Summer Intern Update

Amazing things are being done in Miami by the ERGO summer interns:
* GPS sensor for Gen3 ERGO:  we’ve determined that the cheaper u-blox LEA-6H also does the “timestamping” function, and actually give more accurate times than the vaunted -6T.  The next experiment is to try the tiny Radionova gps module ($25 in quantity) which has a special u-blox -6 chip in it to see if it timestamps, too.  If so, that’s the solution for Gen3.
* GPS sensor for quick-and-dirty “Ergoduino”:  we’ve tried to get the data and 1-pulse-per-second outputs from Garmin gps “puck” receivers ($40-50) to work with Arduino, but we haven’t got it all together yet.  Using these off-the-shelf gps pucks is probably the best way for a DIYer to make an ERGO unit, but it won’t just be a “plug and play” with an Arduino.  There are some Arduino shields with u-blox chips, though, and that may be the “total-DIY” solution.
* Cloud Chamber for Classroom Demos:  the PASCO cloud chamber works very well for demonstrating cosmic rays, but it requires a bucket of ice water (and it costs $600).  Daniel is going to try two things:  making an upside-down cloud chamber (hot at bottom/cold at top) work, and making a “high-temp” cloud chamber that works without some kind of refrigeration.
* User Apps for Data Access:  Chris and James R are working on a computing algorithm to solve the “hyperbolic time-difference-of-arrival multilateration” problem in real time, so we can triangulate the position of lightning bolts (and, later, to determine the direction of arrival of cosmic-ray bursts).  They’re getting close.
* ERGO Database Server:  James R and Simon are working on ideas to make our database more secure and to give us ability to authorize or exclude ERGO units built by others.  This has been a need from the beginning, but now that we’re getting wider distribution we need to take care of this security gap.
* Radio Telemetry for Balloon Flight:  James S and Chris, with help from others, have the Zigbee-Pro telemetry system working; it should be good for a couple of miles.  They have been working on the UHF data radios from Maxon, but we haven’t figured out how to program them yet.  They look so nice and simple….
* Telemetry for Gulf-stream Drifter Buoy:  James S has ordered the SkyBitz satellite tracker and transponder, and we should have it in a few days to play with.  This unit mostly transmits position a few times per day, but it can also upload a little bit of data, so they’ll be developing an Arduino to “summarize” the ERGO cosmic-ray data for periodic upload.
* Inexpensive Muon Detectors:  Jeff has been playing with plastic scintillators, and it seems we can get a smartphone to receive “something” using the Radiation Counter app and the built-in camera, but we’re not sure what we’re detecting (noise? light leaks? cosmic rays?).  He and Simon are going to marry a plastic scintillator with the PIN diode photon-detector circuit they built to see if it detects muons.  If it does, that opens the door to a cheap actual muon detector for Gen3 ERGO.  Can’t wait to see if it works.
* Placing ERGO pixels:  Valentina and Sloane have been shipping out units to the sites they selected from grant applications.  We sent one to an engineer at CERN in Switzerland who wants to work on a Android-based smartphone-ERGO for a hack-a-thon next month at CERN.
*Building ERGO pixels:  Sloane and her team have completed nearly all the pixels that we have parts to build!  There is only one bare board left, and three in progress.  Once those are done, the Beta Phase (118 pixels total) will be done!  Hard to imagine.

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