Posted on 1 Comment

Growing Plants Under LEDs

This project is one of the activities that makes up part of the Global STEM Award’s coding route.

In the future, it may be the case that the Human race begins to settle on another planet – probably Mars. We will inevitably need to grow food, as you can only carry so much, and with a journey taking around seven months, emergency rations wouldn’t arrive quick enough!

Scientists are certain that areas of Martian soil do contain the right levels of nutrients to grow plants, but unfortunately the climate isn’t conducive to horticulture. At the height of summer, temperatures near the equator only just reach 20 deg C. Not too bad – but over night they still plummet to an eye-freezing -73 deg C. Just a reminder, this is Summer. At the equator. The warmest part of the planet!

So if growing plants isn’t an option outside, where else can you grow them? Well it would be possible to set up greenhouses, but they would need a lot of protection and heat to keep the plants going. You could also bring the plants ‘indoors’ – setting up growing stations mixed in with living quarters, the environment would already have to be the right temperature, and the plants will assist with air purifying. Another option would be to head deep underground, where geothermal warmth could be used, but then you are posed with another issue – plants need light. Where is this going to come from?

Using the Crumble, along with some Sparkles, we’ve had a look into growing plants under artificial lights. We initially set up a tester investigation to see whether or not there would be a difference, and whether the plants would grow at all! We decided to use some cress as it is easy to grow, and it has a short germination time. We left one pot in the sunlight, another covered up, and another three covered, but with a Sparkle shining inside (one Red, one Green, and one Blue).

Our initial test was very positive, so we have upscaled the investigation. We know that plants grow well in the spectrum of light produced by the sun as they have likely adapted themselves to do so. But there is a question as to whether they prefer a certain colour of light. We are going to look at how well cress grows under different colours of light.

Our first step was to create an open-fronted enclosure for the pots (which we’ll come to later). As we wanted to grow a larger amount of cress, we have used two Sparkle Batons, but if you wanted to do this on a smaller scale, with lots of groups, you could easily use some paper cups and individual Sparkles. The spacing was set so that there were two Sparkles lit with each colour, on each baton, so four in total. This means that there are two unused Sparkles on each baton. The Sparkle Batons are loosely held in place, with a piece of card and some split pins. This is enough to prevent it moving.

Once we had our container made, we decided to draw and 3D print some custom pots and water trays, to get the most out of our growing space. We filled these with some damp compost, and sprinkled 0.2g of seeds across each one.

We then put the filled pots into our divider, and connected our Crumble. The code running on the Crumble isn’t too difficult. Put simply, we are turning on the Sparkles we need, to the colours we want. After a set amount of time, we turn them off (to simulate night time) for another period of time. The amount of time that we wait is determined by how many hours we want the Sparkles to be on for.

Once set up, we switched on the Crumble and waited. During the course of the investigation, we routinely inspected the plants and made sure that they hadn’t dried out. It is worth noting that we set up our test in a dark cupboard, to make sure that we were only using the Sparkles as a light source.

We had a go at capturing the first few day’s of growth. Each fade represents the night time and is shortened as you cannot see anything!

When the seed is in the soil, you don’t get to see the moment it germinates, so we thought that we would have a go at capturing that moment. Notice how the seed swells as it hydrates, before it splits open and starts growing.

Which worked the best can be difficult to determine – you cannot just go by a plant’s height. When a seedling doesn’t get enough light, it rapidly grows taller, in search of light (often described as leggy) and it takes on a rather yellow colour. A healthy cress plant shouldn’t be floppy or spindly, and it shouldn’t have any yellow tinge to it at all. In fact, working out which is best is rather subjective, but the easiest way is to see which one ‘looks the healthiest’.

