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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Adventures in PCB milling – journey begins

This is a short post to show off my first attempt at PCB milling. I’m a member of the Chicago Innovation Exchange.   Well, I was, but now it’s no longer CIE but the Polsky Center, or maybe the Polsky Echange North, I’m not sure, but that’s what happens when someone invests $35 million in your incubator; you change your name.  The center provides me access to a pretty swanky fab lab equipped with (among other things) an X-carve CNC mill. I recently completed my training on the machine and I wanted to put my skills to the test.

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Which came first

Ahh, the age-old question of the chicken or the egg. There’s a similar theme in my family having to do with my Dad and making stuff. He introduced me to electronics when I was too young to realize how awesome it was, I introduced him to the Raspberry Pi, then he introduced me to Adruino. I introduced him to video capture on the Pi (with the help of a 3D printed camera case) and he turned it around into a nest cam! Ahh, so there’s the bird connection, this is a post about setting up a quick and dirty (and surprisingly effective) nest cam!

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A Vernier Go!Link package for Mathematica

The Go! Link from Vernier Software & Technology (Vernier), is a USB adapter for their proprietary sensors which also provides some basic features such as a buffer, sensor auto-identification and raw voltage reading conversion. Vernier provides a software development kit which allows programmers to use Go! devices in their own systems. Since Wolfram’s Mathematica software became available on the Raspberry Pi, I have been thinking about how one can build a flexible sensor system using Vernier’s products and based on the inexpensive computer and the powerful data analysis and visualization tools of Mathematica. This project isn’t new, and my earlier attempts were highlighted on the Raspberry Pi blog and I recently announced a previous version of this software package. What I’m presenting now is a more user-friendly system that makes data collection easy through the device driver framework incorporated into Mathematica.

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GoIOLink release candidate 1


GoIOLink is the flagship component of a project I call VernierPiLink which seeks to provide a variety of Vernier-sensor-Raspberry-Pi integration resources.  It relies on VS&T’s Go!Link USB adapter to perform the physical connection between an analog Vernier sensor and the Raspberry Pi.  On the software side, I am using the Go! I/O software development kit also from VS&T and the Wolfram Language which comes free (for non-commercial use) on the Raspberry Pi.

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