inkwell.vue.448 : Emily Gertz and Patrick DiJusto: Environmental Monitoring with Arduino
permalink #0 of 53: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 7 Aug 12 19:56
    
For this latest Inkwell.vue discussion, we focus on DIY/maker
solutions that support environmental awareness. Our guests are authors
of For this latest Inkwell.vue discussion, we focus on DIY/maker
solutions that support environmental awareness. Our guests are authors
of _Environmental Monitoring with Arduino: Building Simple Devices to
Collect Data About the World Around Us_.  Amazon: "This inspiring guide
shows you how to use Arduino to create gadgets for measuring noise,
weather, electromagnetic interference (EMI), water purity, and more.
You’ll also learn how to collect and share your own data, and you can
experiment by creating your own variations of the gadgets covered in
the book. If you’re new to DIY electronics, the first chapter offers a
primer on electronic circuits and Arduino programming."

Freelance journalist Emily Gertz has been covering DIY environmental
monitoring since 2004, along with other environmental, science, and
technology topics.  She has been hands-on with internet technologies
since 1994 as a web producer, community host, and digital content
strategist. Her work has appeared in Talking Points Memo, OnEarth
magazine, Worldchanging.com, Grist, Dwell, Scientific American, Popular
Mechanics, and more.


Patrick Di Justo writes Wired's monthly What's Inside column, and is
the author of The Science of Battlestar Galactica (Wiley, October
2010). His work has appeared in Dwell, Scientific American, Popular
Science, The New York Times, and more. He has worked as a robot
programmer for the Federal Reserve, and bought his first Arduino in
2007.

Welcome, Emily and Patrick!
  
inkwell.vue.448 : Emily Gertz and Patrick DiJusto: Environmental Monitoring with Arduino
permalink #1 of 53: OK bai. (emilyg) Wed 8 Aug 12 09:26
    

Hello, World! Happy to be here to talk citizen science and DIY enviro
monitoring.

I want to mention that O'Reilly has graciously offered to make eBook
copies of Environmental Monitoring With Arduino, hereafter EMWA, available
gratis to a few participants in this discussion. WELL folks, please ping
me if interested.
  
inkwell.vue.448 : Emily Gertz and Patrick DiJusto: Environmental Monitoring with Arduino
permalink #2 of 53: Patrick Di Justo (justpat) Wed 8 Aug 12 10:57
    
Hello!  I'm Patrick Di Justo -- <justpat> here on The WELL since 1989. I'm
really excited to have this opportunity to talk about what we're doing with
Environmental Monitoring and the Arduino microprocessor.

Just a few brief words of introduction: Arduino is a single chip computer
which was developed in part by Tom Igoe, formerly <tigoe> here.  Depending
on who you ask, an Arduino is more powerful or just a little less powerful
than the computers that landed Apollo 11 on the moon.  It costs $35, and
fits in the palm of your hand.

What can you do with an Apollo landing computer that costs $35?  We decided
to use it to do some environmental monitoring: of our water, our
electromagnetic environment, the noise pollution in our area, and even the
background radiation in our city.
  
inkwell.vue.448 : Emily Gertz and Patrick DiJusto: Environmental Monitoring with Arduino
permalink #3 of 53: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 9 Aug 12 07:27
    
Before you get into environmental monitoring, can you say a little
more about how Arduino works, how it's part of a kind of maker or DIY
(do-it-yourself) tech movement, and what other kinds of applications
it's been used for?
  
inkwell.vue.448 : Emily Gertz and Patrick DiJusto: Environmental Monitoring with Arduino
permalink #4 of 53: Administrivia (jonl) Thu 9 Aug 12 07:29
    
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inkwell.vue.448 : Emily Gertz and Patrick DiJusto: Environmental Monitoring with Arduino
permalink #5 of 53: Patrick Di Justo (justpat) Thu 9 Aug 12 10:26
    
An Arduino is a open-source, self-contained microcontroller platform,
based around the ATmel series of processors, with some added on-board
power management and input/output support.

Well, that really didn't explain anything, did it? 

First thing is that an Arduino is open source.  The design is simple
-- deliberately so -- and anyone can build one from scratch if they
want to.  

Arduino is a microcontroller. Microcontrollers are generally used to
control devices that operate on a defined series of actions, usually
repeating in a loop.  Like a security card scanner, for instance [read
card, check database to see if card is valid, open or close door
accordingly, wait for next card] or a microwave oven [read input, turn
on microwave beam, count down to zero, beep, wait for next input]. 

Arduino allows you to easily control input and output.  As in the
examples above, a microcontroller take some kind of input signal,
processes it in some way, and delivers an output.  In one of our
environmental gadgets, for example, Arduino measures the conductivity
of a sample of water.  With this data, Arduino then calculates the
estimated dissolved solid count, in parts per billion.  Arduino then
displays the data on an LED or LCD screen, and/or uploads it to the
internet.