To work out which colour of light was the ‘winner’, we took into account the height of the plant and looked at how green the leaves were. We took a picture, with no filters or effects, and in natural daylight, which we then uploaded into an image editing program. Using the software, we used the colour picker to work out the green RGB level . By taking an average of 4 different leaves from each section, we got the following results: Green – 87.25; Blue – 95.25; and Red – 130.25. This tallies with our visual analysis – which pretty much tied the Red and Blue plants. Unfortunately, we have ended up with a large amount of soil on top of the Red cress, making it harder to see.

Blue — Green — Red

From our first investigation, with only a few seeds, we found Blue light to be the best, and Green to be the worst. So the common result that we have found is that Green is the worst light to grow under.

This isn’t the only way you could combine plant growing with the use of Sparkles. You could try combinations of colours, more/less ‘night’ etc. You could even use low-power heating devices like a peltier cell to adjust the temperature of the soil.

If you have a go at this project, or any other, we’d love to see! Get in contact with us via email, or on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Posted on Leave a comment

Injection Moulding Christmas Decorations

As we are entering the depths of the festive season, we felt it appropriate to have a blogpost or two with a seasonal theme. The principles of this post however, will be applicable any time of the year.

We used Mindsets injection moulding kit (now discontinued) to make some Christmas-themed tree decorations and fridge magnets. You create a 2D mould by either lasercutting a material e.g MDF or acrylic, or by bending a thin aluminium strip. Once this is sandwiched in between two large plates, you can inject it with a thermoplastic – in our case, coloured hot-melt glue. This method means that basic injection moulding is achievable by all, and on a low-budget.

Without further ado let’s get into our project! First of all, we need to think about what is is we are trying to make. As it is nearing Christmas, we wanted to go for something festive. We decided on making tree decorations/ fridge magnets. The principles for our moulds will be pretty much identical.

To start with, we are going to make a Christmas tree-shaped mould, using the aluminium strip. We measured our maximum working dimensions, and planned a tree-shape within that range.

We then set to work creating our mould. It’s a good idea to turn on your glue gun now, if you can keep it in a safe place, so that it is ready to use when you’ve finished your mould. We need to bend the aluminium strip into our required shape. This can be made much more difficult than it needs to be. The main thing to remember, is to start near the end of your strip, so you aren’t trying to bend it in on itself too much. We modelled our shape using ‘sheet metal’ mode in Fusion 360. The great thing with this, is that we can unfold our model, and create a template. But you could easily print out a template and mark out where you need to bend the metal.

Once you have your mould, you need to place it inside the outer case. Don’t forget to place it so that the injection hole is within your desired shape. It also helps to slightly grease the mould, to allow the glue to separate from the case/mould. We’ve placed a small magnet inside the mould, and held it in place with another magnet on the outside.

*Note that we have made a clear acrylic top plate, to make it easier to see whats happening inside.*

Once you’ve screwed the top plate of the mould on, double check that there aren’t any gaps, and that the case isn’t bowing. You may find it easier to place the ‘wings’ of the mould plates the same way, so when you screw them together, they hold the wire frame tighter. This is especially useful if you can’t quite get your mould to sit flat.

The other method for mould making, is to laser cut a piece to go in between the plates, to replace the bent wire. This time, we’ll make a snowflake tree decoration.

Once designed and cut, follow the same steps as before, to create your object.

You can then either glue some string to the decoration, of pierce a hole in the top, and pass some thread/wire through.

And there you have it, your very own DIY injection moulded Christmas decorations.

If you have a go at this project, or any other, we’d love to see! Get in contact with us via email, or on FacebookTwitter or Instagram

Posted on Leave a comment

New and Improved Slinky Seismometer

After many months of work, research and discussions, the latest iteration of our Slinky Seismometer Kit is now available. We’ve taken feedback from customers, and worked closely with Paul Denton, who has over 30 years’ experience in geophysics and education, to drastically improve the Slinky Seismometer Kit.

For those of you unfamiliar with the device, here is an excerpt from the description:

“Originally designed in association with the British Geological Survey (and Paul himself), our new and improved Slinky Seismometer Kit provides an elegant and low-cost solution to earthquake detection. The seismometer uses electromagnetic induction to detect ground motion and incorporates eddy current damping for improved sensing. Supplied in kit form, the seismometer is quick and easy to assemble, and you’ll be up and running in no time!”

