Archive for the ‘projects’ Category

How I Open Sourced My Hamsters for Science

Determined to validate the oft-misguided claims of The Internet, I’ve spent the last month tracking my hamsters’ activity via a homemade Raspberry-Pi-powered Hamstrometer. And recently, I was approached by SuchWowTV to be featured in one of their videos!

If you’re interested in the details behind the build, you can head over to my blog and check out all of the pics and gifs I made of the build process!


Kevin’s Cat Wheel Activity Tracker

CRASH member Kevin Jordan is worried about his fat cat.

His fat cat needs more exercise, and like many of us, would greatly benefit from the motivation that comes from a little healthy competition. Unfortunately, we live in a world of tyranny and injustice, and there are no features on the many popular fitness trackers that are cat-friendly.

But like a true maker, Kevin has taken action.

In his own words:

My wheel from OneFastCat needed something. I wanted my cat to be able to compete on Strava with other cats but there was nothing available. Strava is a website and mobile app used to track athletic activity via GPS.

So, I made this system.

It is a breakbeam sensor connected with a Raspberry Pi computer. A fin on the outside of the wheel breaks the path of the sensor. Each rotation is mapped into a GPS location in the real world, moving 3.5 meters per rotation. After 100 seconds of no activity, the Raspberry Pi automatically upload’s to Toonces’ Strava page. The system resets automatically for the next wheel run.

Next up: Figuring a way for Toonces to run on the wheel without interaction from me. He can drive a car, but can’t run on a wheel.

Do you even Strava, cat?

For more information, check out his blog idreamincode!


Circuit Bending and Glitch Art

I spent this last Sunday with Phillip Stearns at Machine Project, learning how to circuit bend 1990s-era digital cameras for the sake of making glitch art.

This is my camera in it’s current state:


There’s a battery pack for mobile use, but for experimentation I wired the camera to my breadboard and hooked it up to a spare 5V power supply (thanks, eWaste!) to keep it running long-term. (These things kill batteries fast.)

It seems that much of circuit bending for the sake of art is guess and check, as you’re never quite sure what will produce a desirable result. I started out with shorting the board manually as I walked around taking pictures, but found that it was difficult to remember what exactly I had done and how to reproduce it when I went to go look at my pictures later. The addition of the breadboard has helped with this quite a bit (since my wiring stays in place while I move around), and I’ve been gathering data on what connection combinations lead to what effect under what circumstances.

So far, this is my favourite glitchPic I’ve gotten out of this setup:

Model: Rachel Koukal. Eat your heart out, Lisa Frank.

I think it would be fun to hook this up to an arduino and automate the system of stepping through the different short-circuit configurations. This might be less interesting to look at, though, as I’m noticing that weak connections and poor solder joints often produce the most beautiful results. (This is glitch, after all.)

Anyway, you can find the rest of my glitchy photos here on flickr. Once I get a more stable mobile setup, I’m gonna take this outside and see what I can get with some natural light!

[Edit] I got a mention in Year of the Glitch!



Control an Individually-Addressable RGB LED Strip with a Leap Motion

x-posted on

Here, a Leap Motion is sending data to a Processing script, which is sending that data over serial to an Arduino script, which is sending it to my Arduino Uno to control an individually-addressable RGB LED strip. If you want to do this, too, you can grab my code from GitHub.

This seems over-complicated at first, but having Processing in the mix is helpful for two reasons:

  1. The library that exists between Leap and Processing is well made.
  2. Processing excels at animation and visualization. If you do not include the Arduino+RGB LED strip, you can still use the Leap to control animations on your screen via Processing. This is very helpful for debugging, and will allow you to make sure you’re handling your input correctly before you introduce the added complications of the Arduino script and hardware. In the left photo below, the Arduino script is on the left, and the Processing script is on the right. In the right photo, Processing is running and is showing the small dot animation that moves in sync with the motion that the Leap sees.

  3. Click the pics to see them embiggened

    Here’s how the Arduino is set up:

    These pics are also embiggenable by clicking.

    Creative Commons License
    Motion-Reactive Individually-Addressable LED Strip by Michelle Leonhart is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
    Based on the Leap Motion Processing and Adafruit Neopixel libraries.


    The LED Matrix Backpack

    I commute roughly 10 miles round-trip through Los Angeles each day for work. This is awesome (fun! exercise! no traffic!) and terrible (cars! nobody watches where they’re going! my body is made of soft meats and cars are made of terrible metal! oh god cars!). With the short winter days upon us, all of my evening rides are through the darkness… and I really don’t feel all that safe out there.

    I have front and back bike lights, but they just don’t cut it. When I pass other bikers, I’m always startled to realize how small their bike lights look from a distance, and how long it takes me to notice them.

    So, I grabbed an LED matrix I soldered together a while back from when AdaFruit first came out with (what was then the alpha version of) their NeoMatrix library, soldered it to an Arduino Pro Mini, uploaded the code, and sewed it all to my backpack.

    The song in the background is Robert DeLong’s remix of Cigarette Barbies’ The Beauty Myth, if you’re curious

    I think it came out pretty nice! It’s painfully bright in person, and the LEDs aren’t even turned all the way up. (The text scrolling across it just says “*****”. It was really tempting to write “Hey! Don’t hit me!” or “CAUTION” or something, but I really don’t want to needlessly distract any drivers that are that close to my back.)

    Here’s what it looks like in the light:


    For future projects, I have my eyes on the Night Bike 2.0, and the Spoke POV.