Tag Archives: Raspberry Pi Camera Module

The Nest Box: DIY Springwatch with Raspberry Pi

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Last week, lots and lots of you shared your Raspberry Pi builds with us on social media using the hashtag #IUseMyRaspberryPiFor. Jay Wainwright from Liverpool noticed the conversation and got in touch to tell us about The Nest Box, which uses Raspberry Pi to bring impressively high-quality images and video from British bird boxes to your Facebook feed.

Jay runs a small network of livestreaming nest box cameras, with three currently sited and another three in the pipeline; excitingly, the new ones will include a kestrel box and a barn owl box! During the spring, all the cameras stream live to The Nest Box’s Facebook page, which has steadily built a solid following of several thousand wildlife fans.

A pair of blue tits feeds their chicks in a woolly nest

The Nest Box’s setup uses a Raspberry Pi and Camera Module, along with a Raspberry Pi PoE HAT to provide both power and internet connectivity, so there’s only one cable connection to weatherproof. There’s also a custom HAT that Jay has designed to control LED lights and to govern the Raspberry Pi Camera Module’s IR filter, ensuring high-quality images both during the day and at night. To top it all off, he has written some Python code to record visitors to the nest boxes and go into live streaming mode whenever the action is happening.

As we can see from this nest box design for swifts, shown on the project’s crowdfunding profile, plenty of thought has evidently been put into the design of the boxes so that they provide tempting quarters for their feathered occupants while also accommodating all the electronic components.

Follow The Nest Box on Facebook to add British birds into your social media mix — whatever you’ve got now, I’ll bet all tomorrow’s coffees that it’ll be an improvement. And if you’re using Raspberry Pi for a wildlife project, or you’ve got plans along those lines, let us know in the comments.

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Raspberry Pi snail habitats for Mrs Nation’s class

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These Raspberry Pis take hourly photographs of snails in plastic container habitats, sharing them to the Snail Habitat website.

Snails

While some might find them kind of icky, I am in love with snails (less so with their homeless cousin, the slug), so this snail habitat project from Mrs Nation’s class is right up my alley.

Snail Habitats

This project was done in a classroom with 22 students. We broke the kids out into groups and created 5 snail habitats. It would be a great project to do school-wide too, where you create 1 snail habitat per class. This would allow the entire school to get involved and monitor each other’s habitats.

Each snail habitat in Mrs Nation’s class is monitored by a Raspberry Pi and camera module, and Misty Lackie has written specific code to take a photo every hour, uploading the image to the dedicated Snail Habitat website. This allows the class to check in on their mollusc friends without disturbing their environment.

“I would love to see others habitats,” Misty states on the project’s GitHub repo, “so if you create one, please share it and I would be happy to publish it on snailhabitat.com.”

Snail facts according to Emma, our resident Bug Doctor

  • The World Snail Racing Championships take place in Norfolk every year. Emma’s friend took a snail there once, but it didn’t win.
  • Roman snails, while common in the UK, aren’t native to the country. They were brought to the country by the Romans. Emma is 99% sure this fact is correct.
  • Garlic snails, when agitated, emit a garlic scent. Helen likes the idea of self-seasoning escargots. Alex is less than convinced.
  • Snails have no backbone, making them awful wingmen during late-night pub brawls and confrontations.
  • This GIF may be fake:

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Growth Monitor pi: an open monitoring system for plant science

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Plant scientists and agronomists use growth chambers to provide consistent growing conditions for the plants they study. This reduces confounding variables – inconsistent temperature or light levels, for example – that could render the results of their experiments less meaningful. To make sure that conditions really are consistent both within and between growth chambers, which minimises experimental bias and ensures that experiments are reproducible, it’s helpful to monitor and record environmental variables in the chambers.

A neat grid of small leafy plants on a black plastic tray. Metal housing and tubing is visible to the sides.

Arabidopsis thaliana in a growth chamber on the International Space Station. Many experimental plants are less well monitored than these ones.
(“Arabidopsis thaliana plants […]” by Rawpixel Ltd (original by NASA) / CC BY 2.0)

In a recent paper in Applications in Plant Sciences, Brandin Grindstaff and colleagues at the universities of Missouri and Arizona describe how they developed Growth Monitor pi, or GMpi: an affordable growth chamber monitor that provides wider functionality than other devices. As well as sensing growth conditions, it sends the gathered data to cloud storage, captures images, and generates alerts to inform scientists when conditions drift outside of an acceptable range.

The authors emphasise – and we heartily agree – that you don’t need expertise with software and computing to build, use, and adapt a system like this. They’ve written a detailed protocol and made available all the necessary software for any researcher to build GMpi, and they note that commercial solutions with similar functionality range in price from $10,000 to $1,000,000 – something of an incentive to give the DIY approach a go.

GMpi uses a Raspberry Pi Model 3B+, to which are connected temperature-humidity and light sensors from our friends at Adafruit, as well as a Raspberry Pi Camera Module.

The team used open-source app Rclone to upload sensor data to a cloud service, choosing Google Drive since it’s available for free. To alert users when growing conditions fall outside of a set range, they use the incoming webhooks app to generate notifications in a Slack channel. Sensor operation, data gathering, and remote monitoring are supported by a combination of software that’s available for free from the open-source community and software the authors developed themselves. Their package GMPi_Pack is available on GitHub.

With a bill of materials amounting to something in the region of $200, GMpi is another excellent example of affordable, accessible, customisable open labware that’s available to researchers and students. If you want to find out how to build GMpi for your lab, or just for your greenhouse, Affordable remote monitoring of plant growth in facilities using Raspberry Pi computers by Brandin et al. is available on PubMed Central, and it includes appendices with clear and detailed set-up instructions for the whole system.

