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.

40 thoughts on “probably the nerdiest contest you will ever enter

  1. You have NO idea how happy I am.

    I’ve always imagined with all the opensource hardware out there, someone must be able to make the ultimate measuring device- and here you are, come out of no where (aka internet) and have the damn thing ready.

    Anyways I’d love to use one for my aquaponics project. It’ll make measuring all kind of necessary record keeping for optimal adjustments easier.

    You are looking into kickstarter’ering this thing, aren’t you? if not, please consider it!

  2. If I had a tricorder, I really would love to get out and measure the world, but more important, after having played a bit with it, I would give it to my nephew. He would totally love this thing – and I believe, that it would boost his interest in science even more, than it is right now.

    Being able to give that to a young one, would be way cooler, than “just playing” with it myself.

    Greetings from Germany and kudos for making a nerds dream come true.

    Yours, Sven

  3. Hi Peter,

    This is an amazing tool that you’ve built here, I’m really amazed 🙂

    What I would do first with a tricorder is to get a sense of the world around me. But what I would really do after having played with it is to promote it. I would show the tricorder to people I know and those I don’t know to make them realize what science is capable to tell us and how easy it can be to use.

    In the future, what I’d like a tricorder to be able to do is to identify things. You give a tricorder to a kid, he takes a picture of a tree and then get to know what type of tree it is, and plenty of informations about it. “Look Dad, this is a maple syrup tree, and we are going to get syrup very soon ! From the temperature trend, I can see that this year is gonna be a good year” 🙂

    thank you for this really cool device!
    Nicolas Bouliane

  4. Peter,
    I am just speechless at this accomplishment of yours.

    I am from India. What I’m going to do is hope you go commercial because I’m going to show this device to Physics teachers and Science teachers and try to get charities involved in education for the poor interested in this. They can really use this device to demonstrate magnetic field values just to demonstrate that they actually exist among other things and make a Science class so much more interesting for kids.

    Hey, if you do have problems in shipping it to India, I can always pay up the shipping charges gladly.
    Take care and all the best.


  5. These things look amazing. I wish someone had come up with one when I was a kid.

    I’d love to take a tricorder to work with me, and use it in my daily job. I’d probably end up looking for ways to improve it and add more functionality, to replace some of the self-built test equipment I use. I’m an instrumentation technician, and the fewer pieces of technology I need to carry around, the better. If I could shove a multimeter, 4-20mA calibrator, and a frequency generator in to one of these beauty’s, I’d be laughing.

  6. Pingback: Build Your Own Working Tricorder – Tech Thursday

  7. First of all: Congratulations on being awesome.

    2nd: i would give the board to my friends at our local HackerSpace/FabLab to reproduce more of them and even make them cheaper, then hook one of the replicas up to an ADK so people can send the Sensor Output over the Internet to anywhere else in the World. I think these could help in different areas, like Crisis Situations/Hackerspaces everywhere/Medicine (with additional sensors) in bad to reach areas and many many more.

    So i would love to have one, but if not that’s ok to, since you made it OpenSource i will send the plan to friends of mine 🙂

    Have you thought about “mass production” for example by putting it up on I guess Jon Buford would love to lay hands on one of those babys.

  8. This could be very useful for energy auditing/commissioning of buildings (my side job as a PhD engineering student). I would try and modify your board to include CO, CO2, VOC, O2, humidity sensors, current, voltage, power, power factor and lighting sensors.

    Existing functionality would be useful for the following:
    Temperature: Comfort issues, thermal stratification
    E&M: electro-magnetic ‘leaks’ in motors, poor wiring of elec. equipment
    Spatial: location and documentation of equipment.

    Software development to support the above (I can program in C, lua, python, etc). My background is in elec engineering.

    This is just a wish list, I would need to test one out to decide if any of this is feasible. Congrats on this great initiative and to your perseverance in seeing it through! Greetings from Hamilton.

  9. Oh this is so great! I love what you are accomplishing!

    I would use my tricorder 1 for gathering data in all of my field experiments, and (where applicable) use it for medical purposes. I would also love to buy about 500 of them to give to the various classrooms around my city.

    All in the name of helping people! And in the name of science!