We’ve taken the time to improve our original slinky kit, and as such there are a host of new and improved features. We’ve changed the outer casing to an engraved, rigid acrylic tube, which provides more stability and protection to the device.

We have an adjustable threaded top, for height adjustment of the magnet inside the coil.

There are now three adjustable threaded knurled feet, which allow you to easily centre the magnet inside of the coil.

Furthermore, we now have a dual coil assembly, with a 14mm magnet balanced between them. The coils have opposing directions, but are wired so that the detected voltage is cumulative. This allows for a greater sensitivity in readings but any interference is cancelled out.

As with our Build your own Seismometer Kit, we now have a small PCB with a 3.5mm jack socket, which allows for easy connections to your chosen seismometer interface.

The kit is available to purchase now, and for a limited time you can get a SeismicPi HAT, worth £48, for free! Just add the ‘Slinky Seismometer Kit‘, or the ‘Build your own Seismometer Kit‘ to your basket and enter the coupon code ‘EDUSEIS1’. Your free SeismicPi HAT will be added.

Posted on Leave a comment

Basics of Iterative Design: Crumble Ball Launcher

One of the most crucial parts of any design-based work is the process of iteration. Put simply, it is the process of Design, Prototype, Evaluate. Improving our thoughts and ideas, and accepting that our own work will likely never be perfect and will always have room for improvement are important skills. It is also important as some problems with a design may only be discovered whilst making or using a product. Iterative design irons out the wrinkles, and makes for a better end result.

To give the process a go, we decided to make a ping pong ball launcher, using the Crumble. There was, however, a crucial design constraint. Could we design one whose only powered part was a servo?

It is worth noting at this point that this isn’t necessarily a project you SHOULD do with students, unless you can definitely trust them.

After thinking for a while, we came up with our first design: a trebuchet-inspired design with the servo providing the ‘throwing force’. If the servo is capable of launching a ping pong ball, then this method should prove it.

After extending the main launch arm to the point at which it is almost too heavy, we can say that it doesn’t work very well. It definitely shifts a ping pong ball, but it doesn’t have enough velocity to keep traveling very far.

After prototyping and evaluating the first main design, we decided to go down a different route. We were inspired by a cardboard ping pong ball launcher that we found on YouTube after some research. We realised that we could use a similar firing mechanism, which uses a rubber band to provide some elastic potential energy. The servo could then be used to release the mechanism, hitting and launching the ball.

Our first attempt was much more promising. It successfully launched the ping pong ball a surprising distance! There were, however, some improvements to be made. We decided first of all to address the point of contact between the aluminium rod and the ball. We thought that area wasn’t big enough, so we 3D printed an adapter for the end.

We added the adapter and launched the ball a few times – it definitely made better contact with the ball. But there were still a few issues. The servo arm would occasionally miss the main launch shaft (aluminium rod), the body was beginning to wear down from the impact of the wooden stop and the whole thing felt a bit flimsy.

Because of the success that we had had with this design, we thought that we didn’t want to come up with a new one – instead we decided to refine and model, and 3D print a big portion of it, using a lollipop stick in place of the aluminium rod, as it felt safer.

The final mechanism works really well!

Without going through the iterative design process, our design wouldn’t be anywhere near as good. This important process happens all of the time – whether it be a blog post, a leaflet or a new product. The process of evaluating and refining work is crucial.

Posted on Leave a comment

Redfern and the Global STEM Award at New Scientist Live

Next month, Redfern along with the Global STEM Award are heading to New Scientist Live, at the Excel Arena in London.

