Inspired by the fierce post-it note window wars, I decided to build an automatic post-it array, for displaying messages in a window, without resorting to repetitive manual labor. To make what I thought was simple machine, I wandered down a long path that led me to programing Arduinos, Raspberry Pi’s, using sensors, LEDs, and working with a variety of other random electronics. Explorations into making include but are not limited to…
LED WEATHER MAP
WUMO - THE WEATHER ROBOT
DEVELOPING AN AFFORDABLE PWS
MINI WEATHER STATION
Making the invisible, visible.
The wondrous magical weather wand casts an enchanting spell of light. A way of making visible something that is normally felt. In less magical terms, I have an Arduino pro mini with a temperature sensor (currently a TMP36) and a RGB LED. The Arduino checks temperatures and sets the color of the light based on the temperature.
The early version of this used a temp to color table (like the temperature map project) that would for example set to the light yellow if above 70º or to blue if below 30º. However it would be pretty unlikely to encounter that wide of a temperature range within a space so instead of re-tuning the table for every location I wanted to have it set its own range.
The solution was to use statistics! It takes and averages the temperatures it sees and sets the color to normal (green) based on that average. The standard deviation (ie max/min range) is set based on the variation the sensor picks up. The color changes based not on a specific temp value but the number of standard deviations from that average. ie: 2+ stddev is red -2 stddev is purple, etc.
That worked for me because I wanted a way to paint with light and see temperature variation and I didn't really care about the specific temperature values.
More construction detail is available at hackster.io
Are you the droid we are looking for?
Move along (to our jobs page)
Very silly recruitment ad for an Android Developer for Weather Underground. One of the fun things I get to do between page builds and everything else is little spot ads and traffic drivers.
WU Maker Group
Weather Underground has a makers club. Bits of information can be combined with different people's programing and craft skills. Everyone brings something to the table. The API group sponsored some hardware (Thanks Ali!) and so we have everything from the spark and Arduino to the Beagleboard to work with. I am excited to share the projects I have put together including the Weather Map and the Weather station robot.
What is this falling from the sky, is it rain?
Clarity comes in degrees. At Weather Underground we had received some user feedback that when it was snowing, there was some confusion in exactly what our forecast was saying would happen. Internally we estimate how much precipitation may come down, but those estimates (QPF, Quantitative Precipitation Forecasts) are all based on liquid precipitation and our UI expressed everything based on those forecasts. The issue was that we could say in words that there may be 2-4 inches of snow, but the numerical representation would still show the amount of liquid which might be .25" which gave the appearance of contradictory information. Snow is a challenge because there is not a good automated way to measure depth in the way rain can be. The National Weather Service handles it by manually measuring snowfall at it's locations, but those locations are too far apart for the granularity we need to work at.
After some discussions with our meteorological colleagues we came up with a reasonable system for estimating snow fall and accumulation throughout the day which is tremendously helpful compared to the daily accumulation totals normally used. The next challenge was integrating the new information into the UI in a way that clarified what was happening instead of having the new information add confusion.
The approach we took was a conditional hierarchy. If there was a chance of snow, that would override the area normally used to display rain in the UI. This allowed us to weave the information in when it was needed without requiring a separate area dedicated to a condition that for many places was useful for only small parts of the year, if at all. From our testing we found that in the case of snow, any amount of snow was more important to most people than any amount of rain, so the hierarchy matched up to people's expectations. The end result was the interface change was very small, and the additional information was very useful.
Weather Underground - Community
As part of Weather Underground's mission to make weather and climate accessible to everyone they attend a wide range of events, from the Tech Crunch hackathons to the AGU science conference and smaller weather community gatherings. Designing an experience includes both the web and app interactions, but for the smaller audience that gets an in-person experience the take away can be memorable
One of the great things about Weather Underground is it's communities, the weather watchers checking in with their monitoring stations and the photographers chasing down the best nature has to offer.
The Wunderphotographers have organized annual meet-ups at different locations around the country to get some face to face time and to see something new in the sky. Weather Underground has been creating shirts to commemorate the locations and the community.
Weather Station Owners
Weather Underground uses a number of data sources to build it's forecasts, one of the things that makes it unique is the personal weather station data that comes in from their community of users. Reaching out to station owners is an ongoing job to let people know that they can use their station data to help their neighbors, and use the tools in their apps and website to get the most from their investment.
Sketch 3, first draft
Sketch 3 was introduced to me as a photoshop killer, which of course it is not. Once I got over the enthusiastic introduction, and accepted it as a new and different thing it seemed to be a bit easier to give it a chance.
To get an idea of what sketch was about I took on something familiar, reproducing the Weather Underground homepage, it made focusing on the tools and how they worked easy.
It has it's own logic for how it imagines things to be built, and while it makes sense and makes some things fast, sensible to edit in an iterative workflow, some generative tasks felt slower and clunky to me. It may be that I am so used to my Adobe workflow, shortcuts, etc so I will give it more time.
I had started to use Keynote here and there for quickie wireframes and medium fidelity mocks, and this has a similar feel with way more power.
I have a few side projects I can run though it to see how I feel after putting a few more miles on it.
I was pretty grumpy when one of my first projects was unreadable and I lost some time, but with a tentative pardon I gave it another go. Once I gave it some traction on real site projects (multi-page, multi-option exploration) the tool really opened up.
Now I am that guy in the office evangelizing "oh sketch can automate that, oh sketch has a plugin for that"