Mark Gilbert's Blog

Science and technology, served light and fluffy.

iSelf 0.2

Over a week ago, I unveiled a project I’ve been working on tentatively called “iSelf”.  Since then, I’ve finished the rough versions of the software components (both the program that runs on the Arduino Micro, as well as the custom downloader for the device) , and and greatly refactored both. 

Late last week, I took delivery of the newest hardware components – a lithium ion polymer, or LiPo battery, and a PowerBoost 500c from Adafruit.  This morning, I hooked them both up to the iSelf prototype, and removed the set of AA batteries that I had been powering it with up to this point:

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The “c” in the 500c stands for “charger”.  I can have a battery plugged in to power the device(battery shown at the top, center of the picture below) .

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I can also plug in a microUSB charging cable (the black cable going off to the right of this picture), and simultaneously power the device and recharge the battery.

I have a couple of additional hardware components to work in (a power switch, and a couple of external LEDs), and probably a few additions to the software, but iSelf is nearly feature complete.  The next major tasks will be soldering the components down onto a single board, and then getting a case for it.

July 14, 2015 Posted by | Embedded/Wearable, Science | Leave a comment

Curse those bugs

I can honestly say that my day as a software developer is going FAR better than some others out there.

Curse those bugs

Source: https://news.google.com

July 8, 2015 Posted by | General, Software Process | Leave a comment

What a Headache

For the last several months, I’ve been working on a new project that I’m tentatively calling "iSelf".  Here is the official version 0.1.0:

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I’m building my own, custom wearable.  And before you ask, the answer is "no", the title of this blog does not refer to the spaghetti of breadboarding wires you see before you.  The title actually refers to what I hope iSelf will help me with.  Allow me to set this story up.

For more than a decade, I’ve had daily headaches.  I first noticed them as such in 2003.  At that point, I would feel the headache coming on mid- to late afternoon.  I would take two Excedrin with dinner, and by 8pm or so the headache would be gone.  About 2011 or 2012, I started noticing that the headaches were getting longer.  I’d feel them start earlier in the day, and it would be later into the evening before the Excedrin would kick in.

Then during the summer of 2013, I realized that I was waking up with a headache, and Excedrin was no longer knocking them out.  In other words, I’ve had a headache all day, every day, for the last two years.

In late 2013, and then much of 2014, I got even more serious about trying to determine what was causing them.  I spoke with my general doctor about it.  He had me try a couple of different medications.  When those didn’t work, he referred me to a neurologist, who tried a few different medications, which didn’t work.  He also had my head examined – both an MRI (which you can read about here).  Thankfully, nothing abnormal turned up.  They found a brain, and it showed no signs of bleeding or tumors.  Check and check.

I also went to see an ear, nose, and throat doctor.  Even after a CT scan, two home sleep studies, and a third sleep study in an overnight lab, he wasn’t able to find anything wrong with me either.

Whenever I went in for an exam or a follow-up, the doctors would usually ask me "on a scale from 1-10, how is your headache today?" and I would respond with some number.  But that question was asked once every two weeks, at most.  I don’t have the same headache every day – there are some days it is easier to move it to the background than others.  But why?  What is influencing the "badness level"?  If I can’t find a solution to the headaches and make them go away completely, could I find out if there is some external influence affecting their quality?  To answer that, I needed data – lots and lots of data.

So, in late 2014 I started sketching out what kind of data would I want to collect, and how could I analyze it.  I decided that taking readings every 30 minutes of the headache "badness level" was probably a good place to start, but I also wanted to capture things like what temperature and barometric pressure was I being exposed to (two things I’ve read affect headaches in some people).  I also wanted to record how long I stood, sat, and walked in a day.  That’s where the wearable comes in.

I considered buying an existing, off-the-shelf wearable, but after looking at a dozen different brands, I couldn’t find one that recorded the data points I wanted, and as far as I could tell none of them let me get at the raw data that they did collect.  They all had their own cloud- or mobile apps for displaying really pretty, interactive charts, but I none had anything like a "download to Excel" feature.  So, custom it was.

iSelf v0.1.0 features a temperature/pressure sensor that I scavenged off of the stratoballoon instrument pack, a microSD card reader/writer (also from the stratoballon), and an Arduino Micro as the processor.  I’m getting very near to the point where the software is ready, and I can solder the components together, get a case for it, and be able to wear it on my belt like a phone.

