A Swamp Cooler for Burning Man

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For those who don’t know, Burning Man is a week-long festival in the middle of the Black Rock Desert in Nevada. The event attracts a wide range of creative people from all over the world.

This year, [Jake] is going to bring his homemade evaporative ‘swamp cooler’ to help battle the heat. His design uses a medium-sized shipping container with two large holes cut out of it and two 200mm PC cooling fans embedded into the plastic. The fans blow air from the outside into the bin. Humidifier filters sourced from a local dump are inserted into the middle of the container. The filters acts as an absorbent material to hold melt-water being pumped in from another cooler chest above.

A 30 watt solar panel provides enough power to keep the swamp cooler going while giving enough juice to energize decorative LED interior lights along with some backup batteries for phones and cameras. [Jake]‘s system contains a re-purposed A/C computer load center for the solar system. He plans to take temperature and humidity readings at the Burn, bringing back the data from the desert to share with the world.

[Jake] does warn about mold with this system though, but one of the advantages with the filters he chose is that they are pretreated with biocidal compounds. This should help to reduce the chance of mold growth. High humidity conditions are also a disadvantage with this type of cooler, but this is a non-issue in the extremely dry desert of The Playa.

If you plan to go to Burning Man, tell about your energy/cooling preparations. Will you be bringing a system similar to this? If so, let us know.

A Do-It-Yourself Air Conditioner with Evaporative Cooling 5 Gallon Bucket

image42-300x225The people over at Gray Wolf Survival have this amazing little air conditioning project that is a perfect addition to any household that doesn’t have flowing air wafting through. It was created by [Figjam] for a trip to Burning Man, where all kinds of crazy ideas are bred in the hot dry heat of The Playa sun.

The design uses no ice, which is the cooling agent typical found in other DIY air conditioners. Those generally cut holes in the top of a cooler, put a fan on top to blow the air down across the ice. This is similar, but acts more like an evaporative cooler (not really a traditional air conditioner but it does the job).

397648283-300x225It uses a LOT less energy than an air conditioner unit so there won’t be a need to increase the power capabilities of a simple system to work it, and it can reduce the temperature by up to 30 degrees as well as alleviate the dryness associated with living through a Burn. It runs off 12V DC so it can either use the solar panel or connect to a battery. It has a 12V power plug for this, and draws as little power as absolutely possible. Plus, it has the ability to easily connect to a larger water source so it won’t have to be continually refilled. These considerations make it very portable and perhaps backpackable as well.

[Figjam] took a 5 gallon bucket, wrapped the inside with two layers of swamp cooler matting, made a loop of hose above it connected to a submersible pump and ran a fan out the top with piping. Connecting it to a shelter is done with a vent hose.

Nerds Helping Sea Turtles

Sea Turtle Nest Monitoring Device

Life as a sea turtle can be rough. Not only are turtles trying to survive predators, destruction of habitat, fishing nets, and pollution, but only about 1% of hatchlings survive to face those challenges in the first place. Enter [Samuel Wantman] and a new volunteer hacker group called Nerds Without Borders, with their first order of business of creating an egg-shaped monitoring device for sea turtle nests.

Sea turtles are protected under the Endangered Species Act, which goes to great lengths to protect certain species from human activity. The ultimate goal of the project is to help people and sea turtles better coexist under this law by more accurately predicting hatching times. A suite of sensors and a cell network antenna are placed in a plastic “egg” that can be buried in a nest after a sea turtle lays the real eggs. The sensors detect vibrations within the eggs as the embryos grow, which is an indication that the tiny turtles are about to break free of their eggs and head for the open ocean!

Click past the break for more on this project.

[Read more...]

The Tree of 40 Fruit

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[Sam Van Aken] is working on a long-term project which literally will bear fruit. Forty different kinds, in fact. The Tree of 40 Fruit is a single tree, carefully grafted to produce 40 different varieties of fruit. Growing up on a farm, [Sam] was always fascinated by the grafting process – how one living plant could be attached to another.