As you can imagine, a simple computer like that can be put to any
number of uses!
  
inkwell.vue.448 : Emily Gertz and Patrick DiJusto: Environmental Monitoring with Arduino
permalink #6 of 53: Emily Gertz (emilyg) Thu 9 Aug 12 11:51
    
Putting the upshot of this in a different way, Arduino is simple and
cheap enough to use and program that even beginners to the worlds of
both DIY electronics and programming can get into it, and get results
with it, pretty quickly and easily. 
  
inkwell.vue.448 : Emily Gertz and Patrick DiJusto: Environmental Monitoring with Arduino
permalink #7 of 53: Julie Rehmeyer (jrehmeyer) Thu 9 Aug 12 11:55
    
Can you tell me about some of the awesome things you've done with it?
  
inkwell.vue.448 : Emily Gertz and Patrick DiJusto: Environmental Monitoring with Arduino
permalink #8 of 53: Emily Gertz (emilyg) Thu 9 Aug 12 12:19
    
Hi Julie!

For Environmental Monitoring with Arduino, we devised five gadgets: 
- Electromagnetic interference aka "energy vampire" detector
- Water conductivity monitor, which detects particulates in water
- Noise monitor (noise being a widespread but underreported enviro
nuisance)
- A basic weather station that measures temperature, humidity, and dew
point
- A radiation detector

Along with the end goals of the gadgets, though, the book's projects
teach a progression of skills, from simpler to more complex. The builds
involve sending output to a 4-character LED display, for instance, or
recording data to an SD card, or publishing data to a public web page.

Our goal and hope are that folks will mix and match the different
inputs and outputs to meet their own needs and fancies.
  
inkwell.vue.448 : Emily Gertz and Patrick DiJusto: Environmental Monitoring with Arduino
permalink #9 of 53: a plaid pajama ninja (cynsa) Thu 9 Aug 12 15:59
    
hey guys:  I just ordered my Arduino and I'm really looking forward to
getting it and trying my first set-up/experiments.

can you tell me how each of you got into programming Arduinos yourselves?
  
inkwell.vue.448 : Emily Gertz and Patrick DiJusto: Environmental Monitoring with Arduino
permalink #10 of 53: Rob Myers (robmyers) Fri 10 Aug 12 04:30
    
Those sound like really good applications of Arduino.

Does the radiation detector relate to the work people did tracking
radiation in Japan after the nuclear accidents recently at all?
  
inkwell.vue.448 : Emily Gertz and Patrick DiJusto: Environmental Monitoring with Arduino
permalink #11 of 53: Emily Gertz (emilyg) Fri 10 Aug 12 10:47
    

Not directly, although I do talk about that effort in the book.  That group,
Safecast, has actually been developing an iPhone-based radiation detector
for use around Japan.
  
inkwell.vue.448 : Emily Gertz and Patrick DiJusto: Environmental Monitoring with Arduino
permalink #12 of 53: Patrick Di Justo (justpat) Fri 10 Aug 12 11:04
    
Also, we were roughing out the book in May 2011, so sure, we were
influenced by the work done on DIY internet-enabled radiation monitors
in Japan. In fact, we had to save that for the last project, simply
because the Japanese situation had temporarily dried up the world's
supply of Geiger tubes. We ordered one in May and it didn't arrive
until late July.
  
inkwell.vue.448 : Emily Gertz and Patrick DiJusto: Environmental Monitoring with Arduino
permalink #13 of 53: Patrick Di Justo (justpat) Fri 10 Aug 12 11:10
    
As for how I got involved with programming Arduino; I've been
programming computers since I was 13.  I worked as a programmer in one
form or another (even programming robots for the Federal Reserve) until
about 2001. 

I bought the Arduino as soon as it came out, but didn't do a lot with
it.  I made a Seasonal Affective Disorder lamp which slowly turned on a
bank of blue 470nm LEDs to shine on the bedroom ceiling during winter,
giving the illusion of a bright blue sky. 

But the real impetus came in early 2011.  Emily had had knee surgery,
and was laid up with her leg in a flexing machine.  She said that she
wanted me to teach her electronics, soldering and Arduino stuff so she
would have something to do. Her questions -- can the Arduino do this,
can the Arduino do that -- led to this book.
  
inkwell.vue.448 : Emily Gertz and Patrick DiJusto: Environmental Monitoring with Arduino
permalink #14 of 53: Patrick Di Justo (justpat) Sat 11 Aug 12 12:50
    
Many of the gadgets in the book are built around commercial sensors
that can be found in things like smoke detectors and other devices that
need to know the world around them ( there is a type of soft drink
vending machine that senses the local temperature/humidity -- and
electronically raises the prices of soda if the heat index gets
sufficiently high!).