Global STEM Award, in partnership with Redfern Electronics are bringing a range of exciting projects to the show. Redfern will be showcasing space-themed robotics activities and investigations with the opportunity to test your ‘Crumble’ micro-controller coding skills. The Global STEM Award recognises the completion of STEM projects by 9 – 13 yr olds.  It is the only scheme through which candidates develop an awareness for both their world AND the careers of the people who make these amazing things happen in real life. The Redfern activities are accredited for use towards your Global STEM Award.

Show Launches – Two new Global STEM books and boxes will be unveiled at the show (EXPLORER and CONSERVATION routes). These are ideal for STEM clubs or home educator groups. The boxes contain all you need to run the activities and certificates for Bronze, Silver and Gold awards.

Crumble kits – Redfern Electronics will be offering Crumble kits, at special show prices, containing all the parts necessary for a range of projects. Accredited by the Global STEM Award, each box also contains a voucher to get you started on your awards journey.

Special show offer – Bring your completed Global STEM Award projects with you (photos and/or project sheets). We would love to see them and you can purchase your Bronze/Silver or Gold Awards at the stand for a 25% show discount. All the award information is on the website and you’re welcome to contact us with any questions.

And a bit about us…

Global STEM Award was founded in 2017 by UKSTEM and launched officially in 2018. With key STEM partners of Redfern and the University of Wolverhampton, the award has found plenty of recognition. It was quickly adopted as an entry route into the Big Bang Competition and has been accredited by Children’s University. The Global STEM Award is currently available at 3 levels: Bronze, Silver and Gold, with a Platinum level, for older learners, planned for launch in 2020.

Since Redfern Electronics launched the Crumble controller in 2014, the Crumble has grown from strength to strength, becoming a staple of physical computing in the UK. Redfern is now applying its philosophy of accessible and affordable products into new areas of STEM. Partnering with the Global STEM award fits perfectly with their exciting new direction.

Posted on Leave a comment

Improving Lives – Digital White Cane

It can be hard to imagine what life would be like if you were blind. The simplest of tasks become much more difficult, and yet those who are blind can lead very full and active lives. However, one of the larger challenges they face, is navigating the hazard-ridden hustle and bustle of outdoors.

The use of a cane to aid those with visual impairments has been around for centuries , but it wasn’t until the early 20th century that the more familiar white version came into existence.

The purpose of the White Cane is to enable the user to identify obstacles on the ground, and alert other pedestrians etc., to the fact that they have a visual impairment. The basic design has stood the test of time, but what if we could improve this design by bringing it into the modern era? By adding an Ultrasonic Distance Sensor and a motor with an off-centre mass, we can create a walking aid that picks up on objects before we get close to them and vibrates depending on how close we are to them!

To make our digital version of the White Cane, we are going to combine the Crumble (for our programmable electronics), along with some other design elements, including some 3D printed parts.

As this is more of a proof-of-concept, we are not aiming for a retail-ready design. This is much more of a prototype, enabling us to try out ideas; an important part of any Design and Technology work! We have put together a list of the key features we needed to think about:

We decided on 3D printing a mount for the Ultrasonic, which would also accommodate a ping pong ball to help the cane move freely over surfaces.

The Ultrasonic slots into the mount upside down to allow easy access to the connections, and the cylindrical adapter allows a snug fit with the main body of the cane (PVC pipe).

At the other end of the cane, we wanted an ergonomic handle, so we designed and printed a core, around which we could use polymorph to create a custom grip.

To make the grip, we heated our polymorph using a heat gun (take care – it can get hot!) and then wrapped it around the handle piece and squeezed to get a custom moulding of our grip. Make sure your polymorph isn’t too hot – it will soften the PLA!

Then it was just a case of putting all of the pieces together. We used elastic bands to secure our motor mount and other Crumble components.

Finally, we just needed to program the Crumble to vibrate according to our own requirements. As a start, we got the cane to vibrate when we detected an object that is less than 50cm away.

And there we have it, our Electronic White Cane prototype! You could progress on from here in multiple ways, including, but not limited to: extending the program to make it vibrate at different rates depending on the distance away of an object; building a full-size version and testing it out by using blindfolds etc.; building a self-contained ‘finished’ version.

