Penguins: Spy in the Huddle

Penguins - Spy in the Huddle

PBS premiered a 3-part mini-series called Penguins: Spy in the Huddle on Wednesday night and OH MY GOODNESS IT WAS SO AMUSING! Researchers made animatronic penguin cameras and sent them out to mingle with real penguins to get a better sense of what penguin life is like. Here’s the description of the show from PBS’s website:

For nearly a year, 50 animatronic cameras disguised as realistic life-size penguins, eggs and rocks infiltrate penguin colonies to record the tough challenges penguins face from the moment they emerge from the sea to raising their chicks and finally returning to the water. The intimate, emotional, and sometimes amusing behavior of nature’s most devoted parents bringing up their young against the most extraordinary odds is revealed as never before.

If you missed the first episode, you can stream it online on PBS’s website. The next two parts will be available on PBS over the next two Wednesdays at 8pm.

Temperature via Arduino

It’s hot in Seattle this weekend with highs in the 90’s. Earlier today, Nick and I were wondering just how hot it was in our computer room, but we didn’t have a thermometer to measure the temperature. Nick tried a meat thermometer, but we didn’t think that would be a very reliable source. 😛 Then, Nick remembered that our Arduino kit (which we got a while back, but haven’t used yet) came with a temperature sensor.

Arduino Uno

Arduino is an open-source single-board microcontroller that lets you write programs to control the inputs and outputs on the Arduino. We have the SparkFun Inventor’s Kit, but they also have a less expensive Starter Kit. Alternatively, you can buy just the Arduino Uno for about $20 and buy the components separately.

Nick and I went through the first tutorial or two that taught us how to light up LED’s and make them blink. By then, we were excited to improvise and start writing our own code (since we’re both programmers). Nick set up the electronics while I went to work coding a decimal to binary LED display function. It worked on our first try, so then I added a loop that made the LED’s count from 0 to 255 in binary. Then, we were ready to add the temperature sensor! We glanced at Tutorial 10 and used it as a reference for our Arduino-driven binary LED display thermometer project. With just a little extra code, we were able to take the input from the temperature sensor and display it using my previous decimal to binary LED display function.

Arduino Binary Thermometer
Our Arduino binary thermometer (87 degrees!)

We had a ton of fun with the Arduino and can’t wait to think of another project! For anyone with basic knowledge of either programming or electronics, the Arduino could be a really fun hobby and learning experience. I didn’t know anything about electronics, but I learned a lot in the short time I spent playing with it.