Makerspace Expo Room at Dynamic Landscapes 2014 Conference in Burlington Vermont.

documentation, General, Projects

I co-coordinated, with Donna Sullivan-MacDonald of the Vermont Library Association, a Makerspace Expo Room at this years Dynamic Landscapes conference in Burlington, VT at Champlain College’s Fireside lounge.

The open format with hands-on activities, student projects and local Maker-folk turned out to be a great success! Here’s some media.

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Keynote speaker Gary Stager recording video of an excellent student maker project.

Keynote speaker Gary Stager recording video of an excellent student maker project.

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Custom 3D printer swag. Dynamic Landscapes 2014 ring

Custom 3D printer swag. Dynamic Landscapes 2014 ring. Customized from thingiverse object:


SpacePet Idea and Robot Companions.

documentation, Projects

Someone will be first to put artificial pets in space; why not NASA and the US of A? The watchdog, canary in a coal mine, and stress reducing potential of an artificial pet is potentially significant for astronaut health and productivity. Artificial pets have proven to give some of the positive aspects of a living pet. The time is coming when more and more people will live long-term in places like the space station and planetary bases where real pets can not survive.

I’ve been passionate about supporting space exploration as long as I can remember. This idea grabbed hold of me when I was in graduate school in 2006. I was inspired by the way the Tribbles on the original Star Trek TV show were so attractive to the crew of the Enterprise – and to the viewers, that that episode became the most popular of the series. At the same time I’ve always been struck by how the necessarily-cold aesthetic of the International Space Station is in need of humanizing.


Hi-Seas Project

Mars habitation dome project in Hawaii.
Hi-Seas Project:
Simon Engler‘s work a Rover, Romibo and Pleo bots.
2 minutes in to this video is his covered in blue fur like the SpacePet: Discover Magazine, A Day In the Life of a Fake Astronaut


Three SPHERES (Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites) are up on the International Space Station right now waiting to be covered in green fur!

  • Main site:
  • Darpa site:
  • MIT site:
  • Zero Robotics competition site:
  • Smartphone usage recently:
  • Android Cellbots software:

Other Robots

  • TED How to Live With Robots series of talks.
  • Steve Yohanan’s PhD thesis, “The Haptic Creature: Social Human-Robot Interaction through Affective Touch.” Japanese companion bot, who’s already logged some zero-g time!
  • BINA48. The most concious?
  • Romibo:
  • PLEO robot companion
  • Paro, the Japanese therapeutic robot seal:
  • Nao Robot. Nao teaching math
  • ELIZA. One of the original “dumb” computer chat bots that often acted a therapist.
  • Cleverbot. Learning chat bot.
  • Oboto, virtual reality robot app.
  • SmartPhone Therapist article.
  • Sphero. A little waterproof ball that is controlled by a smart phone
  • Woogie. A plush smartphone cover/stuffed animal with an App.
  • Monster iPhone cover. Ion
  • Gizmodo Article: The Unholy Offspring of a Tribble and a Roomba,   Mocoro floor cleaning bot
  • iRobot’s programmable edu model:


  • “Simple behaviors elicit complex attachments.” Judith Donath, The Encyclopedia of Animal Behavior.
  • Burns, M.N., Begale, M., Duffecy, J., Gergle, D., Karr, C.J., Giangrande, E., & Mohr, D. (2011). Harnessing Context Sensing to Develop a Mobile Intervention for Depression. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 13(3):e55. [PDF]
  • Science Explains Wilson the Volleyball. Story on emotions related to Tom Hanks in the movie Castaway. New York Times, January 22, 2008, By John Tierney.
  • Emotional Robot article in Space Daily.
  • Robots Say the Damnedest Things. GQ Article
  • Talking Machines. RadioLab podcast
  • Article on the wonderful Nao robot’s emotional capabilities.
  • Polson Enterprises Virtual Pets Research bibliography.
  • The Center For Disease Control (CDC) pet health benefits brief.
  • Pet Therapy article at the Mayo Clinic.