  10. Very simply put, I will use and build this project with my son. He is 4 (although he will tell you he is 4 and a half). He loves learning about the world around him, and we often talk about various aspects of science (along with social studies and English).

    While I know that he will not be of much assistance in the assembly of the tricorder, He will be very interested in what I am doing, and will definitely be given the task of keeping various parts and materials together.

    In this respect, this will give my son and I a project to work on that will help him understand about electronics and computers. Once we have it built, we will use the device to explore his world. He will be able to take readings with the device and we will work to help him understand what those readings mean.

  11. I would love to use this for anything possible in science class (7th grade), and I would also use it myself. First of all, I would like to just examine. I know how some stuff works, but a person never gets to see anything actually as inspiring as what might be possible with this. I would also love to see if I can add to it, enhance it (probably add a few things here and there). If I could I would build one myself, but it probably costs a lot. Definitely, I would program my own stuff onto it. Imagine going to Costa Rica, and being able to tell random things about the environment around you. Find where an animal is hiding (if it is not cold-blooded and is extremely close to you), be able to use it as a very complex and fancy compass, and just plain learn. Navigating during the dark, usefull when you don’t have a flashlight and the lights are out (I sometimes live in NJ, and the generator only powers one room). Figuring out what is broken (I believe that I have stated this before, yeah, probably), checking the accuracy of a GPS, and checking if a device is out of battery (I assume the electromagnetic field would be weaker, but who knows?), and experimenting because I was wishing for some kind of multi-purpose-ish-esque-ish tool for a while, that would allow me to investigate, and actually do something in the real world instead of typing runon sentences on the Internet. Thanks a lot for putting this out there/here/a bit to the left… Whatever. I just really want this. Thanks for putting this opportunity out there.

    Also, I might be repeating what other people said because I skipped reading the comments above (according to where I am writing it), and read/will read the comments above/somewhere else.

  12. A sentence or two? I can do this.

    I’ve been in the works of building a UAV out of a simple styrofoam model airplane. I’d use a tricorder to show me ground sensor data, the aircraft’s sensor data, and a comparison of the two.

    Talk about awareness in spectrum beyond human senses.

  13. My colleague and I would like to use these Tricorder boards to create a visualization of the physical ecology of video game play. We haven’t figured out exactly how we would visually represent the Tricorder outputs, but the idea is to create an installation that would respond to (at least) temperature and electromagnetic variations produced by different game consoles as they are played.

  14. Thanks, people like you define the internet, you are a real hacker. My respects.

    Im going to build a tricoder for my little nephews.

    Thanks again!

    PD: i just mirrored your whole website in case something happens.


  15. I am very impressed with your work. You have a wonderful perspective on what a device like this would mean to people throughout the world.
    I am under the impression your contest is for boards that need to be soldered.
    I am confident that I can solder these parts and get the board up and running.
    I have enjoyed working with linux and pic microcontrollers for years, am well aware of how much troubleshooting is involved with both, and would love an opportunity to work with your design. Most of all I am interested in your idea of creating modular swappable sensor boards, and would like to work on adding new sensors and fuctionality to your design. Both hardware and software modifications are well within my abilities. I am confident that your future devices with far more functions than the Mark 2 can eventually be produced at a price that would make it within reach of chidren.

    This device would be invaluable to a building inspector or contractor.

  16. If I had the mentioned components I would save some money up to buy the rest of the project parts to build a Tricorder in hopes of successfully completing it so I could present your innovative idea to my high school Physics teacher. Since she is the head of our school’s science department, I would like to persuade her to get our “struggling” school and science department to look into getting a school set of your upcoming mass-produced (and hopefully cheaper) version of the Tricorder. Currently we are studying electromagnetic forces, and I realize that this tool could help many schools’ science departments teach students about the some of these natural laws of physics through concept, instead of the ever-confusing theories.

  17. I have always enjoyed tinkering with things, but this takes the cake. I actually planned on making something like this in the summer: I wanted to make a universal remote using either a PIC or ATmel processor and a touchscreen OLED. With one of these, I would either adapt it to output universal remote commands or use it to help me build my own system.

