Sparkfun adds Inventors Kit to Tricorder contest!

The folks over at Sparkfun do wonderful things for the open source hardware community, and their tutorials on designing circuit boards using Eagle CAD and surface mount soldering using toaster ovens helped me a great deal when developing the first Tricorder. I had to write them a thank you letter, and the next morning I woke up to a great letter from Nathan and some of the other folks at Sparkfun.

Sparkfun has very generously offered to contribute a Sparkfun Inventor’s Kit for Arduino into the prize pool. The kit was specially designed by the folks at Sparkfun as a great introduction to electronics and microcontrollers, and includes projects for temperature, light, and flex sensors for budding Tricorder enthusiasts:

This kit has it all. It includes the Arduino Uno, the fabled baseplate, and all the sensors you can shake a stick at. The SparkFun Inventor’s Kit for Arduino is a box of goodies to get the very beginner started with programmable electronics. It includes all the bits you need to build 12 basic circuits, no soldering required! On top of that, we’ve joined forces with Oomlout to offer a small booklet to get you started. The SIK comes with everything pictured and a 36 page color printed ‘starter’ guide. The guide will take a complete novice and get them:

Blinking LEDs
Controlling a toy motor
Controlling a servo
Making (bad) music
Responding to buttons
Twisting a volume knob
Detecting ambient light
Reading temperature
Controlling big devices
Mixing LED colors

We believe these to be the building blocks of any electronics project. Once these concepts are mastered, very impressive projects are possible using simple recombinations.

Very awesome! If you haven’t already, check out what is probably the nerdiest contest you will ever enter for a set of unpopulated Tricorder boards from the first run. Thanks Sparkfun!

Oh wow! An incredible response

I am absolutely blown away by the incredible response to the Tricorder project! Simply speechless.

On Tuesday night I uploaded the “About the Tricorder Project” video to Youtube before bed, and let my friends know that the Tricorder project website was ready to see on Facebook. Within hours it was on Metafilter, then Slashdot, Ars Technica, Gizmodo, BoingBoing, Tech Crunch,, and Engadget, to name only a few. In the first day and a half there were nearly 50,000 visitors and 100,000 page views! That’s an incredible number!

The Tricorder project and video have just recently made it to The Washington Post, Wired, and the International Business Times. The website has received nearly 70,000 visitors, 150,000 page views, and 80,000 Youtube views. Those are incredible numbers for the first few days!

I am blown away, and feel humbled and privileged to have the project seen by so many wonderful folks. My inbox is bursting with your overwhealmingly positive responses, encouragement, interest in having tricorders, feature requests, donations, requests to speak — and I’m extremely happy to see so much interest in the project! I’m endeavoring to respond to all of your e-mails in the next few days, and clearly I’ll have to investigate crowdfunding options like Kickstarter (though Kickstarter isn’t currently available for Canadians, so I’ll likely have to use a similar service), and work to complete the Mark 4 development and figure out all the pragmatic issues involved in getting handheld multisensor devices in peoples hands. It’s really exciting, and I couldn’t be happier.

(I think the Ars Technica article wins for the funniest Star Trek reference. “The device packs quite a bit of functionality, however, considering the limitations of 21st century technology. I can’t help but wonder if Jansen is really a time traveler, borrowing Berlinghoff Rasmussen’s business model.”. A few of us first read this in the lab, and had to Google who Rasmuseen was — then laughed as hard as I can remember in recent memory. Thank you! 🙂 The lab mates have also taken to calling me Dr. Rasmussen… we’ll see how that goes! )

For folks interested in keeping up-to-date with the Tricorder project, stay tuned to this blog for updates — I’ll endeavor to post at least a few times a week. You can also subscribe for updates over e-mail (using the widget on the top-right of the blog), the Tricorder project Facebook page, and the Twitter Feed.

probably the nerdiest contest you will ever enter

This is probably the nerdiest contest that you will ever enter — which in and of itself is a great reason to enter!

I have decided to give away a set of official unpopulated Tricorder boards from the first ever runs! If you get the Science Tricorder Mark 1 boards, they will include the motherboard and sensor board (but not the power board — I’m afraid I’m fresh out), and I’ll also try to include some parts along with them if you’d like to build them. The Science Tricorder Mark 2 boards are more impressive to look at, but I’m fresh out of parts for them, so they’ll likely be just the bare boards.

Here’s what you have to do for a chance to win: Describe (in a sentence or two) how you would use or your favorite use for a Tricorder either in the comments to this blog post, or in this forum post. On April 15th I’ll read them, and randomly select from the best and most creative or thought-provoking a winner.

The fine print: remember to be sure to log in/register (it only takes a second), and to include your e-mail address when registering so I have a way of contacting the winner. If, after announcing the winner, I can’t get in contact with them after a few days, then I’ll randomly select a different winner. If you’re outside of North America and shipping the package would be excessively difficult or expensive, I may have to select a different winner as well (my apologies ahead of time if this is the case). I’ll also reserve the right to be sneaky and change the rules if something comes up, add more sets of boards to the prizes if there’s a lot of interest, and cheer you on!

Have fun and be creative.

shape and form

Designed by a pretty dorky grad student (and the star of the video), they’ve been everywhere from in the hands of a Canadian astronaut to inside a men’s room over in the physics building at McMaster that had a luring “danger — high magnetic fields” sign on the door. And now, after a bunch of nights playing with the Nikon D5000, the video is done! It looks wonderful, and I’m very happy with it.

I think the Adobe creative suite is one of my favorite sets of programs, with Illustrator being near the top. In the video (and in the pictures on the page) I’m using one of my favorite images from Digital Blasphemy, an amazing digital artwork and background website. As much as I’d love to, because I couldn’t distribute with the Tricorder source (you’ll have to download it yourself), I had the perfect opportunity to open up Illustrator and play for a few minutes to create a Tricorder background.

This is the result, a fun orange/lime themed image. I had the graphical style in my head from my last entry into the Ludum Dare 48 hour game competition, although that took far more time to draw. I’d thought about rendering it at 320×200 and turning it into a Tricoder-sized background too, on a rainy day:

The joy of figuring things out

I kind of wish I had some humbling words for this moment.  Here it goes.

I think for me, it’s really about curiosity.  And helping to find ways to see and intuitively visualize the world around us, to help share that curiosity, and get folks excited about science.

With the excitement that comes from having developed a project from an idea over a bunch of years, and the hope that folks will find it as exciting as I do, today the Tricorder project website is officially live! Again I’d like to thank everyone who has helped out over the years, whether it be generously donating commercial/educational samples, in kind donations, or moral support — especially, in this last case, I’d like to thank my Dad.

I would very much like to put together a short video introducing the Tricorder project.  My hope was to have it complete for the launch, but I still think it might take a few weeks — the star is a little under the weather from having the flu all of last week.  I also can’t seem to find the battery charger for the first Tricorder.  I know it’s around here somewhere!

Seriously though, I’m very happy with how the Tricorder website looks, and how rewarding it was to put it all together.  With some luck, we’ll be able to make it a lot easier for folks (and especially children) to learn about their worlds.

If you’re visiting, please feel free to leave a comment letting me know what you think of the site, and if you find any broken links or anything!