Maker Faire

Making it Better – Reflections on the Maker Faire Event

By Vasu Kilaru

Read Vasu’s 1st blog about Maker Faire.

EPA crew at the Maker Faire in New York City.

In September, I was one of several EPA scientists sharing our research and technologies at the World’s Maker Faire held at the New York Hall of Science, a gathering of the Do-It-Yourself, maker community. Despite the weather (cool and rainy) the size of the event was purportedly a lot larger this year. 

We had tremendous interest in the cutting-edge technologies we shared at our booth, especially the remote-controlled helicopter EPA researcher Scott Moore uses to investigate smoke from wildfires.  You might think that interest in helicopters might be limited to a narrow demographic, but nothing could be further from the truth.  Curiosity about the miniature helicopter and what EPA was doing with it spanned all ages and genders.

Many also expressed interest in the sensors at our booth, both the ones that EPA brought as well as the Project Tricorder unit that Ohio State students Lujack Prater and Grace Crumrine developed with EPA mentors in a summer program at the Wright Brothers Institute.  They built their “Tricorder” in just 10 weeks, thanks to rapid prototyping platforms such as Arduino that make it possible for users to utilize microelectronics to “make” new and innovative “things” in a way never before possible. In fact, there was a whole tent dedicated to Arduino, one of the most popular platforms.    

Attending Maker Faire was an opportunity for us to see what others are doing with environmental sensors and monitors.

What did we see?

  • One of the big highlights was a device called Raspberry Pi.  Essentially, a computer the size of a credit card with inputs for a keyboard and mouse, and outputs to a monitor.  It uses a SD card for memory, runs a modified Linux stack for the operating system and is capable of doing the basic things that all computers do (word processing, spreadsheet, web browsing…etc).  Best thing is the cost…..$35! And of course it is open and therefore can be legally hacked.
  • Leif Percifield, a student from the Parsons School of Design, has developed a technology called Visualight, an open source, wifi-enabled light bulb that can be programmed to visualize data as colored light, a simple application with tremendous potential for environmental benefits.  So, for example, a light bulb in a home can provide alerts that a storm may overload the combined sewer system, so putting off water use (dishes or flushing) can help avoid potential raw sewage overflows. A very simple application with tremendous potential for environmental benefits. 
  • A Parsons School graduate created an Air Quality Egg with air quality sensors that can transmit the data to an online system to share with others. 
  • Another big draw this year was 3-D printing.  It has been around for a few years now but now seems to be really taking off. 

That is what Maker Faire is all about:  connecting folks with great ideas.

While it was a lot of fun, it was also hard work to stand for hours and talk loudly so people can hear you.  But the chance to participate in an event where everyone is excited about learning and sharing makes Maker Faire a unique experience, and one we are proud to have been part of.

About the Author: Vasu Kilaru works in EPA’s Office of Research and Development where he is currently working on the apps and sensors for air pollution initiative (ASAP), helping the Agency develop its strategic role and response to new sensor technology developments.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Sensors and Sensibility

By Vasu Kilaru

Around us every day are technologies that give us access to more information at our fingertips than any generation has ever had.  As an EPA scientist, I’m pretty thrilled about these innovations and what they mean for environmental protection.

One exciting new initiative in that realm here at EPA is called Apps and Sensors for Air Pollution or ASAP. This new aspect of our research came out of the recognition that the advances in sensor technologies are unfolding at the same amazing pace that we all see with new cellphone and smartphone technologies.

Cellphones already have a variety of sensors built in:  light sensors and proximity sensors to manage display brightness, accelerometers used as switches or to characterize motion, GPS to provide mapping and locational services, compass and gyroscope to provide direction and orientation, microphones for audio, and a camera for video/photography.

These capabilities have led to the logical coupling of other sensors, such as for air pollution monitoring or biometric measurements, with smartphones.

Traditionally, air monitoring technologies were costly to setup and maintain, and therefore the purview of governments (federal and state). Now, new miniaturized sensor technologies are approaching consumer budgets and have the advantage of being highly portable. These developments in sensor technology present an exciting new frontier where monitoring will be more democratized and available much more widely. Parallel to these developments are sensors that measure physiological conditions such as heart rate or blood oxygen levels.

Pairing environmental sensors with ones that measure biological conditions could herald a new era for both environmental protection as well as healthcare. Future developments in these sensor technologies ultimately have the capacity to help people make better decisions regarding their environment and their own health.

So we are excited to do our part in bring new technologies to you.  If you’re going to the World Maker Faire in New York this weekend (September 29-30), stop by our EPA booth, we’d love to talk about how DIYers, makers, inventors can help make a greener future.

About the Author: Vasu Kilaru works in EPA’s Office of Research and Development (ORD). He is currently working on the apps and sensors for air pollution initiative (ASAP) helping the Agency develop its strategic role and response to new sensor technology developments.


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Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Sensors and Sensibility

By Vasu Kilaru

Around us every day are technologies that give us access to more information at our fingertips than any generation has ever had.  As an EPA scientist, I’m pretty thrilled about these innovations and what they mean for environmental protection.

One exciting new initiative in that realm here at EPA is called Apps and Sensors for Air Pollution or ASAP. This new aspect of our research came out of the recognition that the advances in sensor technologies are unfolding at the same amazing pace that we all see with new cellphone and smartphone technologies.

Cellphones already have a variety of sensors built in:  light sensors and proximity sensors to manage display brightness, accelerometers used as switches or to characterize motion, GPS to provide mapping and locational services, compass and gyroscope to provide direction and orientation, microphones for audio, and a camera for video/photography.

These capabilities have led to the logical coupling of other sensors, such as for air pollution monitoring or biometric measurements, with smartphones.

Traditionally, air monitoring technologies were costly to setup and maintain, and therefore were put under the purview of governments (federal and state). Now, new miniature sensor technologies are more affordable and have the advantage of being highly portable. These developments in sensor technology present an exciting new frontier where monitoring will be more democratic and available much more widely. Parallel to these developments are sensors that measure physiological conditions such as heart rate or blood oxygen levels.

Pairing environmental sensors with ones that measure biological conditions could herald a new era for both environmental protection as well as healthcare. Future developments in these sensor technologies ultimately have the capacity to help people make better decisions regarding their environment and their own health.

So we are excited to do our part in bringing new technologies to you.  If you’re going to the World Maker Faire in New York this weekend (September 29-30), stop by our EPA booth, we’d love to talk about how DIYers, makers, inventors can help make a greener future.

About the Author: Vasu Kilaru works in EPA’s Office of Research and Development. He is currently working on the apps and sensors for air pollution initiative (ASAP) helping the Agency develop its strategic role and response to new sensor technology developments.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.