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.
For their entry into the Citizen Scientist portion of the Hackaday Prize, the folks at Arch Reactor, the St. Louis hackerspace, are building a microscope. Not just any microscope – this one is low-cost, digital, and has a surprisingly high magnification and pretty good optics. It’s the Internet of Things Microscope, and like all good apparatus for Citizen Scientist, it’s a remarkable tool for classrooms and developing countries.
When you think of ‘classroom microscope’, you’re probably thinking about a pile of old optics sitting in the back of a storage closet. These microscopes are purely optical, without the ability to take digital pictures. The glass is good, but you’re not going to get a scanning stage when you’re dealing with 30-year-old gear made for a classroom full of sticky-handed eighth graders.
The Internet of Things Microscope includes a scanning stage that moves across the specimen on the X and Y axes, stitching digital images together to create a very large image. That’s a killer feature for a cheap digital microscope, and the folks at Arch Reactor are doing this with a few cheap stepper motors and stepper motor drivers.
The rest of the electronics are built around a Raspberry Pi, Raspberry Pi camera (which recently got a nice resolution upgrade), and a some microscope eyepieces and objectives. Everything else is 3D printed, making this a very cheap and very accessible microscope that has some killer features.
The latest version (1.3) of everyone’s favorite $5 computer now sports a frequently requested feature: a camera connector. The Pi Zero will now use the same economical camera modules available for the full-sized Raspberry Pi units.
The price of the Pi Zero is unchanged at $5, but there is a small catch. While the Raspberry Pi camera modules themselves will work just fine on the Pi Zero, the usual camera cable they come with will not. The Pi Zero’s camera cable connector is a little smaller than the ones on the full-grown Pi, so it needs a special cable to interface the camera modules to the slightly smaller connector found on the Pi Zero.
This should be good news. The new connector has appeared because another production run is ramping up. Logic points to greater availability of the $5 wonder board, but we’re still not holding our breath.
The Raspberry Pi camera provides a 5 megapixel resolution with still images of up to 2592 x 1944 and multiple video modes including 2592 x 1944 at 15 frames per second. With it being mounted on a small board it is ideal for using in hacks. [Josh Williams] mounted the camera on the lens of binoculars to capture some startling images, including this squirrel.
The camera is installed on a custom, laser cut mount that fastens to one eyepiece of the binoculars. The Pi itself is mounted above the binoculars. An LCD touch screen from Adafruit allows [Josh] to select the image and adjust the focus. Snapping pictures is done using either the touch screen or switches that come with the screen.
The Instructable [Josh] wrote is extremely detailed and includes two different ways of mounting the Pi on the binoculars. The quick and dirty method just straps on with tape. The highly engineered method delves into Inkscape to design a plywood mount that is laser cut. For portable operation, [Josh] uses one of the ubiquitous battery packs meant for USB charging.
Basic setup of the Pi and camera are in a video after the break.
[Anthony] at UCLA needed to verify the shape of a laser beam. Commercial units for this, as you would expect, are expensive. But a Raspberry Pi with a Pi Noir camera easily handles the task. Not only is the use of the Pi cool but so is the task – they are using lasers to cool molecules to study quantum effects. The Pi camera without the IR filter captures a wide bandwidth making it suitable for use with non-visible lasers. [Anthony] captures the beam along two axes and plots both curves on the LCD touchscreen. That data, based on the pictures, is also available on a host PC. All this in a super compact package with a 7″ touch screen display.
One reason I find this fascinating is I did something similar 1977 at the University of Rochester Laboratory for Laser Energetics. My project was measuring the energy cross-section of a laser beam. The research goal of the Laboratory was the study of inertial confinement laser fusion. While [Anthony] uses an entire camera my project was limited to a 1 dimensional array of charge coupled devices (CCD). The output went to a Tektronix storage terminal and was printed on thermal paper for reference. He uses Python running on the target system. My work used a Z80 development system the size of a tower PC to write my program in assembly language which was then executed on a single board computer. We’ve come a long way. My code is long gone but you can get [Anthony’s] on GitHub.
Here’s a project that brings together artist [Justus Bruns] and engineers [Rishi Bhatnagar] and [Michel Jansen] to collaborate on an interactive work of Art. The Live Still Life is a classic still life, streamed live from India to anywhere in the world. It is the first step towards the creation of an art factory, where hundreds of these works will be made, preserved and streamed.
The Live Still Life is a physical composition of fresh fruit and vegetables displayed on a table with flatware, cutlery and other still objects. This is located in a wooden box in Bangalore. Every minute a photo is taken and the image is streamed, live, accessible instantly from anywhere in the world. Les Oiseaux de Merde’s Indian curator is on call to replace the fruit the minute it starts to rot so as to maintain the integrity of the image. In this way, while the image remains the same, the fight against decay is always present. The live stream can be viewed at this link.
The hardware is quite minimal. An internet connected Raspberry Pi model B, Raspberry Pi camera module, a desk lamp for illumination and a wooden enclosure to house it all including the artwork. Getting the camera to work was just a few lines of code in Python. Live streaming the camera pictures took quite a bit more work than they expected. The server was written using a module called Exprestify written on top of Express JS to facilitate easier RESTful functions. For something that looks straightforward, the team had to overcome several coding challenges, so if you’d like to dig in to the code, some of it is hosted on Github or you can ask [Rishi] since he still needs to clean it up quite a bit.
Action cameras like the GoPro, and the Sony Action Cam are invaluable tools for cyclists and anyone else venturing into the great outdoors. These cameras are not really modifiable or usable in any way except for what they were designed for. [Connor] wanted a cheaper, open-source action camera and decided to build one with the Raspberry Pi.
[Connor]’s Pi action cam is built around the Raspberry Pi Model A+ and the Pi camera. This isn’t a complete solution, so [Connor] added a bluetooth module, a 2000 mAh battery, and a LiPo charger.
To keep the Pi Action Cam out of the elements, [Connor] printed an enclosure. It took a few tries, but eventually he was able to mount everything inside a small plastic box with buttons to start and stop recording, a power switch, and a USB micro jack for charging the battery. The software is a script by [Alex Eames], and the few changes necessary to make this script work with the hardware are also documented.
This was the most intensive 3D printing project [Connor] has ever come up with, and judging by the number of prints that don’t work quite right, he put a lot of work into it. Right now, the Pi action cam works, but there’s still a lot of work to turn this little plastic box into a completed project.