I built a few prototypes in 2006 through 2008 while in graduate school at NYU. During that research I learned that MIT and NASA had built the SPHERES and my project went cold as I researched I how much time and energy that SPHERES took, and how well it was already being done. Every year though, I’d do a bit more research of ways to build a prototype because I love imagineering the idea of an artificial pet. I spent a lot of time imagineering a prototype that could be tested on a “vomit comet” plane during bouts of reduced gravity, specifically the Zero Gravity Corporation’s research flights costing about $7000.00.

I spec’ed out everything from ducted fan jets in RC planes embedded in styrofoam spheres to Arduino-powered hexacopter platforms put onto a sphere to repurposing DIY blimp kits. But fans spin, and in zero gravity, that will also spin the machine holding the fan.

I also thought of using Piezo fans as tiny thrusters, because they don’t spin.

My favorite wacky idea was using three gyroscopes to stabilize a sphere and control its orientation, and then have a few thrusters to move it. I was inspired by a Stanford University project that is exploring what they call Exploration Hedgehogs that use three internal gyros There exists a three-gyro experiment on the ISS using three CD players


  • Cat test in space: National Archives and Records Administration Record #68700, BIOASTRONAUTICS RESEARCH. 09/26/1947.
  • NASA test toys in space :
  • NASA Test of three spinning disks on ISS using CD players:
  • and to repurposing DIY blimp kits
  • 20 Favorite Movie Robots from


Glad we insulated this old house in Vermont, basement to attic. Good payback.


I’m glad we insulated the crap out of most of the 1300 square feet of this 1907 house. Plus the full basement. I’ll tell you why.

Today was bitter cold, about 5 degrees all day, not counting wind. But it was sunny. With Laura and baby Shaw gone, I turned down the thermostat to 55 and went to work at 7:15am for an early meeting. I came home at 6:30pm figuring the house would be at 55 degrees. To my surprise the downstairs was 56 and the upstairs was 59! I could feel the warmth on the south side rooms especially. We don’t have big windows, but we keep them clean and unobstructed for solar gain. Amazing!

We did do about 7K worth of insulating over two years, lots ourselves to save money. We got about $2500 back in rebates.

Now we use about 350 gallons (Roughly $1200/yr at 3.50 a gallon), for heat and hot water. We have a boiler that does our hot water for sinks and showers even in summer, with no storage tank, and heat. It’s not efficient, but it is at least a good model from early 2000. We’re working on getting a hybrid heat pump water heater next month.

When we bought the house, they used 750 gallons a year! So far, so good.

Maine Media Workshops HDSLR Storytelling with Brian Kaufman

Projects, Travel Reports

This is a video I made during a week long HDSLR workshop. It was fantastic, despite having a savage cold. The class was very small with 4 folks, vs the normal 10-15, so we got a lot of individual attention. I re-learned how to shoot with SLRs (Canon 5D Mark II) with lots of different lenses and mics. We had endless equipment. I found it hard to re-learn how to focus and zoom on the fly to frame shots with the fixed viewscreen, and use different lenses and mics. It was especially hard to focus on the story and the new equipment at the same time. One more reason that supports the saying that “the best camera is the one you have,” and I’d add that the best camera is also the one you know to use. Maine Media Lab Website

For my story, I found a local couple who are professional pirates and interviewed them at their house and on their boat. I was very hard for me to focus on learning when I knew everybody’s work from all the workshops (RED camera usage, fall foliage photography) would be shown publicly right after the Friday lobster party. I just tried to focus on learning and making mistakes and experimenting, and not focus my energy on the quality of the product. I failed, but tried.

The course was taught by Brian Kaufman. He focuses on using timeless storytelling editing techniques and the use of creative B-Roll shots. He went to Brooks Institute of Photography and started using HDSLRs for video when they came out. He’s won some Emmy’s recently. Some samples of his style are below.

ITP Project: The Green Helmet. Solar powered lighted bike helmet

ITP Project: The Green Helmet. Solar powered lighted bike helmet

October 2007. Caleb J. Clark

  • Final version will have fully sealed lights, clean wiring, and a securely mounted battery case.
  • Design Attributes: Sustainable, self-contained, weatherproof, changeable bulbs, batteries and solar panel.

Specifications and parts:

Beta version
alpha mount

Beta version
the green helmet wearing alpha






breadboard helmet




case cut