If you have a go at this project, or any other, we’d love to see! Get in contact with us via email, or on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Posted on Leave a comment

Using the Low-Cost FM Radio Module

Great news! We’re having a bit of a clear-out in the warehouse and as such, we have lots of fantastic deals. One of the items on offer is our Low-Cost FM Radio Module. Originally based on a commercial PCB, this module is a complete working FM Radio. It scans at the push of a button, and locks onto stations automatically.

It is a great starting point for design-based lessons, and given that there is now nearly 40% off of the RRP, it is great value for money too.

Our Low-Cost FM Radio Module

We thought that we’d have a quick go at making out own housing for the radio module. We set our sights on a simple cubic design, with a base containing the ‘Scan’ and ‘Reset’ buttons. We designed a 2D template for the main cardboard body, and then we 3D printed our other parts to make a base with buttons, a volume dial and a speaker mount.

The inside of our FM Radio

We mounted all of the internal parts to the main body, mostly using nuts and bolts. After this, we glued the body together.

Once the body had dried, we put it onto out mount. To get the effect on the switches, we used some correction fluid, which we then sanded back once it had dried. This gave us an interesting effect; almost shabby-chic.

Our finished FM Radio

Once it’s all built, it’s just a case of switching it on and tuning into your favourite stations.

If you have a go at any design work using our radio module, or any other project, we’d love to see! Get in contact with us via email, or on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Posted on Leave a comment

Pi Wars: a Story

Back in the summer of 2018, Joseph and I found ourselves at a ‘super secret’ meal after the first evening of Raspberry Fields. Apparently, staying in the same seats for the duration wasn’t allowed, and as such, we chatted to a few different people. Luckily, for our dessert, we ended up sitting opposite Michael Horne and Tim Richardson – famed for creating the infamous Pi Wars robotics competition. I had heard about the event on Twitter, and was especially interested in having a go.

To cut a long story short, I was very keen to take part! Furthermore, Joseph was definitely up for sponsoring the event with some prizes.

The good news came on the 30th of September 2018. Our application had been successful and we were set to compete in Pi Wars 2019! I was to take the reins on our entry, as Joseph is a very busy person, and as I was fairly new to python, it would be a great learning experience.

“I knew it was going to be challenging, but I hoped it would be rewarding as well”

The process of learning how to do any of this was going to be quite extensive. I’m a Raspberry Pi Certified Educator, and I had tinkered with the Pi on the odd occasion, including making a Wiimote controlled vehicle using the CamJam kit but I had never completed anything beyond this. I knew it was going to be challenging, but I hoped that it would be rewarding as well. One of the best ways to learn a programming language is to use it in context; a real application.

When discussing ideas for the robot (before we had applied), Joseph had mentioned that there was a Python library to control the Crumble over USB. This was brilliant. We could use the Pi for all of the processing power (to stick within the rules!) and the Crumble could be used as our Motor Driver board, and power any Sparkles we may want to attach.

My first step was to focus on learning Python. I’d become familiar with a couple of written/block-based languages in the past, and I had even gotten halfway through a Python course, but unfortunately it had been a while so I needed to start from scratch. I made it part way through an Udemy course, and then I started and completed the free Python course from Codeacademy. This was a big step for me. I had reached the end of a programming course, and I was feeling much more confident in getting started.

“After swearing I would get started before Christmas… January arrived”

After swearing that I would get started before Christmas, and not do my usual procrastinating, January arrived. It was very busy – we were heading to BETT this year to exhibit. I knew I wasn’t going to get started until February. As a part of a conversation with our Spanish distributor for the Crumble (Complubot), Joseph had been made aware of something very useful – The Pixy Cam.

After getting back from BETT, we looked into the Pixy2. It looked incredibly easy to use, it could detect coloured objects and lines, and it was possible to interface with it via Python – perfect! We purchased the camera, along with a pan and tilt mechanism, and couldn’t wait to get stuck in.

