Photosynq progress update: boards, beta, add-ons

Ways to join the team!
Beta test still open
3rd round of hardware in-process
Been toying around with new ideas – cell phone microscope, and add link, soil moisture tester.
All hardware and software is live on Github

Ways to join the team!

We’ve got this far because of amazing contributions from Talia Selitsky and Pro and the team and Venturit, and we’re ready to identify more collaborators. Sometimes it’s hard to know how to jump in to a project, so here’s some bite-size tasks we’d love you’re help on. If any of these projects tickle your fancy, send us an email at gbathree at msu dot edu and we’ll get you up to speed!

      1. Identify or create a low cost, open source soil moisture measurement tool. (We only need to design the tool itself – not the brain or display. We can hook it up to the Photosynq board, Arduino brain, and smartphone display to output the data). There are branded devices for 140 dollars like these, and there are very cheap units like this. The problem is the cheap units are too small for measuring more than 2 inches into the soil – we need something with longer prongs (1 foot long) that’s sturdy and consistent. This may also be used for measuring moisture in grain (like this) , hay bales, or other moisture-related ag applications. Good fit for someone with experience with electronics and basic product design.
      2. Make the Photosynq mobile app look snazzy! We have a working app, but we’d like to improve the design to make it slick. Good fit for someone with experience with web app design and design skills.
      3. Create clear outlines for plant photosynthesis protocols. A large part of the work is figuring out which method is being used when taking a measurement – there are many different theories, protocols, and methods. Most photosynthesis measurement devices have a variety of protocols that users can choose from – and we need to develop that library. Currently, we have a single, simple protocol for pulsed modulated chlorophyll fluorescence. You do not need experience in programming – just writing the protocol in very clear terms (for example – “Red LED on for 30us for 150 pulses. At pulse 50, also turn on blue LED on for 1 second… take average of values at pulse 50 – 150 and save as Fm, removing top and bottom 2 outliers, etc. etc.”…). We can write the program after the protocol is described. Good fit for someone who understands plant science well and probably has experience using similar handheld devices (LiCOR, etc.).

Beta test still open

Just a reminder that we’re still looking for beta testers for Photosynq. If you are a researcher, hacker, maker, plant enthusiast, professor, gardener, farmer, citizen scientist, grad student or just enthusiastic about this project, go to not longer available and sign up. From the applications we’ve had so far, I can assure you you’ll be joining an awesome and varied crowd!

3rd round of hardware, added extra board for more measurements

2 boards finished and ready for another round of testing, start alpha tests soon

Main board – ambient temperature, leaf temperature, relative humidity, light intensity, color temperature (RGB), CO2, 4 LEDs, 1 IR pin photodiode detector, built to connect a Teensy 3.0 at base

We’re iterating on the hardware as fast as we can, the most recent circuit board is imaged below. We also created an add-on board which brings us to a grand total of 8 separately controllable high speed LEDs and 2 detectors (one IR detector, and one visible light detector)! It’s designed so that 4 LEDs and one detector are facing across from another 4 LEDs and detector – this allows not only for fluorescence, but also absorbance / transmittance measurements. Absorbance can be used to detect Photosystem 1 activity, ratio of PSI to PSII, and lots of other stuff.

We’ve been toying around with new ideas…

cell phone microscope, and add link, soil moisture tester.

As we’ve got out into the world, we’ve received some great thoughts and advice on additional measurements we could add to the system. One is using Thomas Larson’s simple cell phone microscope lens, which you just stick over the top of your cell phone camera and you can see 15 – 60x zoom! We think it would be useful for close-up comparison of leaf damage, or possibly even seeing the impact of leaf damage on photosynthesis around the damaged area (that’s Rebecca Nelson’s idea from Cornell University and When I got a few test units from Thomas, I took some images which you can see here. We’ve also had a lot of interest in adding a simple moisture tester. I found this one online for <5 dollars, but it’s very small (3 inches total). For serious moisture field measurements the longer, multi-prong probes are the gold standard.

All hardware and software is live on Github!

It took a while, but we’re now fully version controlled 🙂 Check out our github page where you can see the most recent versions of the hardware, software (mobile app and website), and Arduino Protocols.

Photosynq add-on board
Add-on board: 4 LEDs, 1 pin photodiode detector

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