Before Christmas I got an Amazon gift card for my birthday, and I used it to buy a MaKey MaKey. It arrived just before the hectic Christmas rush and our traveling, so I didn’t really get a chance to play with it. These past few very cold days have been the perfect opportunity to see what this thing can do.
So, what is this thing?
A MaKey MaKey is an Arduino-based computer interface that allows any conductive material to be substituted for a key on the computer keyboard. The name is a contraction of “Make Anything a Key,” or “MaKey.”
The kit comes with alligator clips and jumper wires to attach to…just about anything. The board is connected to the computer via USB. You connect the clip to some conductive material such as aluminum foil, liquid, or even a piece of fruit. Another clip is attached to the ground on the board, the held in one hand. Touching the fruit-foil-liquid will complete the circuit through your body and trigger the key, depending on where the first clip is attached on the board. Continue reading “MaKey MaKey and Google Earth”
Last night Laura and I attended the fall awards dinner for the Western Carolinas chapter of the American Chemical Society. The event was held at Hannah Flannagan’s in Hendersonville. Recognition was given to those who had been members of ACS for 50 and 60 years. Carl Kort, interim president of Furman University addressed the group.
I admit to being a science geek, but the depth of my knowledge is limited to general topics. Most of the ACS topics are far over my head. However, this one was targeted toward the general public, and it turned out to be a fascinating evening.
As we were driving up, Laura casually mentioned that I had been designated event photographer. Oops. Fortunately, I had my little Panasonic camera, as I always do, so things were OK. Continue reading “Chemical Memories”
Many, many years ago I was teaching gifted and talented seventh graders. One of the units of study was “Sight and Sound.” We did cool physics-related experiments, including setting up a darkroom in the basement of the gym, building pinhole cameras, and developing our own photos (back before the days of MDS sheets and fears of lawsuits over anything chemical-related)…
…turning an old piano into a hand bell-like instrument using popsicle sticks, fishing line and violin bow resin, building a walk-in camera obscura, and programming a Bach chorale into four old Tandy 1000 computers. In short, it explored two of my favorite things – photography and music.
One of the things we created was a simple laser oscilloscope. I had seen this at Discovery Place in Charlotte, and wanted to replicated it in my classroom. In the days before cheap laser pointers, I had bought a helium-neon laser for some of our class projects. Using that laser, an old speaker, and a music synthesizer, we were able to construct something that would work.
Fast forward 25 years or so…
Earlier this summer I was playing with our cats, using a toy laser pointer. The cats go crazy chasing the little red dot. It occurred to me that I could recreate my project from long ago with this simple pointer.
We hadn’t given the new Mini a proper shake-down road trip. When we got the Audi we took it completely across country, driving from South Carolina to somewhere north of Seattle. We didn’t have the time nor energy for such an adventure this time (Well, at least one of us didn’t :-)) so we decided on something a bit shorter.
It was time for the annual Perseid Meteor Shower. We figured the perfect way to christen the car would be to take it up to the Blue Ridge Parkway and try to find a bit of dark sky to watch for them. From there we would do some free form road tripping, hoping to wind up in Washington DC by the end of the week.
I had scouted a few potential sites on Google Earth, but there was no way to tell if there would be dark skies. So, shortly after lunch we set off, having somehow managed to pack our gear into the tiny trunk of the Mini. We wanted to make tracks, so we took the Interstate straight on up to Gastonia, then headed off toward Blowing Rock, where we hit the Parkway. We drove with the top back, enjoying the breeze.
File this under one of those “now that you have the time” requests. John Kaup handles science education outreach for Furman, and had first approached me about this project. Elaine Smith is a chemistry teacher at Marion High School in Horry County, and she is spending the summer developing modules for teachers to use with 3D printing. As part of this project she wanted to develop short introductory and closing video segments for each module. That’s where I came in. They needed my services to help put together the videos.
The project itself is quite fascinating. Elaine is working with Tim Hanks and Casper Wright from Furman on using 3D printing to create biomedical structures. Tim and Casper’s research involves developing alginates that are electrically conductive. These alginates can be loaded into a 3D printer and printed into any shape, and research is being done to see if they can eventually substitute for neurons and other tissues. Elaine’s portion of the research is to develop simple demonstrations for these techniques for high school students.
For this project I wanted to use the best possible image source that I could, and I decided that was my Nikon D7000 DSLR. I hadn’t really done any video with it. In fact, I had shied away from video on this particular camera because the audio quality wasn’t what I wanted. The built-in microphone tends to pick up motor noise from the autofocus and image stabilization on the lens. Continue reading “Video Project for 3D Printing”
Wednesday night is ghost night in the Taylor-Wright household. That’s the night Laura’s favorite paranormal shows come on TV – Ghost Hunters, Haunted Collector, and the latest, Deep South Paranormal. This particular Wednesday, though, we had something different in mind. We were going ghost hunting ourselves. Specifically, we were going to see the Blue Ghost Fireflies, Phausis reticulata. We had the privilege of seeing the blue ghosts a couple of years ago. Turns out that was another Wednesday night when we would have been watching Ghost Hunters, too. That would not be the last coincidence on this particular trip.
Our friend Joyce McCarrell arranged the outing and sent us the invitation. We met with her and the others that were going at the Cafe at Williams Hardware. Our host for the evening was Ann Tankersly, and we would be following her up to her property near River Falls. In all, there were nine of us heading out to see the Blue Ghosts.
This evening David Moffett of the Furman University Physics Department was hosting a viewing of Comet Pan-STARRS on campus. Laura and I decided to head up and see if we could spot it. Of course, I came overloaded with cameras, telescopes, and binoculars. I wasn’t going to miss out on a photographic opportunity. When we … Continue reading Comet Pawn Stars
A friend on Facebook shared this with me this afternoon… [Raises his hand and puts on his best Sheldon Cooper impression and says, “Pick me! Pick me! I know the answer!”, then launches into an overly long, round-about explanation of the video…] When I was a young teacher I visited Discovery Place in Charlotte. They … Continue reading Amazing Water Experiment
For my birthday this year I decided to take a vacation day from work. Most people would take this as an opportunity to sleep in. I’ve always been of the mind that if I have a day off, I really don’t want to waste any of it, and usually would like to get an early start.
This year I got an earlier start than usual. This night is the peak of the Geminid meteor shower. My plan was to head up to Bald Rock in the South Carolina foothills and watch the meteors, then catch the morning sun rising over the Piedmont. I was hoping to replicate this photo…