Tag Archives: Earth Science

Creating an earthquake warning system with littleBits and PubNub

Maker replicates California’s earthquake warning and monitoring system using littleBits, Ruby and PubNub.

In the wake of the tragic 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, Anmol Agrawal decided to create a mini earthquake warning and monitoring system using littleBits, Ruby and PubNub.


As the the Maker notes, this DIY solution — which also happens to be among the latest entries in this year’s Hackaday Prize — could be be employed to detect both earthquakes and tsunami in prone areas.

“My initial approach was to get some data through online resource like meteorological survey websites, as they are the ones with access to all the sensors, devices, machines, seismographs etc. to keep track of earthquake activities. I planned on getting that data continously and running the logic continously like if earthquake is more than 5.3 richter scale, send the warning,” Agrawal writes.

He decided to take this one step further by creating a system specifically for India. This was accomplished by acquiring the data of seismic activity for the country, which was completed by crawling the India Meteorological Department’s earthquake report every 10-20 seconds.

The Maker adds, “Although that is a very inefficient method but I still wrote the script. I got it working but then I thought, is the data updated on the page in real-time or after couple of hours? If the earthquake comes somewhere at 6pm and it’s getting updated on the site at 8pm, then that data is of no use.” large_filled_eewbasics

After some research, Agrawal came across the earthquake early warning system currently in use in California, and decided to replicate it with an Arduino littleBits module (ATmega32U4), Ruby and PubNub. He employed a littleBits pressure sensor to create the earthquake effect based on the strength of his finger’s touch and a bright LED to serve as the warning signal. The data is continuously measured, streamed and sent to PubNub using a dashboard created with Freeboard.io.

“To give an idea of how fast this system is, in recent the Nepal Earthquake, it would have given a three-five minute early warning to Kathmandu and surrounding cities as epicenter was only 70-140km away from them,” he concludes.

Interested? You can read up on the Maker’s entire build here.

Teaching Earth Science with 3D printing

Ryan Cain – who teaches Earth Science to second graders – wanted to finish the most recent semester with a special, interactive project.

To help his class emphasize with hurricane victims, Cain decided to teach his students how to design their own buildings using 3D modeling software and MakerBot Replicator 2 3D printers. The structures were then placed along the banks of a simple model river consisting of a water pump and a sandbox.

“By turning up the power on the water pump, Cain unleashed a flood on his class’s model city,” MakerBot’s Ben Millstein explain in a recent blog post. “This gives students a memorable visual on the effects of soil erosion.”

Erosion is the process by which soil and rock are removed from the Earth’s surface by exogenic processes such as wind or water flow – and then transported and deposited in other locations.

According to Wikipedia, excessive erosion causes problems such as desertification, decreases in agricultural productivity due to land degradation, sedimentation of waterways and ecological collapse due to loss of the nutrient rich upper soil layers. Industrial agriculture, deforestation, roads, anthropogenic climate change and urban sprawl are amongst the most significant human activities in regard to their effect on stimulating erosion.

Unsurprisingly, teaching second graders how to design and 3D print an entire riverbank of model buildings isn’t the only impressive thing Cain has done with his MakerBot 3D Printers, as he recently:

  • Embarked on a “30 days of creativity” project, starting with 3D printing a replacement knob on his dresser.
  • Printed new buildings for his erosion model.
  • Taught his robotics students how to design and 3D print concepts for relief delivery drones that could reach victims in the wake of natural disasters.

“Cain has been a fan of MakerBot since the Cupcake CNC,” Millstein noted.

“He was also one of the first educators to bring MakerBot 3D Printers into the classroom. We can’t wait to see what this pioneering educator will come up with next!”

As we’ve previously discussed on Bits & Pieces, the DIY Maker Movement has been using Atmel-powered 3D printers like MakerBot and RepRap for some time now. However, 3D printing has clearly entered a new and important stage in a number of spaces including the medical sphere, architectural arena and science lab.

Indeed, the meteoric rise of 3D printing has paved the way for a new generation of Internet entrepreneurs, Makers and do-it-yourself (DIY) manufacturers. So it comes as little surprise that the lucrative 3D printing industry is on track to be worth a staggering $3 billion by 2016.