The "Life" Project  

First thing first! Who the heck am I? And what the hey is a "life" project?

Well to answer the former. Hello my name is Ash-lee, I live in a small northern Ontario town where I'm currently a grade 12 student.

And for the latter, the "life" project is a little task that was thrust upon my 4U biology class by our teacher (Hi Bausch). In this project our class working as one giant team must do a whole bunch of.....well stuff to reach one common goal, sustain life. We have to make 5 different organisms live in a tank (doesn't have to be at the same time) for 14 days each. Sounds easy peasy right? Guess again. The kicker is we have to interact with everything in the tank remotely from a crossed the room. So we design the tank the way we want it including temp, light, the amount we want it to "rain" in there everyday, amount of soil, lakes, ect.  Then we have to design a way  to move our organisms from one side of the room to the other and into our tank without touching them (or killing them teehee)! Then we have to care for them and keep them alive from that 15 odd feet away. We even have to prove they're alive from the 15 feet away, we can't just walk up to them and say  "I SEE MOVEMENT".

Well this does sound challenging I assure it is actually 40 times harder then it sounds.

SO to make the project that much more challenging each person in the class in responsible for conducting and writing up 5 labs, one of which is a marked lab report. And we are also all responsible for making/designing something that will help us in the overall project.

So this leads me to answer the logical 3rd question you mostly likely had. Why did you make a tackk?

Well this tackk is hopefully going to keep all my work organized for that design project and 5 labs, as well as making Bausch's life easy (easier, I hope) to mark it all in one spot for me.



Steps in a design project

or any creative process

This model is what I'll be following to plan this design project for the tank. (Bausch told me I had too)  

I'm defining the problem

So. Here's something I think is a bit of a problem. We have to prove that our organism alive at the end of the 14 days and we can't prove it by saying "Hey Bausch, are organism is alive go look"  instead we have to prove they're alive from afar. How? You may wonder. Well you're not alone! I'm wondering it too, and this is the challenge that i'm going to try to overcome for my design project.

So I either have to figure out a way to pick up the organisms and move them over to me (ya sounds complicated) or to view them remotely. But lets do a pros and cons list just for the good fun of it.

Moving the organisms:


  • We can get a really close look at them (right in front of you)
  • We could possibly use this delivery system in reverse to bring organisms to the tank


  • We are disturbing the eco-system every time we move the organisms back and forth
  • Can't monitor plants like this
  • Can't check on them as muchtan as remote monitoring
  • Every time we pick something up and move it remotely it poses a danger to the life of the organism (accidents) happen

Remotely monitoring the tank:      


  • We don't disturb the other things or the eco-system in the tank to view it like this
  • We can check on it as often as wanted
  • Ideally could be viewed by anyone who wants at anytime (not as much prep work)
  • Plants could be viewed
  • Small animals such as protests could not be viewed
  • No danger to the organisms


  • Equipment could potentiality be much more expensive or specialized  
  • Would likely need funding (Would have to ask Bausch for this)

So after careful consideration and weighing of the pros and cons I've decided to investigate and design a remote monitoring system of some type.   

Conducting the research  

So now I have to research different remote monitoring systems people have used in the past. And like any good and innovative research project.... it begins on google.

Types of lens and scopes


My first idea to view things from afar is a telescope. After all we look at stars through them and those are lightyears away.

How do they work:

The difference between reflecting and refracting:

How to make one:

Terrestrial telescope

A terrestrial telescope is what pirates/seamen used the look over the land. It has the same idea as a normal telescope but is specifically made for viewing things on the land.

The difference between sky and terrestrial telescopes:

How to make one:


Another way we can view things from afar is using a pair of binoculars. Hunts and outdoorsmen view animals through them all the time. We could view our tank with them too.

An overview:

This website explains how binoculars are basically two terrestrial telescopes side by side (one for each eye).


Periscopes are often used to view things at a greater height then one naturally stands. This technology is often used on submarines to view  things out of the water.   

what is it:

How to make one:

Types of camera and remote imaging systems

Trail cameras/trap cameras

Trail cameras are motion detecting cameras that are often used by hunters. these camera can be placed on animal trails and the camera/photos picked up later to see if any animals walked by.

How they work/history of them:

Buying guide:

Shopping site:

Night vision camera

Night vision cameras can be used to view an area (and record it) when there is little to not light like at night or in a cave.

History of them/ how do they work:

How to make one with your phone:

Infrared or thermal imaging camera

These cameras create an image bases on the heat objects are giving off.

How it works:

Web Cam

A web cam is used to connect via the internet.

How it works:

Generating Ideas

I've come up with a few basic ideas. My first idea would be an adjustable telescope that would allow our class to view the organisms in our tank from the launch area. The second is to use a camera system to view our organisms as a live stream on a website.

Also I could have the camera system mounted on the wall, the lid of the tank or a pole.   

I'm strongly leaning towards the camera system because we can capture and store the images in order to prove the organism was alive the whole 14 day period without dispute. Also if a webpage is set up through the internet, it allows for anyone from our class to view the, anytime night or day and from anyplace that has internet access.

However I think I'm going to too add a telescoping elements  too the camera system to combine the ideas.

Choosing the best solution

I've decided to use a pole mounted camera with a remote movable home-made zoom. By having the camera pole mounted I can have a back and top cover to offer the camera protection should the class decide to catapult things into the life tank. By pole mounting the camera it also offers the best vantage point of the tank, through the side of the glass. If the camera was wall or ceiling mounted it would be viewing the tank through the lid which is a cloudy type of glass as apposed to the very clear glass of the tank walls.

The box I've decided to encase the camera in also gives me a spot to place the zooming lens.

I've decided to create the zoom using a Galilean telescope because the materials are easily available to me (2 lens and a tube) and the image will appear the correct way up without me having to insert mirrors into the tubing to change the orientation of the image the correct way.        

Building a prototype

This link has my original sketches of my idea that I brought to Mr Howard for help to create. We decided together to change the way the zoom was mounted to be on a hinge so it flips up and down, this way it is more stable then it sliding up and down.

In this link there's a variety of different photos  of my project. From different angles with the zoom up and down, there's also a photo of the strings that remotely control it being labeled.    

Test the solution

This link has photos from the pole mount with and without the zoom as my tests.

The link above is to moving the zoom on a hinge, using a set of strings from a distance.  


Reflecting back on the process the overall idea was very good (to view the tank remotely through a camera and add a zoom). However I should have set the camera up before I built the pole, box and zoom so I could have built them to the exact measurements of the camera so I got the clearest and best angled photo possible through the zoom. A you can see from the photo through the zoom it was angled a little bit to much downward.    

I also will admit that I had some time management issues. I focused most of my time  on the creation of the labs when I should have worked on the design project first as it was harder to complete.

When picking the camera I should have looked at how the camera takes the photo. I just assumed it would take the plain on vantage point photo not a 360 degree photo. I had designed the stand and zoom to be fixed in one place not swivel with camera 360 degrees.

I also think that the zoom could have been made with a longer tube to make it more zoomed in, the current one only offers a small enlargement on on the original image.  Or it would have been nice if the zoom could have been adjustable so you could see as close or as far away as you wanted. Or having  a zoom the allowed for a wide angle shot would have been excellent.


This link is to a google docs folder with my 5 labs in it. The one I would like marked is the one called water retention polymers. Sorry in advance if there is any formatting errors as I created these documents on word and had to transfer them to the google docs platform.

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