39 North Innovation District Plan Unveiled
Back to Results
The Maker Group at the Danforth Center is a forum for all members of the Center to explore constructing low-cost hardware and software engineering tools. The Group focuses on supporting projects that will directly benefit a wide range of research at the Center but will also help connect the local maker community.
By promoting custom engineering projects at the Center, the Maker Group serves as a significant source of cross discipline training to the postdocs, graduate students, undergraduates, technicians and staff.
The Maker Group was founded in fall 2013 by Center postdoctoral researchers, Doug Bryant, Noah Fahlgren and Malia Gehan, who saw a need for low-cost plant phenotyping tools and software that would complement the Center’s Bellwether Foundation Phenotyping Facility. The state-of-the-art facility is comprised of a custom, controlled-environment growth house, fully integrated with three imaging platforms. The automated, high-throughput platform allows multi-parametric, non-destructive analysis of up to 1,140 small to medium sized plants at multiple time points over a desired growth period.
“We were very inspired by the Center’s new Phenotyping Facility. We wanted to see in action how we could leverage robotics, imaging and computing to measure plant traits at a scale and precision not feasible before. We immediately started thinking about ways we could use similar techniques to enhance experiments outside of the Phenotyping Facility, but at a much lower cost,” said Noah Fahlgren.
Most members of the Center’s Maker Group have no previous engineering experience and have learned to make things through the enlightening online Maker community, which has a strong focus on using and learning practical skills and applying them creatively.
“The Maker Group was originally founded because we were spending too much time performing tedious tasks to generate necessary data for projects. There is also a certain satisfaction from making something yourself and understanding how it works,” said Malia Gehan. “We are excited and incredibly grateful that the Maker Group was so well received by employees and administrators at the Danforth Center. Our first two meetings were well attended and included people from not only the scientific staff but from IT and facilities, which brings a wider range of skills to the Maker Group.”
The Maker Group is focusing on three primary projects for 2014:
Project 1. Phenostat and Phenokinect: Static Platforms for Phenotypic Screens.
PhenoStat and PhenoKinect are static plant imaging stations meant to automate the tedious task of manually taking multiple images of plants to generate data that looks at growth-rate or plant size (biomass).
Project 2. Soilsense: Low-Cost Self-logging Soil-Sensors.
It is quite tedious to manually take daily soil moisture readings from many plants. SoilsSense is a low-cost soil moisture sensor that allows soil moisture measurements to be measured, logged automatically, and uploaded to a web-interface. Commercial soil moisture sensors are available but cost prevents widespread use.
Project 3. Phenodrone: Aerial Phenotypic Screens.
Some of the projects at the Danforth Center have a large field component. The Phenodrone expands plant image-based phenotyping projects beyond indoors with a small-unmanned aerial drone fixed with a high-resolution camera for imaging plants overhead in a field setting.
“We specifically focused on these projects (PhenoStat, PhenoKinect, SoilSense and PhenoDrone) for our inaugural year because they would help to save time and resources for numerous labs at the Center,” said Gehan.
Learn more about the current projects here.
The group plans to develop an education and outreach workshop for educators and students this summer and to reach out to other Maker Groups for collaboration and networking.
Follow the Group’s progress and tutorials on Twitter @DDPSCmaker. For more information visit the Danforth Center’s Maker Group website.
| DiscoveryimpactDoug BryantMaker GroupMalia GehanNoah FahlgrenBellwether Foundation Phenotyping Facility