Project Update

Our project in its current form is about air quality sensing. We want to cheaply and accurately be able to know whats in the air around you.


This currently is what we have set up wise. We wanted to make sure that the sensor that we have worked before building something for it. We plan to make some 3D printed structure to house everything for easy transport. Sadly our sensor that we were using isn’t what we are looking for. It has the capicity to detect more than one gas, but not tell the difference between them. The output range can tell us what gas is present, but many of the ranges overlap.

#include <SoftwareSerial.h>

SoftwareSerial lcd = SoftwareSerial(2,4);

void setup() {



void loop() {
int reading = analogRead(A0);






4/12 – present

4/17 – start printing the model and get additional sensors

4/19 – add additional code for sensors

4/24 – refinement

Roles :

Anthony – 3D modeling and coding

Chris – sensor research and coding

Jackson – project and conceptual development



DIY Seed Kit Update

Project by Ziyi, Cody, Inez, and Erin

Our project is about creating a cheap and easy to replicate seed planting kit for the everyday person meant to maintain different plants in different, sometimes harsh environments. It does this by balancing pH and moisture with the inclusion of biodegradable kombucha scoby.


Here is our current setup. We laser cut a box with an open top- four of the sides are wood, the fifth is a type of plastic, allowing us to hopefully view the kit once it’s planted. We had to use duct tape to plug in the holes. We are using small yet biodegradable tea bags (in the green package) to hold everything. The smelly scoby is in the glass jar for now, waiting to be minced and placed in the bag. We are waiting on the soil to be delivered in order to put the whole bag together. Tomatoes were the fastest growing, most acidic thing we could find, so they will be the seeds we place in our test run.

Screen Shot 2017-04-11 at 8.15.15 PM

This is a section of the code we are using. It is the soil sensing example that we have used previously in our class. We are currently trying to work out a cheaper method to the pH sensor to keep the DIY feel, so we will most likely not need pH code but perhaps color sensing code?

Our timeline is as follows:

April 12: Prepare tea bag demo and plant the first bag

April 17: Discuss change in code and price out alternative

April 19: Set up contents for a second, ready to create display

April 24: Pretty up display and test Arduino setup

April 26: Present final project

Our group is fairly well rounded, with everyone contributing fairly similarly. Cody is an exception, with him focusing on coding. Inez and Ziyi are taking care of the scoby and visual setup, while Erin is documenting, posting, and helping all around.


Project status update

Post an update about the progress of your final project. Include the following:

  • Quick summary of what your project is about (1-2 sentences)
  • A picture and description of what you have implemented so far
  • Code snapshot (upload your current code and briefly describe what it does)
  • A timeline and specific objects for what you hope to accomplish by April 19 and April 26 (showcase/deadline!) State how each member of the group will contribute to achieving these milestones.

Post your project update on the class blog under the “status update” category. These are due before class on Wednesday. Bring whatever you’ve made to class on Wednesday for an in-class critique.

This assignment is worth 4 points
1 point for project summary
1 point for a picture, code snapshot, and description of what you have implemented so far
1 point for updated project timeline and group responsibilities
1 point for bringing your prototype to class

Look , ask, learn, try

For this assignment I struggled with places and people to see that had experience with bioluminescent algae. So I had to get creative with my choices.


I first looked for a place wear bioluminescent algae was being grown. I could not find such a place so I shifted my focus to trying to order a kit where I could watch it grow. I found an instructables about how to grow your own bioluminescent algae.



I sat down with a couple of people and tried to run through scenarios with them. I asked them to envision what it would be like to be walking through a park at dusk and see a glowing pathway disappear into the woods.

Question 1

“Would you want to follow the path?”

Question 2

“If you saw a sign that said run down this path to promote bioluminescent algae growth, would you?”


I recorded some of the answer the people I questioned.

Question 1

“Would you want to follow the path?”

a few yes and maybes and one person said they would invite friends to follow the path with them so they don’t have to go it alone.

Question 2

“Would you run down path to promote algae growth?”

Everyone said they would run to promote growth.



Here is the link to the Insturctable I had mentioned earlier. I am still waiting on a few materials I ordered to be able to grow it myself.  The plan was to try to grow some myself and experiment with it.