    As well, the Tricorder is a perfect tool for an Electrical and Computer Engineering student like myself. It would allow me to measure magnetic fields in my physics labs much quicker and easier, as well as take the temperature measurements we need. It seems like the perfect companion to someone who works with electronics.

    In addition, could you supply me with a link to the touchscreen OLED you used? I’m having no luck finding the part number through Google, and like I mentioned, it seems perfect for my summer project.

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  19. This is truely an amazing concept project. The possibilities are endless.

    At the heart of a true tricorder is information. Easy to read and in abundance. To me, that means sensors sensors and more sensors 😛

    -light sensors
    -distance sensors
    -temperature, humidity & barometric pressure
    -radiation sensors (e.g. geiger counter)
    -EM wave sensors with a spectrum analyzer and ability to select specific bandwidths (wifi, am/fm radio, ham, etc.)
    -infrared scanner
    -gas sensors (CO, CO2, O2, natural gas, CH4, etc. etc.)
    – mass spectrometer
    -electron microscope
    -plus the scanners needed to diagnose any medical condition known to man (my personal favourite feature)

    All in the palm of your hands. Wouldn’t that be something?

  20. My wife and I both want a Tricorder.

    I’m a software guy with a strong hardware bent. I would want a Tricorder 2 so that once I got the basic device working, I could write software to display and analyze the incoming data. Basic graphs of the measured values are good, but even better would be software modules for specific applications: the idea would be to create a framework that allows multiple software modules (including later add-on modules) that process sensor data streams and display the results in a widget. Modules could be written for specific applications to combine data from multiple sensors in meaningful ways. I would also like to experiment with additional sensors: a polarimeter and spectrometer would be immediately useful.

    My wife is interested in paranormal research, and saw immediately how the tricorder would provide more useful data (and in a more convenient package) than the current suite of investigator’s tools, that include separate devices for EMF field sensing, temperature sensing, and audio recording.

  21. Gosh, this thing would be so useful on hikes. What’s the temperature out? How far is that ridge? Did you see that deer? How fast is it running!

    But I think it could totally use a pH meter. I’d use that in the lab all the time (I’m a cell biology student) also a geiger counter, we have radioactive supplies and we have to measure them regularly to stay up to safety standards.

    My boyfriend, a software engineer and general electronics tinkerer in his spare time, would probably have TONS of uses for the electromagnetic measurements – also a multimeter. He uses his multimeter at home for EVERYTHING. He has this obsessive need to know how much electricity every appliance is pulling.

    Honestly, I’d just love to buy one off of you so my boyfriend and I could tinker with it and add new functions. I may be emailing you soon….

    • BLOOD SUGAR! These devices already come in travel-size form, it’d be so easy to pull the sensor out and integrate it here.

      Biological measurements that require physical contact bring cleanliness concerns with them, though. It would require maintenance to keep a pH meter and a blood sugar monitor clean and safe… Someone definitely needs to figure out a way to measure these things from a distance. Not an easy feat…

  22. (Makers fair, open air booths)
    (Nerd waving Tricorder trough a passing crowd with a tense grimace in his face…) Nerd point the thing on the finest girl of the crowd and start yelling: “You are ovulating! You are ovulating! Quick! Quick! Come with me! It’s now or never! I’ve got a 215 IQ and mum was cross country state champion!!”
    Open finale:

  23. Hi Peter,
    I have an off-the-wall idea for a contact-less heart monitor, and I’d like to use your device as a development platform.


  24. Admittedly, I want parts because it looks like quite possibly the coolest DIY project I’ve ever come across, but as a business student, i am lost when it com to circuit boards and mapping the circuits i am lost. This would help further my understanding.
    The more I write, the more I think about it, I would use the light sensor for photography, the gps for hiking and kayaking, other sensors for personal enlightenment. Furthermore there are infinite possibilities that the Tricorder holds, both as a personal information device, but also as a tool for Emergency personnel, such as EMT’s and Firefighters, or if you believe in such things, paranormal research, I’d like to be able to build off a solid base and personalize the Tricorder.

    Thank you for boldly taking the initiative and making science fiction science fact!

