Lauren Smith and Andrew Valente
Just like life, the Arduino project is an evolving entity. It started with hopes of being a music control station, was redirected into the realm of spectroscopy, to finish its first life as something combining social entertainment and science. The little 8 bit microcontroller, hooked up to a PC uses a simple Python script and serial communication to detect ambient light levels and tell the world. While the final project is no more complex than a coffee maker, it involved much learning and tinkering to produce a fully functional final product.
The design behind the device was simple. A light sensitive potentiometer was used to detect ambient light levels, which were then read via the analog port of the Arduino. This information was then used to change the colour of an RGB LED to indicate the range the reading was in (as recorded in mV). This number was then sent to the PC using the Arduino’s Serial.println() function and was also used in a switch statement to turn on and off components of the RGB with a digitalWrite() statement. The data sent to the PC was recorded on selected intervals via the PySerial package for Python 2.7. The program recorded data for 5 minutes and then averaged the data before posting the ambient light intensity to Twitter using an API. The device itself is shown in the first image connected to a PC with the applications running.
The device is a good starting point for future projects as the sensor read and communication functionalities are fully working and can be easily modified for future use with different sensors and applications. The scripts were actually simply modifications of the spectrometer script. The only changes need were adding the communication routine with the Twitter API and processing the data to be posted. Things we are particularly interested in modifying the system for is using the RGB LED and light sensor for an RGB spectrometer that tries to mimic the colour of real objects in RGB colour space. Such a device would be useful in testing to see if printed or manufactured materials match the colours it was designed to have. It can also be repurposed for other entertainment projects with almost endless possibilities, like changing playlists according to the ambient conditions, emailing update information on the temperature in your house, or sending you a notification when a door is opened. Arduino’s are affordable, easy to use, and powerful devices for the curious to explore the possibilities and invent fun and useful tools for themselves and others.