Look, Ask, Learn, Try

IMG_5237.JPGIMG_5243.JPGOur project involves gardening and planting seeds, so I decided that volunteering at the emerging Grow House in Phoenix would be a good opportunity to learn more about gardening. At Grow House they are trying to transform the land and make it more fertile by planting multiple rows of sunflowers in the vacant lot.

look: what are people doing and saying?

At first I observed the vacant lot and it’s appearance. The soil looked dry at first before any gardening was done. I don’t have much prior gardening experience, so I was a bit doubtful as to whether they would be able to plant and successfully grow sunflowers there. The project leaders said that they have previously successfully grown sunflowers at the first Grow House and at the Valley of Sunflowers in Phoenix because sunflowers are able to grow quite well in the Arizona weather and they do not need really special conditions.
ask: elicit feedback or participation from someone in regards to your project idea

I asked the leaders of the Grow House group about our project and they explained how it is important to make sure that the moisture of the seed packet that we are designing is kept at the right level. They also said that most of the soil in Phoenix Arizona has high calcium carbonate levels  and is mostly composed of clay. Therefore, the soil is very alkaline. Also another aspect of Phoenix is that the water is quite alkaline and salty  which compounds the Ph problem. In addition, the Phoenix soil lacks organic materials, which reduces the quality of the soil structure.
try: simulate or participate in an activity yourself


At the Grow House Volunteer day I helped distribute mulch/compost in horizontal rows across the lot. I used a shovel to take mulch from big piles and then I distributed it into a straight row that was designated using a measured string. Then after the row was created, the string was pulled out, revealing a neat row.  The mulch/ compost was then mixed with the already existent earth using a special machine. This will improve the quality of the soil and allow the sunflowers to grow in the previously low quality soil.

learn: identify ‘thoughtless acts’, patterns, problems, or opportunities. you can learn from what you observed in context, or you might do a quick search to find related information online.


I learned more about the process of gardening. One of the most important things that I learned was about the quality of Phoenix soil and some of the difficulties present when trying to grow and harvest something in Phoenix. A problem is that it is hard to determine the quality of present earth, therefore sometimes even adding compost or fertilizer will not guarantee the success of growth because every part of land and environmental situation is different. Therefore, adding sensors to seed packets to monitor conditions such as pH and moisture is so essential because it allows the grower to adjust to their specific circumstance.

Inez Binkiewicz

Look, Ask, Try, Learn


One of the priorities for the bioluminescence project is understanding the impact of integrating of this bio-actuator in a community and whether or not the impact on its ecology is positive. For this topic, I specifically looked at public areas that consistently have people going through this space. The areas that were observed are as follows: Tempe Town Lake, James Terrell ASU Skyspace, and a number of canals within the area. Presenting my idea, I would hope to gain insight on the benefits and faults of the project.


When asking questions about the bioluminescence project, I tried to ask to sets of questions that would give insight to in the impact that this bio-actuator may bring. One set of questions was relating to communal participation and the idea of revitalizing the urban environment by creating new paths and lighting these paths along a run or track. Then next set of questions were related to sensing the environment and pollution within a given area or bodies of water.

In regards to urban revitalization, there were some interesting comments that arose:

  • People would be willing to participate in random generated path events, but they would prefer not to be bothered when they are on the way to an important events.
  • In the case of people running or working out, they would like for the lights to keep up to their pace providing enough light.
  • The light from this project would benefit dim lit areas, especially beneficial for late night strolling.
  • Very few brought up the conclusion that it seemed unnecessary or expensive to implement as special events would be recognized without alternate paths attracting a person to the location.

Now in regards to environmental sensing, the following comments arose among people:

  • There was numerous responses that they would rather have that information provided to them before they are in a potentially hazardous location.
  • Some people understood the use but they the sensing was compared to chemical sensors that have been implemented near specific buildings, which have their own alarm systems.
  • In some rare cases, color blindness was brought up as a concern for distinguishing color variations and brightness within this bio-actuation.


To produce an environment for the project, specifically the notion of urban revitalization, I had volunteers help plan a random course for light activating (turning on flashlights to indicate path) and luring people to new locations. With the large variation of ASU Tempe campus, there were numerous varieties of paths that could be taken through each urban exchange. Through my experience of walking through the path, I had several concerns

  • As the path would progress from one “tile” to the next, there would be some space of darkness that arose as a void, which left the person walking in the dark.
  • Depending on how long the “random” path is, there should be variation in speed, brightness, color to indicate whether or not the location is being neared. Some paths could last too long if a person plans to follow to the very end.

