Everyone had a great time at FLC-NYC and produced some great projects. Amongst a great deal of club-mate, beer, arduinos, micrbobes, tents, and inventors, four projects coalesced: RoboMicrobes, Lightbulb-PCR, Wandermote, & breadboard-PCR.
Robomicrobes is an exploration of microscopic structures and movements with the goal of gaining insight into the development of microscopic robotics. On another level, it showcases our relationship with living things that exist unseen in the landscape of our everyday lives. Robomicrobes: a weekend project by Frank Milliero, Toby Schachman and Chris Woebken.
(Russell Durrett): PCR Machines are integral components to any biology lab, but they typically cost over $500. Using only parts available from Home Depot and Radio Shack, I built this thermal cycler for less than $50. It is arduino-controlled and uses a high-wattage incandescent light bulb and an old computer fan as heating and cooling elements.
Nate Kidwell:Wandermote is a platform letting developers make their applications “remote-controllable”. With Wandermote, every application can potentially be controlled by a smartphone. Here’s how it works:
- People see your application running on a large screen (e.g. an LCD in a window).
- They see a QR code somewhere on the application
- After scanning the QR code their cell phone then provides them with a remote control for your application.
As a developer it only takes 5 lines of code to remote-enable your apps. So far “Wandermote-able” apps can be written in Flash, Java, and, most recently, Arduino.
(Mac Cowell and Marc Guell): We built a rough prototype of a single-tube PCR thermocycler based on the heat-sink of a TO-220 integrated circuit package, which has a hole just about the right size for a 50 uL PCR tube. We were able to demonstrate rough thermocycling between 50C and 110C by using an arduino to control a 7805 voltage regulator in an open-loop fashion. The 7805 can be purchased for less than $0.50, and although the rest of our prototyping equipment (arduino, breadboard, tinfoil, basic electronics) together cost about $50, our design is amenable to mass production on a dedicated low-cost circuit board.
We experimented with both a IRF510 power-MOSFET and a 7805CT voltage regulator, which come in TO-220 packages. We wrapped a PCR tube in aluminum foil and inserted it into the heatsink of the chip, filled it with 50uL of water and a temperature probe, and used an arduino to control the chips. The other chip formed a “heated lid” for the PCR tube. The test system we developed is open-loop and probably not acceptable for actual PCR, but we were able to achieve messy thermocycling between 60 C and 110 C, and a simple thermistor could be integrated into the system (see circuit diagram) to improve the accuracy of the system.