Squirrel Café To Predict The Weather From Customer Data

Physicist and squirrel gastronomer [Carsten Dannat] is trying to correlate two critical social economical factors: how many summer days do we have left, and when will we run out of nuts. His research project, the Squirrel Café, invites squirrels to grab some free nuts and collects interesting bits of customer data in return.

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Energy Monitor Optically Couples to Smart Meter

Hackers love to monitor things. Whether it’s the outside temperature or the energy used to take a shower, building a sensor and displaying a real-time graph of the data is hacker heaven. But the most interesting graphs comes from monitoring overall power use, and that’s where this optically coupled smart-meter monitor comes in.

[Michel]’s meter reader is pretty straightforward. His smart wattmeter is equipped with an IR LED that pips for every watt-hour consumed, so optical coupling was a natural approach. The pulse itself is only 10 ms wide, so he built a pulse stretcher to condition the pulse for a PIC microcontroller. The PIC also reads the outside temperature with a DS18B20 and feeds everything to the central power monitor, with an LCD display and a classic Simpson meter to display current power usage. The central monitor sends the power and temperature data to Thingspeak, along with data from [Michel]’s wood-stove monitor and a yet-to-be-implemented water heater monitor.

[Michel] is building out an impressive suite of energy and environmental monitors for his Quebec base of operations. We’re looking forward to seeing how he monitors that water heater, and to see what other ideas he comes up with.

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Hacking Cheap Chinese PID Temperature Controllers

[Harvs] hacked a cheap PID controller he found on eBay to improve its performance. The controller originally used a K-type thermocouple but lacked cold junction compensation. As thermocouples only provide a differential measurement between the measurement junction and cold junction, this meant the controller was assuming the cold junction was at room temperature, and would in many cases be significantly inaccurate. The system also used a no-name brand Chinese microcontroller making firmware hacks impractical.

[Harvs] decided that even with cold junction compensation a K-type thermocouple wasn’t ideal for his application anyway, and designed a replacement PCB to interface to the display and power supply. The new PCB is based around a Cypress PsoC (a popular choice for its great analog functionality) with a DS18B20 temperature sensor. At the lower temperature ranges [Harvs] is interested in the DS18B20 is far more accurate and easy to use than the thermocouple.

Though the project hasn’t been updated recently, [Harvs] was planning on adding an ESP8266 for remote monitoring and control. Great work [Harvs]!

Thanks to Peter for the tip.

Get Biohacking with a DIY CO2 Incubator

The [Pelling Lab] have been iterating over their DIY CO2 incubator for a while now, and it looks like there’s a new version in the works.


We’ve covered open source Biolab equipment before including incubators but not a CO2 incubator. Incubators allow you to control the temperature and atmosphere in a chamber. The incubator built by the [Pelling Lab] regulates the chambers temperature and CO2 levels allowing them to culture cells under optimal conditions.

While commercial incubators can cost thousands of dollars the [Pelling Lab] used a Styrofoam box, space blanket, and SodaStream tank among other low cost parts. The most expensive component was a CO2 sensor which cost $230. The rig uses an Arduino for feedback and control. With a total BOM cost of $350 their solution is cost effective, and provides an open platform for further development.

The original write up is full of useful information, but recent tweets suggest a new and improved version is on the way and we look forward to hearing more about this exciting DIYBio project!

It Keeps on Going and… Arduino Edition

How long can you keep an Arduino circuit running on three AA batteries? With careful design, [educ8s] built a temperature sensor that lasts well over a year on a single charge of three 2250 mAH rechargeable cells (or, at least, should last that long).

Like most long-life designs, this temperature sensor spends most of its time sleeping. The design uses a DS18B20 temperature sensor and a Nokia 5110 LCD display. It also uses a photoresistor to shut off the LCD display in the dark for further power savings.

During sleep, the device only draws 260 microamps with the display on and 70 microamps with the display off. Every two minutes, the processor wakes up and reads the temperature, drawing about 12 milliamps for a very short time.

Along with the code, [educ8s] has a spreadsheet that computes the battery life based on the different measured parameters and the battery vendor’s claimed self discharge rate.

Of course, with a bigger battery pack, you could get even more service from a charge. If you need a refresher on battery selection, we covered that not long ago. Or you can check out a ridiculously complete battery comparison site if you want to improve your battery selection.

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Keep an Eye on Your Fermenting Beer with BrewMonitor

The art of brewing beer is as old as civilization itself. Many people enjoy brewing their own beer at home. Numerous steps must be taken before you can take a swig, but fermentation is one of the most critical. [Martin Kennedy] took up the hobby with his friends, and wanted a convenient way to monitor the fermentation temperature remotely. He started working on the BrewMonitor, a cloud-based homebrewing controller powered by an Arduino clone.

His goal was to create something cheap, convenient, and easy to set up. Traditional fermentation monitoring equipment is very expensive. The typical open-source alternative will set you back 80 euros (roughly $101), using the Arduino-sensor with a Raspberry Pi gateway via the BrewPi webserver. [Martin] did not want to go through the hassle of viewing BrewPi remotely, since it requires a home network and all of the configuration that would entail. Instead, he coupled an Arduino clone with a DS18B20 temperature sensor while using an ESP8266 module for wireless communication, all for less than 18 euros ($23). This connects to a simple webpage based on Scotch.io with a PHP backend (Laravel with RESTful API), a MySQL database, and an AngularJS frontend to display the graph. Once the sensor is placed into the fermenter bucket’s thermowell, the temperature is transmitted once a minute to the REST API. You can see the temperature over time (in Celsius). The design files are available on GitHub.

[Martin] would like to expand the functionality of BrewMonitor, such as adding the ability to adjust the temperature remotely by controlling a heater or fridge, and lowering its cost by single boarding it. Since the information is stored on the cloud, upgrading the system is much easier than using a separate gateway device. He doesn’t rule out crowdfunding campaigns for the future. We would like to see this developed further, since different yeast species and beer styles require very stringent conditions, especially during the weeks-long fermentation process; a 5-degree Celsius difference can ruin an entire brew! Cloud-based temperature adjustment seems like the next big goal for BrewMonitor. DIY brewers salute you, [Martin]!

[via Dangerous Prototypes]


Automated Bathtub Prepares Your Bath Just The Way You Like It

Automated Bathtub Controlled by Arduino

We live in the future don’t we? Is there a reason why only rich people have touchscreen controlled showers and temperature regulated bathtubs? [Raptor_Demon] shows us how to make our very own automated bathtub for cheap, using our favorite microprocessor — the Arduino.

The system controls the filling of the tub, monitors the temperature based on a user profile — and it even adds bubbles. Why do you need this? You probably don’t — but why not, wouldn’t it be nice to press a button and have a bath drawn for you? It uses an Arduino compatible board that controls 3 relays for the water system, a DS18b20 temperature sensor on the inlet and a second wireless (434mhz) Arduino compatible board for monitoring the tub temperature and adding bubble bath using a hacked automated soap dispenser.

[Raptor_Demon] showcased his prototype at the Maker Faire NC 2013 and 2014 where it was a huge hit. He even had a full size tub going, in which he would sit in during his explanation — check it out!

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