Home Store Project Ideas Project Guide Ask An Expert Blog Careers Teachers Parents Students

Smart Medicine Cabinet: Build a Sensor That Reminds Patients When to Take Medication *

Difficulty
Time Required Short (2-5 days)
Prerequisites None
Material Availability If you decide to extend the sensor project, you will have to purchase a microcontroller board and LEDs.
Cost Average ($50 - $100)
Safety Always wear safety goggles when operating and using tools. Adult supervision is recommended.
*Note: This is an abbreviated Project Idea, without notes to start your background research, a specific list of materials, or a procedure for how to do the experiment. You can identify abbreviated Project Ideas by the asterisk at the end of the title. If you want a Project Idea with full instructions, please pick one without an asterisk.

Abstract

Have you ever had to take prescription medicine to get over an illness? To get better, it is important to take the medication in the proper manner and at the proper time. Wouldn't it be cool if there were a tool or piece of automated equipment that held your medicine and reminded you to take it? A tool that would know when you picked up the bottle and took your medicine? Building a smart medicine cabinet is what this science project is all about!

Credits

Michelle Maranowski, PhD, Science Buddies

This science project is based upon the following Clever Scientist award-winning project: Balasingam, Arjun. (2010). Smart Medicine Cabinet: Using Homemade Sensors, a Microcontroller, and a Laptop to Help Patients Take Their Medicines on Time.

Cite This Page

MLA Style

Science Buddies Staff. "Smart Medicine Cabinet: Build a Sensor That Reminds Patients When to Take Medication" Science Buddies. Science Buddies, 17 July 2013. Web. 23 Oct. 2014 <http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project_ideas/Elec_p067.shtml>

APA Style

Science Buddies Staff. (2013, July 17). Smart Medicine Cabinet: Build a Sensor That Reminds Patients When to Take Medication. Retrieved October 23, 2014 from http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project_ideas/Elec_p067.shtml

Share your story with Science Buddies!

I did this project I Did This Project! Please log in and let us know how things went.


Last edit date: 2013-07-17

Introduction

Making a new tool can be a daunting experience, but if you think about it in pieces, it becomes more manageable. For example, the medicine cabinet should contain some kind of sensor that senses when the medicine bottle has been picked up. It should have a microcontroller that monitors the "pickups," and a computer that takes input from the microcontroller and issues information and alerts.

This science project can be as simple or as involved as you'd like it to be. You could simply demonstrate a sensor that registers when a medicine bottle has been placed on it. Or add to the sensor by attaching a microcontroller, an Arduino would be a good choice, that interfaces with a computer. Then you could write a computer program that displays instructions to the user to remind him or her of the medication schedule. An interface would allow the user to input the medication schedule and signal to the user that it is time to take a medication. Finally, you could add LEDs (light emitting diodes) that act as indicators to the user.

Regardless of how complex you decide to make this science project, the first step is to build an electrical sensor that senses when a medicine bottle has been picked up or placed on it. This sensor should be based on a voltage divider. A voltage divider is a circuit that is used to supply a voltage that is different than the available battery or power supply. Figure 1, below, shows the sensor circuit in two modes. The red squares are conductive metal pads. Figure 1.a. shows the sensor when there is no bottle in place. Here, since there is no connection between the metal pads, current moves through the two resistors (the voltage divider). Figure 1.b. shows the sensor when a bottle is in place. In this case, the bottle bridges the gap and current flow is through the metal pads and the lesser of the two resistors. If you decide to stop with building the electrical sensor, then you will need a digital multimeter to monitor the voltage change (if you need help using a multimeter, check out the Science Buddies Multimeter Tutorial).

Electricity Science fair project These diagrams illustrate one way the smart medicine cabinet sensors could  function.
Figure 1. These diagrams illustrate one way the smart medicine cabinet sensors could function. (1.a.) The sensor without the bottle. (1.b.) The sensor with the bottle. (Courtesy of Arjun Balasingam and Wen Phan, 2010.)

If you would like to extend the science project with a microcontroller board, you can learn more about the Arduino Uno, a popular microcontroller, on the Science Buddies Getting Started with Arduino page. The tutorial will step you through how to buy and set up an Arduino.

Building a smart medicine cabinet might sound complicated, but remember, every big project can be broken down into smaller more manageable pieces! And this is a project that could certainly be a big help to you or to anyone you know who is taking medication.

Bibliography

If you need clarification on electronics terminology, take a look at Science Buddies' electronics primer. The following is a link to the Introduction. At the bottom of the Introduction are links to other helpful pages.

Share your story with Science Buddies!

I did this project I Did This Project! Please log in and let us know how things went.

Ask an Expert

The Ask an Expert Forum is intended to be a place where students can go to find answers to science questions that they have been unable to find using other resources. If you have specific questions about your science fair project or science fair, our team of volunteer scientists can help. Our Experts won't do the work for you, but they will make suggestions, offer guidance, and help you troubleshoot.

Ask an Expert

Related Links

If you like this project, you might enjoy exploring these related careers:

electrical engineer aligning laser

Electrical & Electronics Engineer

Just as a potter forms clay, or a steel worker molds molten steel, electrical and electronics engineers gather and shape electricity and use it to make products that transmit power or transmit information. Electrical and electronics engineers may specialize in one of the millions of products that make or use electricity, like cell phones, electric motors, microwaves, medical instruments, airline navigation system, or handheld games. Read more
NASA Computer hardware engineers hard at work

Computer Hardware Engineer

Whether you are playing video games, surfing the Internet, or writing a term paper, computers are an integral part of our daily lives. Computer hardware engineers work to make computers faster, more robust, and more cost-effective. They design the microprocessor chips that make your computer function, along with the equipment that makes computing easy and fun to do. Read more
industrial engineer making notes in warehouse

Industrial Engineer

You've probably heard the expression "build a better mousetrap." Industrial engineers are the people who figure out how to do things better. They find ways that are smarter, faster, safer, and easier, so that companies become more efficient, productive, and profitable, and employees have work environments that are safer and more rewarding. You might think from their name that industrial engineers just work for big manufacturing companies, but they are employed in a wide range of industries, including the service, entertainment, shipping, and healthcare fields. For example, nobody likes to wait in a long line to get on a roller coaster ride, or to get admitted to the hospital. Industrial engineers tell companies how to shorten these processes. They try to make life and products better-finding ways to do more with less is their motto. Read more
Computer programmer typing on a keyboard

Computer Programmer

Computers are essential tools in the modern world, handling everything from traffic control, car welding, movie animation, shipping, aircraft design, and social networking to book publishing, business management, music mixing, health care, agriculture, and online shopping. Computer programmers are the people who write the instructions that tell computers what to do. Read more

Looking for more science fun?

Try one of our science activities for quick, anytime science explorations. The perfect thing to liven up a rainy day, school vacation, or moment of boredom.

Find an Activity