Search for Arena Parking Garage spaces to ease: UNF students design parking lot counters that will show parking spot availability online


A class of UNF electrical engineering students has designed a parking monitoring system, which could potentially reshape the way UNF understands parking and perhaps the structure for scheduling classes altogether.

The parking garage monitor system, funded by Parking Services and a Transformational Learning Opportunity, would apply ultra sonic sensors in the UNF Arena Parking Garage that monitor the flow of traffic and determine the number of vacant parking spaces available in the garage.

Alan Harris, a UNF electrical engineering assistant professor, is helping 12 students install the system by the end of the semester-long, accredited class.

“The system will count cars coming and leaving the ramp in the garage,” Harris said. “And then they’re going to display the information on a website, so it can be viewed before [students] get to campus, so they can see if the garage is full or not.”

At an estimated cost of $14,000, the project is designed to give the students an opportunity to build a real world product prior to graduation, Harris said. The system is also designed to be a pilot program the university can build on once installed.
The class is split into two teams: hardware and software.The hardware team has been developing the sonar sensors, to detect incoming and outgoing vehicles in the garage. The responsibilities for this team include choosing the correct sensors, testing and installing them.

The software team is responsible for taking data from the sensors and analyzing whether it’s a car or not. It is also responsible for the creating a web page and smart phone application that would display parking vacancies and the number of cars currently seeking a spot, said Bill Carlson, a UNF electrical engineering senior.

Ten ceiling-attached sensors will recognize cars’ size and direction by tracking their driving course, Carlson said. The sensors will then publish the data online immediately for students.

An added benefit, the system can help the school generate statistical analysis of the garage, said Al Kadi, a UNF electrical engineering senior and system software designer.

Robert Gray, a UNF electrical engineer senior, said analysis will help with class scheduling.

The parking monitor system is not like the one at the airport, which monitors every available space, Gray said.

“This [system] is designed to tell us if somebody has gone up the ramp or if somebody has gone down the ramp,” he said.

Carlson said the purpose of the project is simple. “This is for the students,” Carlson said. “We understand the aggravation of parking.”

The teams are in the testing phase and will be taking the system to the garage later this month. They said the plan is to go live over Winter Break and to have it up and running for students as early as spring. They will consider installing the system in the other parking garages if the one currently in development proves effective.

The students, however, said they are confident in their product.