Pitch-In IoT student placements – projects and results


The University of Sheffield is setting up a LoRaWAN network beginning in Sheffield City but with the ambition of providing coverage across Sheffield City Region, supplementing the work already done in Barnsley. To help develop some prototypes and code that showcases the network’s potential to our campus community and local business, Pitch-In supported a 10-week student placement programme for engineering undergraduates from 22 June to 28 August 2020.

The principle aim of these student projects was to provide both system designs, and documentation of some simple but extensible wireless IoT projects. A common and critical block to the adoption of IoT technologies and to the success of small and medium enterprise IoT ventures is the difficulty of producing a proof of concept prototype. Additionally, a thorough and well-grounded understanding of the complexity of different aspects of the (software and electronic) engineering can inform more successful project plans and budgets.

By creating case studies with freely available software and hardware designs, as well as documented engineering experiences, the student projects give local and regional enterprises a measurable starting point for their own work.

Following a recruitment process, 11 undergraduate engineering students were selected from second, third, and fourth year of undergraduate study in various engineering disciplines (including computer science, electronic engineering, and control systems). The students created a range of project ideas, engaging with their mentors and external people/organisations to do so.

Project management and mentoring team

  • Ramsay Taylor – University Teacher in the Department of Computer Science and IoT expert

  • Steve Jubb – University Technical Manager and IoT expert

  • Mike Faulks – CTO Ioetec and IoT cybersecurity specialist

  • Walter Bassage – Research Assistant at the University of Sheffield

  • Ceri Batchelder – University Entrepreneur in Residence and regional IoT ecosystem experience

  • Alex Kelly – IT Manager at Tinsley Bridge

Student project topics

  • Ahmed HarounTemperature monitoring in industrial applications

  • Ammar AboagwaEnergy management for the manufacturing sector

  • Kennedy Dike/Onyeka ObidiegwuRFID tag reader as a LoRaWAN application

  • Mark HarrisRemote heart monitoring for the healthcare sector

  • Mo-anna TuckerIndoor and outdoor air quality monitoring

  • Nathan Brown/Harrison FretwellPredictive maintenance of legacy equipment at AMRC

  • Robert BruceIntegrating local and wide area networks for use by smart buildings

  • Seth RobertsAnalysing the use of bicycles in a city environment

  • Tom EdwardsAsset security using Bluetooth beacons and LoRaWAN

How did the projects go?

When the project was conceived it was anticipated that we would operate in the Diamond, with access to the various lab facilities there. Due to the 2020 Covid pandemic, the students had to work remotely, from their residences either in Sheffield or at their family homes.

Whilst the remote delivery of the project wasn’t ideal, the students managed to create a sense of community through the regular stand-ups, high level of availability of mentors and technical support and the Slack group.

The biggest challenge was certainly the lack of hardware for the individual students. Due to various aspects of remote working, students were not able to supply them with electronic components through the project. Some students had access to some components of their own, whilst others were able to pivot their projects to concentrate on the software elements.

The individual student work was collated into a GitHub repository which is publicly available. Additionally, each of the students has provided a report that documents their work and the accumulated experience in their particular sphere. These are all available from the links in the ‘Project outcomes’ section below.

Which external people/organisations were involved?

Alex Kelly, IT Manager, Tinsley Bridge
Alex was hugely enthusiastic and involved, joining weekly standups and mentoring several of the student projects (Ammar Aboagwa, Ahmed Haroun, Tom Edwards, Onyeka Obidiegwu and Kennedy Dike).

Tracey Johnson, Barnsley Digital Media Centre
Tracey enabled Mo-anna Tucker and Steve Jubb to work with Declan Kiely, ICT Engineer, to install a number of air quality sensors at the DMC.

David King, Digital Design Manager, AMRC
David was supportive of a project to install sensors at the AMRC, but this project had to pivot to look at network security issues due to the lack of hardware (Harrison Fretwell and Nathan Brown).

Tracy Cook, Education and Training Lead for Diagnostic Cardiology
At Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (Mark Harris).

Chris Dymond, Unfolding Ltd and Smart Sheffield
Chris was very helpful in talking to Robert Bruce about technology for smart cities.

Russell’s Bicycle Shed
Russell and his colleague Theo showed some interest in supporting Seth, but the logistics were difficult with Seth being in Canada (Seth Roberts).

Dr Andy Gilchrist, Business Development Manager at Oxford University
Also part of Pitch-In (Ammar Aboagwa).

Dr Ben M Thomas, Research Associate, Department of Materials Science and Engineering, University of Sheffield
Sheffield Titanium Alloy Research (STAR).

Victor Leh, Missing Link
Finnish startup company specialising in wireless security solutions (Tom Edwards).

Dyanda Salshabyll, Isoenergy
A University of Sheffield student carrying out a year placement as a design engineer (Ammar Aboagwa).

Project outputs

GitHub repository

Download the full report including appendices (PDF, 264KB)