Eventually I’ll add an IMU (which stands for inertial measurement unit, a combination of a 3-axis accelerometer and a 3-axis gyroscope) so I can track how long I am sitting/standing/walking, and a Bluetooth Low Energy (LE) module so I can communicate with my mobile device.  The plan is for iSelf to send a signal to the mobile device (initially my Nook, but eventually a phone) to tell me to take a survey every 30 minutes.  I’ll answer one or more questions (how bad is your headache right now, are you hungry, etc.), and the mobile device will transmit the answers back to iSelf, which will add them to the raw data points that it collects directly.  At night, I’ll download the day’s data.

Once I have several weeks’ worth of data, I can start asking questions like "does my headache get worse when I’m hungry?" or "does my headache get better when I’m exposed to higher temperatures?"  I’ll hopefully be able to spot some patterns in the data, and that will allow me to create some experiments to run on myself.

There is a crazy number of things that can cause headaches.  I’ve eliminated a few.  At worst, iSelf will allow me to eliminate a few more.  At best, it will show me a couple that contribute.

July 3, 2015 Posted by | Embedded/Wearable, Science | 1 Comment

Science & Technology Podcast, Episode 30 – Baking Soda and Lemon Juice

In this episode, Mark and Lucy explore mixing acids and bases – and try to avoid volcanoes.  Given that today is the 35th anniversary of Mount St. Helens eruption, we think that’s an admirable goal.

 

https://markofquality.wordpress.com/2015/05/18/science-technology-podcast-episode-30-baking-soda-and-lemon-juice/

May 18, 2015 Posted by | Podcast, Science | Comments Off on Science & Technology Podcast, Episode 30 – Baking Soda and Lemon Juice

Science & Technology Podcast, Episode 29 – Snap Rover

In this episode, Mark and Lucy build an RC Snap Circuits Rover.

https://markofquality.wordpress.com/2015/03/29/science-technology-podcast-episode-29-snap-rover/

March 29, 2015 Posted by | Podcast, Science | Comments Off on Science & Technology Podcast, Episode 29 – Snap Rover

Science Podcast, Episode 28 – Robot!

In this episode, Mark and Lucy build a robot!

https://markofquality.wordpress.com/2015/02/14/science-podcast-episode-28-robot/

February 14, 2015 Posted by | Podcast | Comments Off on Science Podcast, Episode 28 – Robot!

Science Podcast, Epsiode 27 – Stratoballoon Rigging

Mark and Katherine describe how the capsule, radar reflector, parachute, and balloon were all held together.

https://markofquality.wordpress.com/2015/01/19/science-podcast-episode-27-stratoballoon-rigging/

January 19, 2015 Posted by | Podcast, Science | Comments Off on Science Podcast, Epsiode 27 – Stratoballoon Rigging

Science Podcast, Episode 26 – Stratoballoon Capsule Construction, Part 2 of 2

Mark and Katherine finish the details of the stratoballoon capsule construction:

https://markofquality.wordpress.com/2015/01/14/science-podcast-episode-26-stratoballoon-capsule-construction-part-2-of-2/

January 14, 2015 Posted by | Podcast, Science | Comments Off on Science Podcast, Episode 26 – Stratoballoon Capsule Construction, Part 2 of 2

Science Podcast, Episode 25 – Stratoballoon Capsule Construction, Part 1 of 2

Mark and Katherine walk through Part 1 of the stratoballoon capsule construction:

https://markofquality.wordpress.com/2015/01/13/science-podcast-episode-25-stratoballoon-capsule-construction-part-1-of-2/

January 13, 2015 Posted by | Podcast, Science | Comments Off on Science Podcast, Episode 25 – Stratoballoon Capsule Construction, Part 1 of 2

Science Podcast, Episode 24 – Stratoballoon Capsule Recovery!

Mark and Katherine celebrate the recovery of the capsule with some amazing photographs, and Rainbow Dash’s debriefing:

http://markofquality.wordpress.com/2014/11/04/science-podcast-episode-24-stratoballoon-capsule-recovery/

November 4, 2014 Posted by | Podcast, Science | Comments Off on Science Podcast, Episode 24 – Stratoballoon Capsule Recovery!

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