Meet the Maker: Joey Wilson, Maker of the Squirrel Cam

Winner of the Smarter Devices Challenge

November 5, 2014

Meet Joey Wilson @joeywilson

Joey-Wilson

I am based in…Santa Fe, NM just beneath the Sangre de Cristo mountains. Epic cycling out my front door. 30 minutes from waist-deep powder skiing in the winter. In the spring you can do both on the same day 🙂

My maker superpower is…A healthy backlog of project ideas that I had conceived of for the Arduino that I can now actually build using littleBits. I’m spending less time thinking of how to build something and more time choosing which ideas to pursue. Ayah and her team have created a very accessible tool and in so doing have opened up the possibilities to a much larger, and I think uniquely different, audience. It reminds me a lot of the original vision of hypercard which put the power to create software into the hands of mere mortals. The breadth of software created (stacks as they were called) was pretty unbelievable. Some of it was awful and some of it was genius and nearly all of it would never had been created had those obstacles not been removed thru clever design. littleBits feels like hypercard for hardware.

I am inspired by…Poking around our local flea markets and garage sales with an eye toward turning interesting found treasures into new littleBits projects. The case that I modified for my Squirrel Cam started out as a box for a fancy bottle of wine, that I found at a garage sale.

I have used littleBits to make a….A remote wildlife camera called the Squirrel Cam that helped me humanely capture and relocate a family of squirrels that had been living under my house. It’s built with two circuits. The first circuit lives under the house and is placed next to a live trap for squirrels. It uses the motion sensor to detect the squirrel and then triggers the servo bit to press the shutter release on a digital camera. The camera has an Eye-fi memory card which wirelessly sends the photos or videos to my computer or smartphone (via dropbox) once a squirrel has been detected. It also sends a wireless signal to the second circuit that lives in the house.. The second circuit rings the buzzer and sends a signal via the Cloudbit to IFTTT which sends me a text message should I not be home when a squirrel has been trapped.

In the process I learned…That the motion detector bit is based on infrared radiation and not visible light. It works well in dark places but won’t work at all if it’s enclosed in plexiglass. When I first put my littleBits circuit inside of the case that I created for it, it stopped working. After some head scratching, I cut a small hole in the plexiglass in front of the motion detector. Problem solved.

What was something you learned about participating in a littlebits competition? Well of course it’s nice to have a deadline but more importantly I think the littleBits competitions are a great way to put the spotlight on new littleBits modules. I think of each new module as a new word in our collective litteBits vocabulary. The bits themselves become tools to build things of course, but more profoundly, the bits are tools to think with. As the library of bits grows, so does our ability to imagine what we can build.

My dream bit…Would be a series of input bits like buttons or sliders that are tethered to a cable like the long LED bit, and designed to be attached to wood or plastic. This would make it easier to build user interfaces for circuits that live within some type of enclosure. As long as we’re dreaming, perhaps a bluetooth bit that I can control with my iPhone.

Watch this video of Joey’s winning Squirrel Cam project from the Smarter Devices Contest:

Squirrel Cam from Joey Wilson on Vimeo.

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