Happy Holidays – from Mandy

I am teaching Mandy to sing (sort of).  Here’s Mandy playing along to Carol of the Bells in what may be the worlds “first” Periodic Table spectrum visualizer.  Now, before we blow up the Twitter sphere with allegations that Mandy belongs on the Top Ten List of Most Infamous Lip Syncing incidents, I’m not claiming that this is live.  Mandy wasn’t designed to do real-time spectrum analysis (she’s a Periodic Table, after all) but I wanted to see if some geeky visualizations would be possible.  So, I created my own version of Carol of the Bells (written in Sonic-Pi) and then analyzed the audio file using Mathematica, which has a neat function, SpectrogramArray[], that provides easy access to the frequencies in an audio file.  I then binned the frequencies into 118 buckets – one for each element on the periodic table, and converted the intensities into colors (blue for high amplitude, red for low amplitude).  I probably should have thought a bit more about which elements should display which frequencies, but time was running short so I simply made the heavier elements have the lower frequencies.  In any case – enjoy.

 

A Maker Family

A few weeks back, my wife (Rozenn) came home with a broken cane chair, which looked something like this, and wanted to try repairing the seat. A few tours through youtube videos, a visit to Amazon and some time with my Dremmel (she’s logged more hours on that thing than I have) and she managed to replace the seat.  Even I can sit in it!

Now that it’s completed, I think we both agree that the project was very doable.  The hardest part was removing the old spline (don’t believe those Youtube videos where it comes out with one tap of a chisel).  Once the spline was removed, however, the rest of the process was a breeze.  Yard-sale season may be wrapping up, but I’m sure we’ll find a few more broken chairs at rock-bottom prices that will not only give us a fun project, but also result in a nice-looking chair in the end.

Mandy gets some street cred

The staff over at the Wolfram Community have recognized Mandy – the bright Periodic Table as one of their Staff Picks.  The forum post, which can be viewed here, highlights how Mathematica was used in various parts of the project.  In the design phase, Mathematica was used to create the layout of the periodic table, which then could be exported to Inkscape/Adobe Illustrator for final processing of an image that could be recognized by the laser cutter.  The curated data provided by the Wolfram platform is used to create the trends, and I used some notebook Manipulate commands to visualize the RGB-LED output for (rapid) rapid prototyping.  The actual operation of Mandy uses a Python-based speech recognition script that calls on Mathematica to communicate to the Arduino controlling all of the LEDs.  (Yes, this is an ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ project.)

Thanks, WC Staff, for the recognition.

Mandy: The periodic table (teaser)

About six months ago, I started working on a project I like to call my piece de resistance. It combines a number of maker skills that I’ve learned over the past few years.  I call her Mandy, and she’s a laser-cut periodic table that has a bunch of three-color LEDS, an Arduino that controls the individually addressable LEDs, and a Raspberry Pi that stores information about the elements.  To make it stand out from being “just another bright periodic table”, I added a voice activation component, so Mandy is able to display different periodic trends at your verbal command!

I’m getting ready to move to a different part of the country, so I do not have time to provide more information about Mandy.  In the meanwhile, I created a teaser-trailer for your (OK, my) personal enjoyment.

 

Making electronics projects more accessible

Increasing accessibility to electronics projects is a mission that resonates with me.  Personally, I find the autonomy and self-sufficiency that comes with “making” to be very rewarding.  With hobbyist sites such as Adafruit and Sparkfun, we have plenty of (inexpensive) resources at our disposal.  As the technology advances, these resources become cheaper – which is a good thing – and smaller – which is a mixed bag.

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OMIS remix

Here’s the first published remix of my Open Millifluidic Inquiry System (OMIS) made by Thingiverse member Steve Gordon.  There are a couple of nice tweaks, including the use of epoxy to keep the support rods in place (a semi-permanent solution, since many epoxies can dissolve in acetone, and since PLA was used in this build, OMIS won’t be permanently damaged by an acetone treatment).  Another nice tweak is the use of automatic pipette tips instead of syringe needles to connect the syringes to the millifluidic device.  I’ve got some projects that will involve acid in one of the channels, so I need to explore this hack further.

More information about OMIS, such as the bill of materials, build guide, and some ideas on how to use it can be found on my OMIS page.

Of lightsabers and laser cutters

I just saw Rogue One and so I’m in a Star Wars mood.  A long time ago (March) in a galaxy far, far away (downtown), I went to C2E2.  (Here are the photos to prove it.)  I had purchased some nice Star Wars art and have been looking for a frame to display it.  I gave up (read: had to put the project on the back burner because of the piles of grading).  Recently, I revisited the problem (read: finished grading) and decided that the only way I was going to get the frame style I wanted at a price I could afford was to, well, you know:

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Microwolf – running Mathematica on a Pi Zero

Wolfram’s Mathematica can run on a $5 Raspberry Pi zero. While it may be painfully slow, it does open up opportunities to use Mathematica in low-power, remote-sensing applications. This blog post is a first in a series highlighting the design challenges I’ve encountered (and in some cases overcome) building Mathematica on Pi (MoP) devices. (Hey, I think I just created a new acronym.)

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