The included software for the camera was simple to use, and offered some great features – especially when it came to tweaking the camera’s settings to recognise colours (signatures) and lines (vectors). One of the steepest learning curves, however, involved interfacing with the camera via Python. It seemed that the device was much more suited to controlling via an Arduino than a Raspberry Pi, and as such, it was hard to find a great deal of information about using it with Python.

As a part of the installation process, four example Python programs were generated. I would rely heavily on these to work out what to do!

I was becoming overwhelmed with the ever-decreasing time left, and this caused me to take some drastic action – a mind map! I planned a very basic chassis to get something moving, and then wrote down what steps needed to be completed before the big day. This is called decomposition – breaking down a problem into smaller, more manageable pieces.

“I was feeling much better about the still mammoth task ahead”

One of my first steps was to control a motor connected to the Crumble, by using Python This would become my ‘Hello World’ style program. After this small, but important step, I was feeling much better about the still mammoth task ahead.

The remote control portion of the project was quickly finished – I had used the ApproxEng library for connecting to, and controlling motors, in the past, so it didn’t take much to adapt the code to work for the Crumble. Theoretically, that was the programming completed for half of the challenges!

The steepest learning curve, and the point at which I repeatedly questioned why I was doing any of this, was programming the autonomous challenges. After tinkering with the example Python programs, I decided to start with the Line following program. This wasn’t too difficult to do – I had experience with various algorithms for line following. Once I had worked out what information I could use from the Pixycam, it all fell into place quite quickly! After this, I set to work on driving towards a colour signature. This was with the autonomous maze in mind as I felt that this would be more challenging than the Nebula. Once I had the working maze code, I could reuse elements of it to help recognise, and correctly approach the four colours in the Nebula task.

I learnt a lot whilst programing these challenges:

  • Things fail – a lot. I spent a lot of time thinking, staring at code trying to make sense of why it wasn’t working.
  • Take breaks. I regularly found myself slumped at my desk, getting increasingly frustrated. I stopped, came back to it the next day and more often than not, immediately solved my issue.
  • Don’t be afraid to redo something. Some of the functions I had written were messy, and didn’t work properly. A whole new line of thinking enabled me to produce better, and more efficient code!
  • Not everything has to be perfect. This is was an amateur robotics competition, of which I am a beginner. It was better to have something clunky but working, than something that doesn’t work at all. The day before the competition, in consultation with Joseph, I decided to put my ‘fancy’ maze following code to bed, and develop a simpler version. Given that the maze was preset, and we had access to the plan, why would I even bother looking for the next alien to the left, if i knew it was a right turn?

We both thoroughly enjoyed our time at Pi Wars. It was a day of both success and failure, but it was a very rewarding task to undertake. I managed to battle my way through to the Grand Final of Pi Noon ( a 1v1 balloon popping battle), coming second after a close final. But more surprisingly, we won the beginner category! Our slow, solid and steady Crumble Robot had powered its way round to victory!

Here are just a few pictures from the day!

This whole experience has proven that one of the best ways to learn programming is to give it a context. Trying to learn something whilst not giving it a real-life context makes it very difficult, and it doesn’t ‘stick’. It is worth mentioning that this is one of the main ideas behind physical computing – blurring the lines between a computer and physical components and pieces. Programming and controlling something that you’ve made yourself gives you a fantastic feeling, and I definitely have a stronger urge to continue, more so than in the past.

Posted on Leave a comment

Mindsets Heads to Bett

The team here at Redfern Electronics/Mindsets, along with Mike and Beckie from UKSTEM, are going to along to exhibit at Bett – the British Educational Training and Technology show. The show takes place at the ExCel centre in London, and is one of, if not the largest educational technology show(s) in the World.

Why not come and visit us on stand D413 – It’s free!

Boasting over 34,000 attendees from 136 Countries spread across 4 days, Bett is no small feat.

