Citizen Scientists

A Mobile Lab for the Amateur Scientist

Many of you who involve yourself in citizen science projects, or personal amateur research might dream of designing dedicated laboratory spaces in ones’ own home or garage. Sort of like the “man cave” (or, “woman cave”!) for the science geek. This luxury might not always be possible due to space requirements, zoning conflicts, or just having too many kid toys to stash in the only non-inhabited room in the house.

Steven Roberts Computing and Biking Across America

Steven K. Roberts of … somewhere in the United States … had his own related complications with personal lab space, and developed a plan to create a new lab that was mobile. Mr. Roberts, who developed some fame after biking 17,000 miles across America between 1983 to 1991 in a digitally tricked-out bicycle, had developed a life-long personal technology skill that gave him the means to design the ultimate solution for the roaming amateur scientist.

In a Make: Magazine four-part series, Mr. Roberts outlines his development of Polaris, a mobile lab space, complete with computers, Ham radio, solar battery power, a long-range Wi-Fi connection to the Internet, and a minimum, yet effective, collection of parts, tools and computing resources.

Starting with an empty utility trailer, Mr. Roberts steps through the process of designing mounting racks, ceilings, lighting, and locking drawer systems. Of course, a personal mobile lab must be tailored to the interests of the individual, so he tries to outline a range of tips and ideas on what he found useful while designing his own perfect lab.

Mobile Lab designed by Steven Roberts; Courtesy Make: Magazine

If you are sitting on the couch just pouting that you have no space to build your own personal lab space, or just don’t want to limit the re-sale value of your home, then Mr. Roberts has the outline of the solution that will make your science cave come true.

After developing your own mobile (or static) lab space, please submit your photos, tips and stories to Dynamic Patterns Research to help others follow their geeky science dreams.

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“Make it anywhere with a mobile lab” :: Make: Magazine, online, 4-part series May – August, 2010 :: [ READ ]

Nomadic Research Labs

Amateur Photographer Masters the Snapshot of a Firefly

from Terry Priest Firefly Photography

Fireflies have been flashing into a broader public awareness lately, well beyond those simple childhood summer evening memories of running through the yard capturing these little creatures into temporary glass prisons.

In particular, the Firefly Watch program from Boston’s Museum of Science (read DPR’s review from 2008) has been bringing more people together across the country to measure current back-yard populations of fire flies. Their numbers seem to be declining significantly in recent years, and the researchers guiding this great citizen science program hope to find out why our flashy little friends aren’t as happy these days.

An amateur photographer from Evansville, Indiana has helped to glorify and beautify the bug by developing his own process for creating incredible still images of fire flies in action. Terry Priest started generating successful photographs using a typical hand-held four mega-pixel digital camera, and has advanced into more sophisticated equipment, including high-speed flashes.

And, his images are breathtaking. And, you can create similarly breathtaking images yourself in your own backyard… tonight. Mr. Priest has written a detailed online guidance on how to craft these images, and he hopes that his efforts will inspire other amateur photographers to explore the life of the flashing bug.

“Terry Priest photographs fireflies in flight” :: Evansville Courier and Press :: July 11, 2010
[ READ ]

[ View ] Terry Priest’s Flikr photostream

Terry Priest’s Tutorial on Photographing the Firefly [ READ ]

MIT Students Take Pictures from Near-space for $150

Take two students from MIT; now, take two students from MIT with only $150 in their pockets and a notion to use a little science to make a little art, and what do you get? … Eight gigabytes of near-space photographs and an experience to share to the rest of the world of citizen scientists!

Oliver Yeh, Justin Lee, and Eric Newton set out to take some amazing pictures, and they didn’t have much cash to get the job done. So, with a lot of ingenuity, a little scrounging around the dorm room, they were able to create a secure — and legal — launch vehicle that contained a used Canon A470 camera and sent it up 17 1/2 miles to take some excellent images capturing the curvature of the Earth. With a lot of luck, and little help from an GPS-enabled pre-paid cell phone for tracking, they found their vehicle (a Styrofoam container with a couple of hand warmers inside!) only 20 miles away from the launch site.

The group plans to post a detailed instruction guide on how they accomplished the launch, and will be providing the information free of charge. We will be sure to link to the instructions from DPR, and maybe we’ll be seeing in the near future more balloons flying high from citizen scientists around the world.

“The $150 Space Camera: MIT Students Beat NASA On Beer-Money Budget” :: Wired Magazine :: September 15, 2009 :: [ READ ]

Project Icarus [ VISIT :: FLIGHT PICTURES ]

Step-by-step instructions coming soon!

Update 9.21.2009…

Time-lapse Images from Project Icarus

Follow the NYC Cricket Crawl Results Live!

Several days ago, we featured the NYC Cricket Crawl citizen science project sponsored by the Discover Live organization … and with a little rain delay from last night, tonight is now the night for event!

The exciting part for everyone not living in the greater New York City area (although, it certainly is a large area!), is that we can watch the results coming in live. So, check out all of the chirping action, and watch the latest in citizen science produce real results for real research!

Watch / Listen Live

(click on one of the links to the “Cricket Crawl Maps”)

Citizen Scientist Launching a Satellite… to make Music!

Citizen Science activities certainly don’t have to cost a lot of money, and most of the projects we discuss here at DPR are essentially “free” to perform… but this project… now, this project does cost some money. But, it’s pretty darn awesome. And, following this line of extreme citizen science would be more tuned for a lager group or team who can contribute more financial assistance and expertise.

This is the ultimate model rocket launch, performed by the professional NASA astrophysicist by day and citizen scientist by night, Dr. Alex Antunes. Here, he is merging science with music with the plan to build an ionospheric detector with a device to convert the input signals to a MIDI stream that can be picked up by HAM radios. We’ll be able to “listen” to low-orbital space music for as long as the little satellite can survive.

Like I said… pretty, cool, right?

Follow the project on the blogs listed below, and wish the team great luck for a successful launch in 2010!

Project Calliope :: official launch website :: [ VISIT ]

Follow the progress on the launch blog :: [ VISIT ]

The TubeSat Personal Satellite Kit from Interorbital Systems [ VISIT ]

Citizen Science Family Leads to Discovery of a Lost Bug

A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in citizen science was certainly not on the minds of 6-year-old Alyson Yates and her mom, Kate, when they stepped out into their back yard one day to scout for ladybugs. But, their effort that day lead to a critical discovery that the Lost Ladybug Project from Cornell University had been long awaiting.

What the Yates found was the elusive nine-spotted ladybug, likely to have been overtaken in the United States by the Asian seven-spotted bugs imported in the 1970s and 80s to assist with crop pest control.

Now these little red fairytale creatures are living the high-life in Ithaca and breeding like wildfire. The hope is that the researchers will discover the true cause of the drastic decline of our classic native ladybug, and what might be a way to bring them back to our backyards.

Read more about this great success story of citizen science, and find our more about how you can participate in the Lost Ladybug Project…

“NY researchers breeding rare native ladybugs” :: Yahoo! News – Associated Press :: September 5, 2009 :: [ READ ]

The Lost Ladybug Project [ VISIT ]

Last updated August 7, 2022