Other questions arose, when we included a second person that would travel in a near area:

  • On converging paths, there was no indication of separate paths when splitting up, creating a confusion when individualizing paths.
  • Although this may provide a communal aspects to the urban environment, this test case did not provide enough information for the people in this experiment knew one another.


Through understanding how bioluminescence could be used in urban environment, there are some concepts that should be explored as well as understood for the best implementation of this bio-actuator. I learned that environments play an important role for this project as dimly lit places may benefit from this light, but it would be important to not leave any void spots in between. Also through these experiments, it was preferred by most people to have this project be individualized to their needs, whether that is keeping up with pace or specific color when others on a similar path or to take into considerations of color blindness, there are multiple ways that people would like bioluminescence  to cater to their needs.

Unfortunately, I was unable to receive enough information to use bioluminescence as a sensing for the environment as I the narrative was not strong enough in this moment. But there some other considerations that need to be accounted for in the next experiment.

Look, ask, try, learn

Our project is related to bioluminescence, algae, and situationism (urban and psychological theory). In my research, I was exploring all three aspects. I was also exploring potential connections of those with city water systems and waste water treatment.

look: what are people doing and saying?

The great source of inspiration for me are TED talks, so I spent some time finding and watching talks related to the topics of research. Some are more, others are less useful.

Energy from floating algae pods by Jonathan Trent

  • Biofuels that compete with fossil fuels
  • Algae grow in containers with waste water
  • Algae produce natural oil inside containers
  • Large area of algae pods
  • Microalgae – very small organisms, many species
  • Off-shore is a design decision
  • Waste water + CO2 + sun = growing algae + oxygen
  • Algae are biodegradable, can’t live in salt water
  • How to make algae happy? What they eat, what kills them?
  • Look at whole ecosystem
  • Circulate algae through plastic tubes; they take CO2 and the oxygen is “filtered”
  • What to do with plastic?

Pollution-free lights, powered by microbes by Sandra Ray

  • Use natural resources to avoid environmental disasters
  • Growing lights with limited resources
  • Some organisms have genes that provide bioluminescence
  • Native Americans were using insects as home lights!
  • Hard to use underwater bacteria
  • Introduce the genes to common bacteria found everywhere
  • Synthetic biology: system lasts longer, can have different colors, can be turned off and on
  • Changing perception of what light is and how we use it

How bacteria “talk” by Bonnie Bassler

  • Bacteria have one piece of DNA
  • Humans have 1o times bacterial cells than human cells
  • Bacteria communicate with light
  • Molecule produce light that turns on light when bacteria agglomerate
  • Squids use bioluminescence to “turn on” light and hide their shadow
  • Collective behavior of making light

The weird, wonderful world of bioluminescence by Edith Widder

  • Bioluminescent plankton: single-cell algae
  • Stir the flask to agitate algae
  • Shrimp, fishes, squids, corals – pretty much everything in the ocean
  • Squid makes up light “torpedos”
  • Brush against coral – it flashes light
  • Squeeze part of the animal – light goes to the ends
  • Optical Lure – 16 LEDs to talk to shrimps!

ask: elicit feedback or participation from someone in regards to your project idea

Unfortunately, I did not have the chance to interview people I wanted about the project. However, I was interested in community building before and interviewed several architects and landscape architects last semester. Below I am including the selected parts of the interviews that give a better overview of the issue that we are trying to solve with the project.

Wendell Burnette about canal system in Phoenix
Professor of Practice at The Design School at ASU (specialty in Architecture).
Founder and principal of Wendell Burnette Architects (architectural practice).

Another natural (and also historical) context of the Valley that may be important for designing a unique park environment is water. Native Americans who inhabited the Valley before the European colonization developed one of the most advanced irrigation systems of the ancient world – the canal system of the river Verde. Prof. Burnette recommended a book by Nabhan G. (2002) “The desert smells like rain” about its history. According to this book and other historical records, lives of native Americans was intertwined with water, its flow,  and natural cycle. The modern canal system that provides water for the Valley is built upon the ancient one. It is also important that Tempe itself was – and still is – an agricultural city. Not so long ago the canals were playing a significant role for the city. Cotton trees were planted alongside its banks and Tempe transit roads followed their courses. However, due to various circumstances, this green corridors system along the canals is no more. Professor Burnette said the city lost its character with it.