But some of the sensors are real DIY.  For example, the
Electromagnetic Interference main sensor is .... a length of wire! The
output is a simple audio speaker.  The Arduino is programmed to read
any electrical signals picked up by the wire and turn them into sound. 


In essense, we've turned the arduino into a broadband radio.  Since
many electrical devices give off some form of radio interferance --
read the FCC warning that came with your computer, for instance -- by
turning the arduino into a radio and giving it a big antenna in the
form of a wire, we can pick up the buzz and squeal of things like TVs
and computer printers.

The payoff for us came when we "dowsed" Emily's office with the
gadget.  Her component stereo, which she didn't even think was plugged
in, was actually putting out as much electromagnetic interference as an
operating television set!  We quickly unplugged that vampire.
  
inkwell.vue.448 : Emily Gertz and Patrick DiJusto: Environmental Monitoring with Arduino
permalink #15 of 53: Craig Louis (craig1st) Sat 11 Aug 12 17:01
    

This is very interesting.

I've been playing around with an Arduino Uno, attending meetings of the LA
Robotics Club

So far I've only gotten as far as getting through the LED blink exercises
that come with the Sketch development tool, but it's been fun.

We did a group thing assembling a little robot on wheels, but I missed the
assembly meeting, and am now behind. I'm thinking of bagging the project and
finding somethign with actual instructions that I can follow. 

Emily and Patrick, does your book provide A to Z project instructions? I'm 
OK with extrapolating things and hacking around, but it would be nice to 
do one introductory project with all instructions provided..
  
inkwell.vue.448 : Emily Gertz and Patrick DiJusto: Environmental Monitoring with Arduino
permalink #16 of 53: Patrick Di Justo (justpat) Sat 11 Aug 12 20:28
    
Indeed it does!!!  Five projects, no waiting!

The book starts with the world's shortest introduction to electronics,
in a chapter called The World's Shortest Introduction to Electronics.
Then it goes into the gadgets, starting with the simplest one first,
the Electromagnetic Interference Detector.  We give a brief explanation
of what EMI is and how it is harmful, and then we get into the
step-by-step build, with written instructions and photographs.  The
Arduino code is there in the book, and also available for download from
GitHub. 

The projects are written for breadboarding. Breadboards are plastic
boards with electrical interconnections -- by sticking wires into the
boards you can join different components together without soldering. 
Of course, if you want to you can solder the gadgets as well.

We then move on to the more challenging gadgets, ending with the most
challenging, the ethernet geiger counter.
  
inkwell.vue.448 : Emily Gertz and Patrick DiJusto: Environmental Monitoring with Arduino
permalink #17 of 53: Ed Ward (captward) Sun 12 Aug 12 09:19
    
I don't have one of these gizmos, but I sure am curious what kind of
robots the Federal Reserve has. 

I know: drift. Sorry.
  
inkwell.vue.448 : Emily Gertz and Patrick DiJusto: Environmental Monitoring with Arduino
permalink #18 of 53: J. Eric Townsend (jet) Sun 12 Aug 12 10:22
    
Arduinos are quickly becoming the new TRS-80 of college classes.  A
few years ago I co-taught experimental classes on "making things
interactive" open to all students with the only requirement being "buy
an Arduino".  In one semester, students with no experience made
everything from nightlights for kids to purses that could answer your
phone to a comical bathroom that wouldn't let you out until you washed
your hands.

These days the Design department has a serious, focused class for
undergraduate design students who use the Arudino to create new
interaction mechanisms.  On and off campus you'll see the Arduino in
everything from art to engineering and even driving robots in amateur
races held on school sidewalks.

(Previous well member <tigoe> is one of the people responsible for
 creating the Arduino.)
  
inkwell.vue.448 : Emily Gertz and Patrick DiJusto: Environmental Monitoring with Arduino
permalink #19 of 53: Gail Williams (gail) Sun 12 Aug 12 10:55
    
Wow, good for tigoe!  That's very cool indeed.
  
inkwell.vue.448 : Emily Gertz and Patrick DiJusto: Environmental Monitoring with Arduino
permalink #20 of 53: Craig Louis (craig1st) Sun 12 Aug 12 18:01
    

Yes, it's very cool to read taht <tigoe> was an Arduino founder person.

I think I'll  be clicking over to get this book! Project instructions, yes.
Just the thing for the curious, but too-busy dabbler, like me.

