College of Engineering Poster Presentations


Design of Snow Penetrometer’s Embedded System

Document Type

Student Presentation

Presentation Date


Faculty Sponsor

Hans-Peter Marshall and Arlen Planting


An understanding of the mechanical properties of the snowpack is necessary for avalanche prediction, hydrology, and climate change studies. A penetrometer is being developed that will drive a pressure sensor on a 3-meter rod into the snow for high resolution point measurements at a rate of 5kHz. In addition to the sensor and driving rod, the device contains an embedded system that allows the user to control the drive motor, retrieve and store data from the sensor to a micro SD card, and interface retrieve time and position information from a GPS. This embedded system is enclosed in a watertight box for protection while still allowing for user interaction. The current version of the penetrometer’s embedded system cannot reliably control and record data from the motor and sensor. This embedded system is being redesigned and rebuilt with an emphasis on reliability, to ensure that the penetrometer can be used effectively. The new design will be a microcontroller-based solution developed on the widely available Arduino platform, equipped with an LCD screen to display system status and menu options. Initially the penetrometer will be a stand-alone device meant to be operated by hand; however, future uses may call for it to remain stationed in remote areas to take measurements from onboard the Geosciences Greenland Rover robot.

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