Sunday, March 14, 2010

Research and development at LRRD.



I'm way overdue on an LRRD progress report:  We're doing research and development on several fronts, including sensors and methods for full motion controlled models.  In English that means that things like valley slope, water and sediment discharge, standpipe height (and thus base level control), etc. can be controlled and monitored by microprocessors. 

Our museum models could autonomously do demonstrations, and for research, models could slowly alter variables (e.g. sediment input and valley slope) over hours or days, and record response data.  And students and researchers can observe model behavior as they see digital displays of key variables.

The shop is full of electronics, scraps of wood, aluminum, plastic, and little prototype models.

Chris Krumm, a renaissance man in Minneapolis who does electronics, art, welding, you name it in his museum designs, has been a great collaborator; we're working with a couple of museums on motion controlled models.  Many thanks to Chris for his help.  The photos here show some sensor/microprocessor systems we're working on.

There are amazing (and cheap) ways to sense and control things out there now, and I hope to develop open source hardware and software--i.e. things that students can build themselves, for sensing and recording data with our models.

We're redesigning the Em2 models.   I hope we will soon make them shippable by UPS (they're too big now).  The models have many years of dedicated design behind them, and won't change much, but the changes will improve usability and reduce cost.  We have to keep cost down so nonprofits and educators can afford our models for river conservation work, especially in this rotten economy.

Here you see Lily Hwang, a grad student at SIUC who's finishing an MS in forest hydrology (my master's topic).  Lily's been a huge help, volunteering now and then; with Jesse Reichman gone, and orders for Em2 models coming in fast, I really appreciate that!  We've been shipping the models in pairs lately.  Lily's been a blast to work with, and shares my interest in urban stream restoration.

We're continuing development of a small "2D" flume, a model intermediate between the Em2 and Em4, on grant proposals, videos, and consulting projects, including urban work in St. Louis and on the Cache River system in southern Illinois.

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