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SnowSentry deployed
From the mountains to New Hampshire roofs

03/12/15



 A new tool that can warn business owners and school administrators when they need to clear roofs is now being used in the Granite State, where it was developed by 2KR Systems of Barrington with the help of UNH Manchester.

Chris Dundorf, president of 2KR Systems, said the SnowSentry started out as a sensor used to measure how much water is in a snowpack. It was designed in 2009 for people concerned about flood risk and water resource work — specifically predicting how much water will be there when the snow melts and how it will recharge the water supply — and was used in natural settings, like mountain ranges. 
“You can’t use snow depth to tell you how much was in the snowpack; you have to use density,” Dundorf said, noting light fluffy snow will be less dense than slushy snow.
More recently, Dundorf decided to look at the SnowSentry as a rooftop application. The sensor was the right solution, but only part of it. Dundorf needed several other components to create a product to be used for roofs. The sensor was like a thermometer; it didn’t store or transmit data, it just plugged into weather stations. 
“We went to UNH … and learned about a program called the NHIRC [New Hampshire Innovation Research Center]. We were able to get some funding through the NHIRC that paid for the expertise of Chris LeBlanc [assistant professor of engineering technology at UNH Manchester] and three students of his,” Dundorf said.
He also enlisted the support of computer science professor Mihaela Sabin and three of her students, also at UNH Manchester, for help with the software side of the project. 
LeBlanc said Dundorf approached him about a year and a half ago, and he and his students were asked to shrink the system down to deploy the SnowSentry on roofs, enable it to transmit to a PC or some other gateway and then transmit through mobile tools.
“We helped him adapt that system so it could be placed on a roof versus mountains or hills,” LeBlanc said.
Casey Hoefer, who graduated with a degree in electrical engineering technology last summer, is still working through UNH with 2KR. Along with Richard Hilton, Hoefer designed the hardware for the system. His work was solely electrical; the mechanical work was handled by one of Dundorf’s mechanical engineers.
“I pretty much took care of the programming with that hardware to communicate with a server, creating that whole warning system,” Hoefer said.
Hoefer started on the project in February 2014 as a senior project.
“At the end, which was early May, we gave a presentation on the project to not only the company representatives, but to the class and the companies that came along with the other students,” Hoefer said. 
He explained the sensors measure weight and the amount of pressure being exerted against a roof. When someone buys the system, they are told to put the scales in a position where there is a strong likelihood of heavy snow accumulation.
LeBlanc said students are still working on increasing usability so it requires little technical skill and can be deployed by almost anyone to measure snow on a roof.
“The technology itself had already been worked out with the original system. What we are working on is a much more scalable, deployable system,” he said. 
With schools and businesses spending thousands of dollars to have roofs cleared, deciding whether to do it can be tough.
“The SnowSentry is a tool that gives them a little more information to help them make the right decision,” Dundorf said.
Final prototypes of the SnowSentry are currently installed at UNH Manchester and on campus in Durham. 
 
As seen in the March 12, 2015 issue of the Hippo.





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