Monday, September 27, 2010

Why I have no time for science blogging!

  We are insanely busy at LRRD these days, with consulting, R&D, preparation for GSA-Denver, starting new research, and shipping at least a dozen of our new Em2 models as they're built.

Here's a sampling of what's going on, just in the last couple of weeks, and an excuse for my lack of science blogging!

I actually took some time off last weekend for the first time in weeks.  Lily didn't--she spent most of it at Saint Louis University, working with grad student Tim Keenan, testing and developing close range photogrammetry (CRP) methods for their Emriver Em4 model.  Exciting stuff!

Lots of outreach lately--we're working with a Senior Engineering Design class at SIUC; they'll be looking at instrumentation methods for our models.

And we hosted an SIUC watershed science class; this was a blast;students ran long profiles in the model (which we plotted real time on the monitor you see) and, by accident, built some very effective grade control stuctures.  A cool learning experience.

And Lily and Andrew Podoll with the NSF-funded GK-12 HEART program at SIUC took our model to a local environmental education program headlined by Jason the Farmer.  Thanks to Lily and Andrew, who donated their time (no effort by me).

Lily also hauled an Em2 to the Middle Mississippi River Wetland Field Station open house last weekend.  The MMRWFS is a 1,380 acre research area run by faculty at SIUC.  Those big blue things are fish tanks.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Our happy first digital hydrograph!

Today we completed hardware and software for an electronic flow controller for our redesigned Em2.

The little box you see here connects to the Em2's pump and controls flow in the model.

And it automatically runs hydrographs!  Teachers and students can run standard hydrographs or program their own, and observe/measure results in the model.

The controller uses an open-source Arduino microcontroller.  It's physically hackable--those screws on the front cover are for you to remove, and the cover is transparent for a reason.  The software is open source and very accessible.

Via a USB port you can connect it to a laptop to receive data, control flow real time, or program the Arduino.  You can control other devices, such as a camera taking time-lapse photos.  There are many possibilities.

More later; here we celebrate our first digital hydrograph.  And I've done a quick video description.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Lily's great geomodel T-shirt art.

Our Ecohydrologist Lily Hwang,  also an artist and Abobe Illustrator wrangler, has produced this charming T-shirt graphic.

It features her,  Meriam Lahlou (our amazing multilingual business manager), and me in a loud shirt.

What do you think?  Do you like it? Parlez-vous fran├žais?  Will this sell river models?

Want one?

First five legit commenters are in luck!  I need a mailing address and size, use

 UPDATE:  Lily, this is it!  Was I the originator of the outside box?  If so, my bad :-)

But the constraints of the green box forced us into some cool composition, didn't it?  ("Geomodels"should be in lower case, one more tweak.)

Beautiful, Lily.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

New flow controller for the Emriver Em2!

Today we built the first street-ready model of the new Em2 flow controller.

Months in the making, this open source electronic tool will allow precise control and measurement of water flow in the Emriver Em2.

Out of the box it can control flow with up/down buttons, and can run typical hydrographs.

Teachers and students can call up, for example, a "five minute flashy urban hydrograph" and observe/measure the results.

How about a model river with real time hydrographs generated and displayed on a nearby monitor?  You think students watching this will learn about hydrographs?  Will they have fun?  This controller has a USB connector for  things like that.

The software will be completely open source, running on an Arduino Duemilanove.  A USB port allows reprogramming and data exchange.  Students will be able to connect a laptop and see hydrographs as they're run.  Advanced students can write their own software for the controller.

One example:  The controller could trigger a digital camera taking photos of the developing channel at different points in the hydrograph.  Students could make a time lapse photo series tied to the hydrograph.  The possibilities are unlimited, and all very affordable and accessible.

The controller doesn't use any expensive or exotic parts, is nearly waterproof, can survive drops to a concrete floor, and its use is super obvious because busy geoscience teachers don't have time to read manuals.

Many thanks to consultants Chris Krumm, Chris Alix, and members of the online Arduino Forum community (especially Stigern and Grumpy_Mike.)