(From the interview report submitted on September 15th for DCS 598 class; interviewed on September 14th.)

James Hoffman about loci genius and community
Faculty Associate at The Design School at ASU (specialty in Landscape Architecture).
Founder and principal of Coffman Studio (landscape architectural and planning practice).

Mr. Coffman stated (interview for DSC 598 course, 12 Sept. 2016) that, in his experience, creating the unique personality of a place that relates to its users is one of design challenges that are most important for a successful performance of a space. It creates a huge benefit for people: if they are able to form an emotional connection to place, they start feeling that it is their own and feeling safe in it. It also benefits the city, as when people care about their surroundings, they would avoid damaging it and instead would be more ready to assist in bringing positive changes upon it.

(From the interview report submitted on September 15th for DCS 598 class; interviewed on September 12th.)

Anastasiya Yurkevich about paths and landmarks
Landscape architect at AFA (landscape architectural practice in Moscow, Russia).

Ms. Yurkevich claimed that there are two main factors that influence a design. First is proximity to a city center and other prominent landmarks that attract people and influence transit routes and a contingent of a park user groups. Second is social context and existing relationships of people with a space in focus. 

(From the interview report submitted on September 15th for DCS 598 class; interviewed on September 6th.)

I am now waiting for the interview confirmation from a biologist to explore bioluminescence from the scientific perspective.

try: simulate or participate in an activity yourself

How I drifted the city of Tempe and explored the city as a situationist.

The notion of psychogeography as a tool to describe the city interests me profoundly. Taking inspiration from the pioneers of situationism, I made a short dérive in Tempe late in the evening.

As defined on the web page of situationists movement, dérive (“drifting”) is “a technique of rapid passage through varied ambiances. Dérives involve playful-constructive behavior and awareness of psychogeographical effects, and are thus quite different from the classic notions of journey or stroll.”

Using this technique I explored the affordance of Tempe urban environment for the act of drifting itself and exploration after the sunset. The questions I tried to ask were:

  • What triggered me to make an unexpected turn into an unknown street?
  • What prevented me from doing it?
  • How do other pedestrians behave in streets? Do they stroll aimlessly, for leisure or do they seem to have a destination? Do they stop if something interesting is happening?

I have started my journey from home around 7 p.m. when the sun was setting down. I have decided to go in the direction of the Beach Park first. In the next three hours, I walked to the other side of the Salt river, was scared to death by a weirdo in the street, tried to find a place I remember from awhile and failed, got lost and used a map application to return home. During my drift I realized several things:

  • There are not many pedestrians in the city even on Saturday night.
  • All pedestrians are hanging out in places of attraction: parks, The Mill street, and ASU campus. Outside of these places they were clearly going towards their destinations, maybe homes.
  • There are more cyclists than pedestrians.
  • There are some people jogging on the big streets like University Drive.
  • I got scared by dimly lighted roads and tended to follow the most illuminated paths.
  • Meeting just one person on an empty street made me wary. If I met several people, I felt comfortable.
  • I mainly navigated the city using light and sound. Music and lights attracted me. Cafes that used creative lighting peaked my interests the most.
  • Surprisingly, empty parking lot are lighted at least as well as pedestrian streets.
  • Most of the places in Tempe look very similar to each other.

Unfortunately, my camera is not good with low light 😦

learn: identify ‘thoughtless acts’, patterns, problems, or opportunities.

  • There are possibilities of energy generation and CO2 treatment using algae
  • Phoenix citizens lack awareness about the canal system.
  • Walking in night requires not only navigational lighting but also certain security levels provided by bright lights and presence of other people. All three factors provide the affordance of urban space to explore using unusual paths.
  • Algae can reproduce and thus pollute fresh water reservoirs, have to be really careful.
  • The act of lighting up algae by agitating it could become an act of volunteer placemaking and shaping the city.
  • Algae can show the street activity and pop-up events like picnics or even street sports.