In 2008, [Sam] was working as a successful artist and professor in New York when he learned a 200-year-old state-run orchard was about to be demolished. The stone fruit orchard was not only a grove a trees, but a living history of man’s breeding of fruit. Many unique varieties of stone fruit – such as heirloom peaches, plums, cherries, and apricots –  only existed in this orchard.

[Sam] bought the orchard and began to document the characteristics of the trees. Color, bloom date, and harvest date were all noted in [Sam's] books. He then had the idea for a single tree which would bear multiple types of fruit. By using grafting techniques such as chip grafting, [Sam] was able to join the varieties of stone fruit tree. The process was very slow going. Grafts performed one year must survive through the winter before they grow the following spring.

Throughout the process, [Sam] kept careful diagrams of each graft. He planned the tree out so the fruit harvest wouldn’t be boring. Anyone who has a fruit tree tends to give away lots of fruit – because after a couple of weeks, they’re sick of eating one crop themselves! With [Sam's] tree, It’s possible to have a nectarine with breakfast, a plum with lunch, and snack on almonds before dinner,  all from the same tree. The real beauty is in the spring. [Sam's] tree blossoms into an amazing array of pinks, purples and whites. A living sculpture created by an artist with a bit of help from Mother Nature.

Click past the break for [Sam's] TED talk.

[Read more...]

Red Bull Creation Winners: Maker Twins

This year’s Red Bull Creation theme “Reinvent the Wheel” was pretty broad, but the Maker Twins managed to incorporate it quite closely with their winning project which was completed in under 72 hours. They took the idea of urban farming and figured out one way to make farmer’s markets more feasible by helping to eliminate waste and spruce up the presentation of the produce.

The project amounts to a Ferris wheel. Instead of passenger compartments there are modular crates which are built with one wooden pallet each. The wheel itself is chain-driven and allows the system to track where each crate is in the rotation. This data is leveraged for a couple of different uses. One lets the customer select their produce on a tablet app and the crate will rotate into position so they may pick the individual items they want. The machine will also take care of automated watering to ensure the produce on display doesn’t get dried out. The icing on the cake is a separate station for washing and cutting the purchased veggies.

Thank you to Maker Twins for contributing some demonstration “b-roll” for use in this video.

Hey There Little Plant. Let’s Be Friends!

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Perhaps, you’re circle of friends is getting too small. Or maybe, you just want to communicate with the leafy, green beings that have rooted themselves in the soil inside your house. If so, this environmental monitoring system will be perfect for you!

Created by [Dickson], this project monitors soil moisture, air temperature, and air humidity of your indoor plants and will alert you via email and SMS when your plants are thirsty. No longer will your sprouts shrivel up in the sun, but rather, they will be well-hydrated ready to produce their veggie goodness.

The system is battery operated, wireless, Arduino and Raspberry Pi based and comes with an Android app, which in turn allows you to view real-time and historical data, thus giving you the option to check in on your crew of Chlorophyll-embedded friends.

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Let’s look at the sensors which are at work on the project.

[Read more...]

Solar Powered DIY Plant Watering System

Solar Powered Watering System

It’s great having fresh vegetables just a few steps away from the kitchen, but it takes work to keep those plants healthy. [Pierre] found this out the hard way after returning from vacation to find his tomato plant withering away. He decided to put an end to this problem by building his own solar-powered plant watering system (page in French, Google translation).

An Arduino serves as the brain of the system. It’s programmed to check a photo resistor every ten minutes. At 8:30PM, the Arduino will decide how much to water the plants based on the amount of sunlight it detected throughout the day. This allows the system to water the plants just the right amount. The watering is performed by triggering a 5V relay, which switches on a swimming pool pump.

[Pierre] obviously wanted a “green” green house, so he is powering the system using sunlight. A 55 watt solar panel recharges a 12V lead acid battery. The power from the battery is stepped down to the appropriate 5V required for the Arduino. Now [Pierre] can power his watering system from the very same energy source that his plants use to grow.

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