Inkwell: Authors and Artists
Rob Myers (robmyers) Tue 14 Aug 12 04:40
I'd like a more hackable ambient orb that works outside the US. :-)
Gail Williams (gail) Tue 14 Aug 12 11:37
I'd love to hear more about simple and successful examples in the environmental and non-profit realm. How are people solving problems?
Patrick Di Justo (justpat) Tue 14 Aug 12 21:41
Soon after the book was published, Emily heard about a group of citizen scientists who were going to place remote water-quality sensing devices into the Gowanus Canal. The Gowanus Canal is a man-made estuary stretching a mile and a half into South Brooklyn. It is an EPA superfund site, contaminated with cement, oil, mercury, lead, PCBs, coal tar -- basically the entire history of 19th and 20th century shipping. Even though it is open to the ocean, the canal is as dead as the moon: 4.0 ppm of oxygen is the bare minimum to sustain life -- the Gowanus regularly measures 1.5 We decided to check out the build and the deployment. We headed out and met the group in a cold drizzle on the shores of the Gowanus. We asked to see their remote sensing device, and were flabbergasted to discover that they had used our water quality sensor as the basis for the design! They had improved and expanded our gadget, giving it a GSM cellular connection so it could report remotely to the internet, and solar panel and LiPoly batteries to keep it powered. The idea (we hope) is that they will eventually place a series of these sensors in the canal to monitor the quality of the water, especially as it relates to sewage and storm drain runoff.
Scott Underwood (esau) Wed 15 Aug 12 07:26
Patrick Di Justo (justpat) Wed 15 Aug 12 09:08
One thing we should mention: the Gowanus group has a long tradition of community service, and they have good working relationships with the EPA and other agencies. This is important when leaving electronic gadgets in public in post 9/11 America. In May 2012, the NYPD arrested an artist who was making light-up "I Love New York" signs and leaving them around the city. Someone saw one of these boxes and called the bomb squad. Since the devices were boxes with wires and lights and electronics, the man was charged with leaving false bombs around the city. We are currently working on a second book called "Atmospheric Monitoring with Arduino", focusing on air quality. We had considered doing what the Gowanus group did -- take a simple sensor, give it a GSM cellular connection (this costs about $35, plus the monthly data charge) and solar panels and a battery (all told, maybe $60), and make a remote air quality sensor. The NYC Parks department allows scientists to conduct experiments in the parks with a permit. We applied in May 2012 and still haven't heard anything back.
Emily Gertz (emilyg) Wed 15 Aug 12 13:17
Here's a photo slide show featuring the deployment of that gadget into the Gowanus (requires Flash): http://www.emilygertz.com/eg/2012/03/slideshow-environmental-monito.html Gail, your question about "problem solving" pre-supposes that there's overall consensus about which problems DIY devices can solve. Overall, the projects I'm aware of are developing and using them more as mechanisms: to reality-check government or industry pronouncements (that's what Safecast in Japan is about); or, to increase citizen involvement in the regulatory and maybe even the licensing process--I get the impression this is where Public Lab is going with its various projects. As well as, of course, to be cool and make things.
Emily Gertz (emilyg) Wed 15 Aug 12 13:20
As a journalist, I also envision using DIY monitoring as a way to get attention on under-reported environmental problems. There are citizen-professional collaborative science projects that have already achieved this, for example: Would there have been even half as many articles in the past 15 or so years about the potential for alien life, if not for SETI@Home?
Emily Gertz (emilyg) Wed 15 Aug 12 13:26
Rob: Ambient Orb does not work outside the U.S.?
Rob Myers (robmyers) Thu 16 Aug 12 10:11
Emily: the last time I checked it was tied to the US cellphone (or pager?) network. http://old.ambientdevices.com/cat/orb/orborder.html It's a very cool product, and I think they made the right decision about connectivity. My Nabaztag and now my Karotz are a pain to set up for WiFi... Arduino is a great platform for making these kinds of information display devices as well as for gathering data, I think. :-)
Emily Gertz (emilyg) Thu 16 Aug 12 12:53
Well, we're taking a break at the data-scraping workshop. It's really fascinating: All about how to pull data off public websites, in ways that you can clean and sort it for larger purposes. I love being introduced to a whole new tech toolset!
Gail Williams (gail) Thu 16 Aug 12 21:08
Rob Myers (robmyers) Fri 17 Aug 12 04:36
Have you seen scraperwiki? https://scraperwiki.com/ And coming back to Arduino, I've logged to Thingspeak before: https://www.thingspeak.com/ from Arduino before. For environmental monitoring I guess it's important to make data publicly available, but is it better to clean it up first?
