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Science Hack Day Chicago > Ideas


Got an idea for a science hack? Got a brainwave for a mashup? Add it here. If you see an idea you'd like to hack/collaborate on, add your name to it!


What can you do?

Need ideas? Browse some of the ideas from previous Science Hack Days or add to/check out the ongoing list of science-related APIs, data and useful frameworks. Then, add your project idea for San Francisco's Science Hack Day below!


Software, hardware, gadgets, supplies:

  • Quad copters (x4)
  • Large touch table
  • iPads
  • Remote controlled / programmable rovers
  • Arduinos
  • Kinects
  • Wii remotes  
  • 3D displays
  • State-of-the-art planetary projection system
  • Adobe Creative Suite
  • Uniview digital universe software
  • ...add yours here...





Hack Idea Template:


Example Title (tags: example tag, example tag)

Example idea description goes here. Keep it to just a few short & sweet sentences.


  • Your Name, Email, Twitter Username (so people can talk to you about your idea!)


  • Commenter Name, Email, Twitter Username (so people can talk to you about your comment!) 



Kepler Kopters (tags: quad copters, solar system, planets, space, astronomy)

Create a mobile, flying, to-scale representation of a solar system, who's orbits are accurate and reprogrammable. The system would be controlled with an iPhone. With simple tweaks, any solar system could be represented.


Materials needed:

At least 6 quad copters

iPhone running quad copter app

Material to create planets (styrofoam balls?)




  • Stuart Lynn, stuart@zooniverse.org, @stuart_lynn
  • David Miller, miller@zooniverse.org, @davidmill 



  • Is there an Android app that can control this as well? - Lou Nigra, lou@zooniverse.org



Smartphone app: "Funded by Science" (tags: app, mobile, funding, economy)

How do you make the argument that basic science should be funded?  You have to make the economic argument that the funding pays for itself many times over because it creates whole new businesses in the United States that wouldn't have existed otherwise.


We can create an app that uses cell phone cameras to identify objects in the image that have funding lineages that extend to the federal government.  Further detail could be provided as to what aspects of the object were funded and when.  The goal is to demonstrate the reach that government funding for science has into the modern world.  



  • Karl Putz, k-putz@northwestern.edu
  • You?





  • We need a good deal of discussion to determine what datasets are necessary, and what can actually be done to create a viable 24-hr hack. (Karl)
  • What about utilizing something like UPC code detection where a database is already set up: http://www.upcdatabase.com/ (David)
  • UPC is an awesome idea, that will greatly shorten the object recognition phase of the work. (Karl)


Visualizing quantum fields and creating real particles out of the fields: "Interactive particle creation" (tags: education, quantum field theory, particle physics)

The vacuum is not really empty. It is a constantly bubbling quantum ``foam" of virtual particles that wink in and out of existence. The heavier the particles are, the shorter time period they exist. But if you excite these fields enough by putting enough energy into them, you can create real particles and study their properties. This is the basis behind most particle physics experiments. 


I'd like to create an interactive exhibit (art piece? educational tool?) that tries to explain this. Imagine a screen(s) onto which a computer projects images of aspects of science or quantum mechanics: the massive detectors at Fermilab or CERN, images of the scientists themselves, quotes from the history of quantum mechanics, artistic interpretations of these theories. The images change, like a standard slide-show. But overlaid on these images are particles that appear and then vanish. They can be color coded with some legend that explains what these particles are and what their properties are (mass, lepton or hadron). Then we use Arduino-controlled motion detectors and microphones to measure the ``energy" in the room. The more energy there is (noise and motion) the more fluctuations there are in the quantum vacuum. With enough energy, we can ``create" on the screen heavier and heavier particles like bottom and top quarks! 


But even when it is quiet and still in the room, there is still fluctuations that obscure the images. This emphasizes the non-zero energy of the quantum vacuum and can lead to a discussion of Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. 


Maybe there's a way to even just make a browser app that uses input from the microphone on a laptop for people to try out at home? I'm thinking that Processing (http://processing.org/) is the right language to use? Or the javascript implementation (http://processingjs.org/)? I'm open to other suggestions. I'll set up a github repository soon for us to use for the code. I own an Arduino, but have not done anything with it yet, so we'll need folks who know Arduino better than I (read: better than zero). Maybe we can discuss in the comments below what extra equipment might be needed and I'll bring it. Artists and designers are also welcome to contribute to this project. If we have different underlying images being projected, then multiple people can contribute their impressions of quantum mechanics and particle physics. 



  • Matt Bellis, bellis@slac.stanford.edu
  • ...and jump in! 




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