Love that hand washing enforcing bathroom, <jet>. I helped out a tiny bit on
construction of an Arduino controlled robotic kegerator some weeks back. I
need to ask those folks how it's coming along. If it's born already, I'll
post a link back to this topic.
  
inkwell.vue.448 : Emily Gertz and Patrick DiJusto: Environmental Monitoring with Arduino
permalink #21 of 53: Patrick Di Justo (justpat) Sun 12 Aug 12 19:12
    
<Sidetrack>

The Federal Reserve bank has a giant warehouse in East Rutherford NJ
where they store approximately $2 billion in cash. The cash is stored
in transparent plastic cubes about 1 meter on each side, which are
supposed to be able to slide and stack inside armored cars. It looks
like a giant Costco, loaded with plastic boxes of money.

When banks call the Federal Reserve to get a shipment of cash, they
usually ask for the same patterns over and over: $100 million, broken
down as $50m in 20 dollar bills, $30min 100s, $10m in 50s, $10m in 10s,
or some such pattern.  Those patterns are loaded into the boxes.  When
a bank asks for a specific distribution of money, the computer looks
in the database for a box with that pattern. It then sends a robot -
about the size of a golf cart - to the warehouse location to get that
box of money.  The box contents are verified by a human, and then the
box is loaded onto the armored car for shipment to the bank.

</SIDETRACK>
  
inkwell.vue.448 : Emily Gertz and Patrick DiJusto: Environmental Monitoring with Arduino
permalink #22 of 53: Emily Gertz (emilyg) Mon 13 Aug 12 09:04
    
Craig, I think you'd find our book a great way to keep going with
Arduino.  We wrote it very much with beginner satisfaction in mind. 
Using breadboards instead of solder makes it very easy to build each
gadget, troubleshoot problems, and mix and match components (like
saving to SD card or using the 4char display for output).

For more intermediate makers, we do make suggestions to up the
challenge for each gadget--like soldering it together, altering the
programming to do this or that, or creating a cool enclosure from
scratch.

Jet, I'm really intrigued by your report on how Arduino is becoming
ubiquitous on campus.  Of course I know about NYC programs, like NYU's
ICP where Tom teaches, and the similar program at Pratt.  But haven't
have a lot of insight into what's happening at other schools.

However, I do track the growing DIY sector of the environmental
movement. Groups like Public Labs and Ushahidi are conducting workshops
all over the place--worldwide, I think--that teach people how to build
and program monitoring devices, and share data.  

I'm planning to attend an afternoon workshop later this week,
organized by Sensemakers NYC (formerly Internet of Things), on scraping
political data. Not sure what this means in the DIY/maker context,
yet. I'll report back.
  
inkwell.vue.448 : Emily Gertz and Patrick DiJusto: Environmental Monitoring with Arduino
permalink #23 of 53: Scott Underwood (esau) Mon 13 Aug 12 10:02
    
Following along in this discussion, I'll throw something out as an
idea that would seem to be a good Arduino application: I worked
for a short time with David Rose, who founded Ambient Devices
(<http://www.ambientdevices.com/>). One of his ideas is "glanceable
technology," with is something that can give you information without
needing you to compute: an analog clock on the wall, for example. One of
his devices, the Ambient Orb, will glow with a single color based on some
data source: stock market trended up (green) or down (red), pollen count,
energy use, whatever you can track. He called it a single-pixel browser.

For another example, sometimes it's better to see trends rather than
data. If you're tracking some activity -- energy or water use in the
home, weight loss, walking distance -- it may be more useful to see
your trend over the last seven days than to record a number. In fact,
you wouldn't even need to see a trend unless it was in the direction
you don't want. No news is good news, a glowing red LED if bad news.
  
inkwell.vue.448 : Emily Gertz and Patrick DiJusto: Environmental Monitoring with Arduino
permalink #24 of 53: Susan Sarandon, tractors, etc. (rocket) Mon 13 Aug 12 10:45
    
that's really interesting.
  
inkwell.vue.448 : Emily Gertz and Patrick DiJusto: Environmental Monitoring with Arduino
permalink #25 of 53: Patrick Di Justo (justpat) Mon 13 Aug 12 20:22
    
Annnnnnnndddd... continuing the well tradition of "plate o' shrimp",
it was the Ambient Orb that helped me to solve a problem with out
current book "Atmospheric Monitoring with Arduino". We needed a way to
find the best wavelength match for a group of LEDs.  I thought about it
for hours which turned into days, and still got nowhere.  Then I
thought about the RGB LEDs in an Ambient Orb, and, to make a long story
short, that solved the problem. 

That's the great thing about Arduino -- by itself, or interacting with
a computer running something like Processing -- if what you want to do
can be described as a simple electronic input followed by an
electronic output, there's a good chance Arduino get you there.

The Ambient Orb works that way: data from the internet in, color out. 
All our gadgets work that way as well: environmental sensing in, data
out.
  

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