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 17 Aug 12 06:19
Normally Inkwell conversations run for two weeks, in which case this one would have formally ended yesterday. However we had a late start, and it's always okay to continue past the two weeks. I do want to thank Emily and Patrick for this fascinating conversation. I really have to pick up an Arduino or two...
Patrick Di Justo (justpat) Sat 18 Aug 12 20:49
Thank you folks, we'll be here all week! Tip your waitress! Seriously, we'll be here as long as there are questions and stories about Arduino. And a sincere thank you to Jon for managing all of this!
John Brewer (jbrewer) Sun 19 Aug 12 00:18
I have a question. I was thinking of getting my Mom an Arduino for her birthday. What model should I get her?
Patrick Di Justo (justpat) Sun 19 Aug 12 02:59
It's never a bad idea to go with the latest model, which in this case is the Leonardo. The Leonardo has built-in USB communication, so that it will appear to your computer as a USB device (like a mouse or keyboard). At this moment I'm drawing a blank thinking up how you'd use an arduino as a mouse or keyboard, but there must be some reason. Another option is an Arduino Mega. This is just like your standard arduino, but with 54 input-output pins instead of the usual 20. This is great if you're going to be reading multiple sensors, or controlling multiple devices -- available pins can fill up pretty quickly. Another option is the LilyPad. This arduino is specifically designed to be sewn/knitted into textiles to create wearable computers. Because it is so small it has fewer protections -- you must make sure the input voltage is never more than 5.5V, or you'll fry it. But if you want to make a compass scarf, or a hat with a scrolling LED screen, this is the one to get.
Rob Myers (robmyers) Sun 19 Aug 12 04:03
I'd guess the USB communication is to make communication easier for datalogging? Not that datalogging is particularly hard at the moment...
Patrick Di Justo (justpat) Sun 19 Aug 12 07:57
We have one last request (if anyone is still reading this, that is). If you do purchase our book Environmental Monitoring With Arduino <http://shop.oreilly.com/product/0636920021582.do> and find it helpful, can you please please leave an OReilly and/or Amazon review? We never realized before how important those things are, but they are -- at least to our publisher!
Greg Broiles (gbroiles) Tue 21 Aug 12 14:08
The USB connection can be used to power the device - it's also how the program(s) are loaded. Out of the box the Arduinos don't really do anything.
Emily Gertz (emilyg) Wed 22 Aug 12 08:21
Rob asked, For environmental monitoring I guess it's important to make data publicly available, but is it better to clean it up first? Well, there are at least two ways to look at that. On the one hand, the more raw data made available, the more ways it can be used by more people. On the other hand, really raw data can be all but useless to those who don't know how to sort it and begin to find their desired information. My opinion is that at a minimum, you want to clean up your data in ways that give it consistent structure (think of the order in which information appears in a spreadsheet, for instance). And if there is some sort of algorithmic crunching that needs doing in order to correct for environmental conditions beyond your control, it's probably a good idea to incorporate that into the Arduino programming itself, and then just make that information available along with the data. I hope this gets at what you're asking about. On data scraping--I didn't know about scraperwiki until that workshop last week. Looking forward to digging into it more.
Gail Williams (gail) Wed 22 Aug 12 09:00
I happened to be looking at Kickstarter yesterday -- checking out a friend's high tech Slingfin backpack design -- and I saw the mini Arduino project -- Digispark, an Arduino-enabled USB developer board the size of a quarter. It's already being written up too: http://www.engadget.com/2012/08/20/digispark-kickstarter-arduino-jr/ A selling point is that it is cheap enough to not have to recycle for use in your next project, if I read that right. A pity to look at it that way, but otherwise it sounds like it will be a cool tool.
J. Eric Townsend (jet) Wed 22 Aug 12 09:34
Recycling is good. I have ~five year old Arduinos that I still reach for when I need a dummy Arduino for a simple code test.
Rob Myers (robmyers) Thu 23 Aug 12 04:54
Emily - Thanks. Eric - Yes I still have my original Arduino, although the latest IDE doesn't seem to want to talk to it.
Patrick Di Justo (justpat) Fri 24 Aug 12 02:11
Yes, I have the same problem with my Arduino NG. But at least the old IDS are still available.
Gary Nolan (gnolan) Fri 24 Aug 12 10:55
Late to this but I am interested in applications such as ammonia/nitrates, phosphates, etc. in water. Are these possible and if so how? I'm imagining ion specific electrodes and wonder if a calibration curve can be programmed in.
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