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A low-cost, open-source, computer-assisted microscope

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Low-cost open labware is a good thing in the world, and I was particularly pleased when micropalaeontologist Martin Tetard got in touch about the Raspberry Pi-based microscope he is developing. The project is called microscoPI (what else?), and it can capture, process, and store images and image analysis results. Martin is engaged in climate research: he uses microscopy to study tiny fossil remains, from which he gleans information about the environmental conditions that prevailed in the far-distant past.

microscoPI: a microcomputer-assisted microscope

microscoPI a project that aims to design a multipurpose, open-source and inexpensive micro-computer-assisted microscope (Raspberry PI 3). This microscope can automatically take images, process them, and save them altogether with the results of image analyses on a flash drive. It it multipurpose as it can be used on various kinds of images (e.g.

Martin repurposed an old microscope with a Z-axis adjustable stage for accurate focusing, and sourced an inexpensive X/Y movable stage to allow more accurate horizontal positioning of samples under the camera. He emptied the head of the scope to install a Raspberry Pi Camera Module, and he uses an M12 lens adapter to attach lenses suitable for single-specimen close-ups or for imaging several specimens at once. A Raspberry Pi 3B sits above the head of the microscope, and a 3.5-inch TFT touchscreen mounted on top of the Raspberry Pi allows the user to check images as they are captured and processed.

The Raspberry Pi runs our free operating system, Raspbian, and free image-processing software ImageJ. Martin and his colleagues use a number of plugins, some developed themselves and some by others, to support the specific requirements of their research. With this software, microscoPI can capture and analyse microfossil images automatically: it can count particles, including tiny specimens that are touching, analyse their shape and size, and save images and results before prompting the user for the name of the next sample.

microscoPI is compact – less than 30cm in height – and it’s powered by a battery bank secured under the base of the microscope, so it’s easily portable. The entire build comes in at under 160 Euros. You can find out more, and get in touch with Martin, on the microscoPI website.

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Raspberry Pi captures a Soyuz in space!

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So this happened. And we are buzzing!

You’re most likely aware of the Astro Pi Challenge. In case you’re not, it’s a wonderfully exciting programme organised by the European Space Agency (ESA) and us at Raspberry Pi. Astro Pi challenges European young people to write scientific experiments in code, and the best experiments run aboard the International Space Station (ISS) on two Astro Pi units: Raspberry Pi 2s and Sense HATs encased in flight-grade aluminium spacesuits.

It’s very cool. So, so cool. As adults, we’re all extremely jealous that we’re unable to take part. We all love space and, to be honest, we all want to be astronauts. Astronauts are the coolest.

So imagine our excitement at Pi Towers when ESA shared this photo on Friday:

This is a Soyuz vehicle on its way to dock with the International Space Station. And while Soyuz vehicles ferry between earth and the ISS all the time, what’s so special about this occasion is that this very photo was captured using a Raspberry Pi 2 and a Raspberry Pi Camera Module, together known as Izzy, one of the Astro Pi units!

So if anyone ever asks you whether the Raspberry Pi Camera Module is any good, just show them this photo. We don’t think you’ll need to provide any further evidence after that.

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Hacking an Etch-A-Sketch with a Raspberry Pi and camera: Etch-A-Snap!

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Kids of the 1980s, rejoice: the age of the digital Etch-A-Sketch is now!

What is an Etch-A-Sketch

Introduced in 1960, the Etch-A-Sketch was invented by Frenchman André Cassagnes and manufactured by the Ohio Art Company.

The back of the Etch-A-Sketch screen is covered in very fine aluminium powder. Turning one of the two directional knobs runs a stylus across the back of the screen, displacing the powder and creating a dark grey line visible in the front side.

can it run DOOM?

yes

The Etch-A-Sketch was my favourite childhood toy. So you can imagine how excited I was to see the Etch-A-Snap project when I logged into Reddit this morning!

Digital Etch-A-Sketch

Yesterday, Martin Fitzpatrick shared on Reddit how he designed and built Etch-A-Snap, a Raspberry Pi Zero– and Camera Module–connected Etch-A-Sketch that (slowly) etches photographs using one continuous line.

Etch-A-Snap is (probably) the world’s first Etch-A-Sketch Camera. Powered by a Raspberry Pi Zero (or Zero W), it snaps photos just like any other camera, but outputs them by drawing to an Pocket Etch-A-Sketch screen. Quite slowly.

Unless someone can show us another Etch-A-Sketch camera like this, we’re happy to agree that this is a first!

Raspberry Pi–powered Etch-A-Sketch

Powered by four AA batteries and three 18650 LiPo cells, Etch-A-Snap houses the $5 Raspberry Pi Zero and two 5V stepper motors within a 3D-printed case mounted on the back of a pocket-sized Etch-A-Sketch.

Photos taken using the Raspberry Pi Camera Module are converted into 1-bit, 100px × 60px, black-and-white images using Pillow and OpenCV. Next, these smaller images are turned into plotter commands using networkx. Finally, the Raspberry Pi engages the two 5V stepper motors to move the Etch-A-Sketch control knobs, producing a sketch within 15 minutes to an hour, depending on the level of detail in the image.

Build your own Etch-A-Snap

On his website, Martin goes into some serious detail about Etch-A-Snap, perfect for anyone interested in building their own, or in figuring out how it all works. You’ll find an overview with videos, along with breakdowns of the build, processing, drawing, and plotter.

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