We will be there, showing off the Crumble, amongst other things, to quite literally the World! As well as interactive Crumble demonstrations, Mike and Beckie from UKSTEM will be there showing off their fantastic new initiative, ‘The Global STEM Award‘ as well as another exciting project, Supergrid.

Bett is free to attend and it runs from 23rd – 26th January. Why not pop along and see us on stand D413.

Posted on Leave a comment

What do LEGO® Bricks, Mars and Football have in Common? Seismology!

On 5th May 2018, the InSight Mission to Mars was launched

The InSight Mission will put seismometers onto the surface of Mars to feel for ‘Marsquakes’  – geological activity like our Earthquakes. It has been 40 years since seismometers were last placed on the planet, using the Viking landers. However, it is the first time a seismometer will be placed directly onto Mars’ surface.

InSight successfully landed on Martian soil on Monday 26th November 2018 at 19:33 UTC.

Once the lander has got to work, scientists hope to receive the first  of its data in early 2019.

Along with the seismometer, the InSight has on board a host of other tools and sensors including: environmental sensors like wind and pressure, to help eliminate false positives with the seismometer; very precise radio transmitters, to help map the wobbles in how Mars rotates, allowing us to figure out whether Mars’ core is solid or liquid; and finally, a five meter long heat probe, which will bore itself into the surface of Mars, allowing scientists to monitor how heat travels through the planet.  All in all, we will hopefully be able to finally work out the makeup of Mars, and whether or not it shares similarities with our own planet and moon. This will then allow us to have a greater understanding of how our Solar System was born.

Alongside this amazing InSight mission, the British Geological Survey (BGS) have created a set of teaching resources and classroom activities (Project MarsQuake) which, when they become available, will utilise and share the latest images and data coming back from InSight.

Seismology with LEGO® Bricks?

As a part of this set of projects and resources, Paul Denton (BGS), worked with us here at Mindsets, to create our very own easy to use and accessible seismology tools. You may have already spotted them on our website, but we want to formally introduce the ‘Build your own Seismometer Kit’  along with the SeismicPi HAT.

The Build your own Seismometer Kit provides you with all of the parts needed to create your own seismometer – out of official LEGO® bricks! 

To understand the data coming from the seismometer kit, you need a device to ‘read’ it (a digitiser). The SeismicPi HAT digitiser was developed as a part of the MarsQuake project, alongside a BGS-led summer school project at the University of Cambridge. This unique device can be used with up to four seismometers, and can be connected to a PC via USB. It can also function as a HAT for a Raspberry Pi.

The Football Connection

During Leicester City Football Club’s (LCFC) infamous 2015-16 Premiership-winning season, they were obviously doing very well. During the second half of that season (2016), students from Leicester University, in partnership with the BGS, started a very unusual outreach project. Hazel Community Primary School, conveniently located less than 500m away from the King Power Stadium (home of LCFC), became the project’s new home, along with a seismometer.

Every time a goal was scored by LCFC, the crowd went wild; more so towards the end of their amazing season. These celebrations caused vibrations within the ground and, you guessed it, could be picked up by the seismometer inside Hazel Community Primary School. The ‘FootyQuakes’ soon became ‘VardyQuakes’, after LCFC’s star striker, Jamie Vardy.

Hazel Road School's LEGO-based seismometer picking up goals.

For the 2016-17 season, the school’s seismometer was replaced with a simple LEGO®-based seismometer, based upon the idea of a ‘Build your own Seismometer Kit’. More recently, following on from the success of the VardyQuake Project, the National Youth Agency in Leicester commissioned us to produce a special version of the seismometer kit, which will be in Blue and White – after LCFC’s home colours.

More than 50 sets worth of Blue and White LEGO® bricks.

If you want to learn more about the MarsQuake project, then head on over to the BGS’s website. Or if you want to find out more about InSight, then take a look at NASA’s website.

LEGO® is a trademark of the LEGO Group of companies which does not sponsor, authorise or endorse this site.