fence problem. We were all interested and eager to work on the project. Next we talked about what our next meeting was going to be about, and decided it would be focused on finding ways to improving the current version of the electric fence.

Written by Adrian Maya, Technician for High Tech High’s 2015 InvenTeam


November Update

Current Invents

The team has been getting along fabulously. We have split into groups depending on interest and have been meeting twice a week. The meeting after school on Mondays is about two and a half hours long, while the lunch meeting on Fridays lasts for the duration of lunch. While the spark of passion is there, the bonding of family is not. It would be beneficial for the team to have a bonding day to get to know one another and hopefully improve communication in future and inevitable disagreements.

Our overall InvenTeam project objective over the course of the next eight months is to redesign the electric fence to make it more informative and efficient. We will make improvements to the notification system, as well as the overall physical design.

This past month, we have primarily focused on enriching our understanding of the electric fence and how it works. We began accumulating information from online research into shared documents to allow for collaboration, and bounced ideas off of each other. Knowing we wanted to improve the notification system, we also looked into understanding how SMS messages are sent, and devices such as the Arduino Uno that are capable of receiving them. After comparing a lot of potential devices, we decided on ordering the IComsat is a GSM/GPRS shield that is compatible with and will be used alongside the Arduino Uno (see figures 1 & 2). With those devices ordered, our next steps with them will be to test and make sure they are compatible with our electric fence and that we are able to access and manipulate their code.

Figure 1:  IComsat GSM/GPRS shield

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Figure 2: Arduino Uno

Screenshot (23)

Members of our team continued to look into understanding these products and how they send/receive information so that when they do arrive, we would know where to begin. Meanwhile, the rest of our team put their research skills to the test working with an actual set up. First, we set up a small electric fence, spanning about 9 feet, and collect baseline data on its voltage output with slight variations to its set up. We found that the variables we were trying to test were insignificantly affected by the small adjustments we were making because they were returning almost identical values. To address this issue, we decided to set up and test a much larger fence. We continued searching for the best ways to accurately measure and detect breaks in the wired system, this time using two different fence energizers. The first was a lower voltage continuous stream system, and the second a high voltage 3 second pulse energizer.

Using the low voltage system, we experimented with reading our fence’s voltage directly, while with the high voltage system, we used some new equipment (a voltage divider and the accompanying adapters) to read it with an oscilloscope. The oscilloscope allowed us to read the energizer’s output more accurately, giving us the opportunity to graph its data peak to peak as well as compare each individual reading. These tools are very valuable when trying to measure the discrepancy between pulses which is key in understanding how our fence is behaving.

With the ability to accurately measure now at hand, we created data sheets and documentation systems to allow us to efficiently conduct and document our experiments. then, based on the ideas we had brainstormed, we created formats based on the different scenarios a wired fence may be interfered with and broken. Using this information, we started looking at how a break and mere interference could be distinguished, and started setting standards the actual detection system had to adhere to. Unfortunately, due to technical issues and limitations teaching group members how to use the devices we purchased, our focus was taken from the actual documentation of our work, and we did not record any specific data.

Further inquiry of the capabilities of our electric fence led us to test it under different environmental conditions. We set up a small fence and tested it with different plants and objects found in outdoor areas that our users would likely encounter themselves. We compared each condition to our regular “baseline” fence set up and noted that plants and object would affect the electrical current.

Another issue we came across, as we began working with a real electric fence, was understanding how to detect and interpret its voltage output. In order for us to make any modifications, that is, begin any coding or work with the devices we purchased; we needed to determine how our system was behaving. That way, we’d know the ranges we should be working in and targeting. Initially, we found the output was too high to be read by our voltmeter, so we fabricated our own voltage divider using standard resistors, a couple of nails, piece of wire, and plank of wood. When we went to test our creation with the fence, the current kept arching over the resistors, giving us inacurate results. After no success with a few attempted fixes, we started looking into products already on the market and decided on ordering this resistor that works with a max voltage of 2500 volts. Using this resistor it was safe enough for our group to use the oscilloscope, which allowed us to move forward. The oscilloscope can be used to give us measurable and accurate data on voltage by calculating slight differences in voltage over time. This could potentially give us the opportunity to see what variables are affecting the fence, which would provide valuable information about the areas in need of improvement.

Next Month’s Goals

Our main focus next month will be working with the Arduino Uno and IComsat is a GSM/GPRS shield. Again we will first need to understand each so we will most likely start with research. Once we have an understanding of both and how they interact, we can apply what we learned to our physical fence set up and see if we can obtain readings from the fence. Once we establish this communication and become very familiar and comfortable with it, we can work on developing our own device. Until then, we need to work on figuring out these devices, how to receive data, and determining the best way to proceed forward.

We have also met the monthly spending goal of $2500. We have spent a grand total of $2,951.92, including stipend for teachers. We plan on continuing to follow the suggested spending amounts for the coming months.


Communications has been very busy with writing a press release, creating the team logo and social media accounts, meeting with professionals in the field, as well as fundraising for the trip to Eureka Fest at M.I.T. in June.

The Communications team has developed a logo for Current Invents:

CI Logo Final (B&W)-01

They are now preparing to send information to the press, in order to entice the media to conduct interviews with Current Invents, as well as simply spreading the word about their efforts. Current Invents has hit the ground running with its fundraising, already collecting a few hundred dollars selling laser-cut wooden turkeys with engraved personal messages, right before the Thanksgiving Break. The team has a Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Google Plus account. Philippe Cesson, owner and founder of the marketing and social media company Cesson 3.0, came in to help Communications with their approach and strategy. In addition to Cesson 3.0, Philippe is a professional speaker, presenting on multiple topics such as: how to grow your business, how to implement and utilize social media effectively, and how to deal with and maximize the difference in age, or generations, of your employees or clients.

Current Invents expects to finish the logo in the coming month, upload a video shot with the team’s new Go Pro Hero 4 Black Edition, and be on the news!