  25. Pingback: Sparkfun adds Inventors Kit to Tricorder contest! | the Tricorder project

  26. I have always wanted a tricorder, ever since I was a little kid. I’m about to start school in electronic engineering and this kind of project is really exciting to me. I don’t have the first idea of how to build it, but once I graduate, I’ll probably have built one. I’d use it just to measure the world around me, EM fields, ambient temperature and barometric pressure and use the infrared sensors to track people in the bush when I’m playing predator.

  27. Peter, I want to say how awesome this project is and congrats on all the publicity. All this support should do wonders for an affordable and mass-producible unit. I’ve been meaning to get into electronics tinkering and this project gave me the massive kick in the pants I needed to go ahead and get started. I’d love to help out however I can.

    If I had a tricorder, it would be just like the first time I had a radiation meter: I would carry it with me everywhere, seeing what it showed me about the world around me. That and show it off to anyone with interest. It’s always sad to see how little interest a lot of people have in the wondrous nature of the world around them.

  28. this is pretty awesome my cousin showed me this link id love to take this on as my next build project as this will take alot of time for me to build as i am 16 plus the fact its all surface mount and im in toronto so it wouldnt be hard to get a board to me

  29. this is pretty awesome my cousin showed me this link id love to take this on as my next build project as this will take alot of time for me to build as i am 16 plus the fact its all surface mount and im in toronto so it wouldnt be hard to get a board to me

  30. I have several things that I would do if I win tricorder circuit boards.
    First off, I’m an aerospace engineer, strong on 11 years of technical experience in space and avionics but short on hands-on experience. I have plans to set up a worktable in my garage to do my own projects. Pulling out the old soldering iron, buying the parts, and building my own tricorder would be a great (and challenging!) first project.

    Second, like a previous responder, I have a son interested and old enough to participate (my daughter is interested but a bit young yet). I teach them about science and space and astronomy and airplanes, and I plan to include my kids in my garage projects. Imagine his future school-brainic bragging rights to say he built a tricorder with dad in the garage.

    Third, I have like-minded brothers and friends. If I had more than one set I would convince them to work with me. We could help each other work through the challenges, and at the end both have a great shared-experience together.

    Fourth, once I was done and had all that great new knowledge in my head, I would donate the tricorder to Star Trek cast or crewmembers who’ve worked on the show. The best recipient would be whoever on Roddenberry’s staff thought up the tricorder (I’d have to figure out who that was, if Gene didn’t think it up himself). The most public recipients would be Leonard Nimoy and Deforest Kelley. What with Gene and his wife both gone (sending it into space with their ashes would have been awesome if it were a couple years ago) they’d be the most public choice, being the actors that made the tricorder an icon. And there are plenty of Star Trek actors to go around as recipients. One way or another, if you want more visibility, a great way to make an even bigger public impact is for you to do a donation like that yourself.

  31. Peter,

    Truly amazed at your creation. Here is my take on your invention.

    I would use this on paranormal investigations to further evidence of any environmental readings with audio and video. Alot of groups just base their findings on their audio or video with no other credible data. This is why your device is awesome. I would also bounce off ideas and send any data to get your input on what we have found and hopefully add to its development. I have data loggers but to have the interface of this device would just add to EPI’s equipment to really bring forth some credible evidence of the afterlife which alot of groups arent doing.



  32. How would I NOT use a tricorder? I am always exploring the world about me, hiking, caving, scuba diving, etc. I love gathering knowledge for the sake of it. As a long-term Trekkie, what better way to find out about the environment I occupy than a tricorder. There are so many people here to share such a device with. All of the folks in our chapter of the Star Trek fan club for one, and science classes. Many of my friends are science teachers for middle school or undergraduates, and I occasionally sit in on their classes. To bring a room full of children a device like this, and show them how to explore their world would be a wonderful experience, all around.

    O. Winter

  33. I would love a tricorder, because the possibilities for discovery and development seem endless. As an engineering student, I am constantly looking at common everyday things and wondering if I can measure something or get some sort of data out of it. A tricorder would help me do that and develop my knowledge of hardware and software as I try my best to improve and personalize it.

    Thank you for the opportunity to post here, this is truly an amazing undertaking.

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