Ike’s Lights Part 2 – The sensors and computer hardware

A brief update; my first time making use of CEID!

Good evening, good people.

A brief update on this project to give Ike very accurate lighting and heating conditions.  I spent a good set of hours in the CEID hacker space tonight, working with the fantastic student worker on duty, Stephan.  The mission was multifaceted: 1) get the Raspberry Pi computer connected to the Prototyping Pi Plate (a little shield that sits on top of it and makes accessing the General Purpose Input Output, or GPIO pins, much easier); 2) get a simple LED program working to see if the RasPi could control lights; 3) modify the sensors to have hangers of some sort (with the edge of the vivarium in mind); and 4) depart CEID with an idea of how to properly control the lights’ intensities.

To go in order:

#0: as you will see in the photos, I had started prepping a hacked Kindle to serve as monitor + keyboard for the RasPi, but got stuck most of the way into the process and am unsure why.  Something to get working in the future, for sure, as a self-contained and -powered monitor/keyboard combo like the Kindle will be a boon for developing projects in different places.

#1: with Stephan’s pointers, got all of the pins on the Plate soldered properly in short order.

#2: a simple enough circuit, we found a short guide online to making an LED blink once every second from the terminal in Linux (which is what my RasPi can do).  It works, and Stephan wisely sent me home with additional LEDs for one reason: if I can get the code monitoring the power to the lights working with simple LEDs, I can easily transfer that pattern to the actual heat lamps.

#3: Adafruit turns out to be an awesome company which knows how much people are loving the RasPi development board, and so have all manner of helpful tutorials to get your sensors from them up and running in no time at all – as you’ll see in the photo section, I am currently able to tell it when to monitor for the current temperature and relative humidity (which it does quite accurately).  As with the LEDs –> heat lamps, getting the sensor working one time will be the majority of the difficulties in getting it working multiple times as needed and pushing the data to my website!

#4: finally, though my initial hopes were high (namely, to have the voltages of each light stepped up and down as it got too hot or too cold), I spoke at length with Stephen and realized it would be FAR safer and a great deal easier to just buy a premade device for turning an appliance on or off based on temperature than to try and hack something of my own together.  When 150 watt bulbs are involved, it simply becomes a bit too much of a fire hazard to fiddle around with.  That said, it will be a great deal easier to get this to run properly and debug when it is as simple as “if too hot, turn off” and “if too cold, turn on.”

All told, an extremely successful evening spent at CEID.  Sometime later this week or perhaps next week, I hope to have the whole thing working properly, with data pushed to my website and all!


And of course, what would a project posted here be without the requisite gallery of associated build photos:

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2 responses to “Ike’s Lights Part 2 – The sensors and computer hardware

    • Thanks for following up; I really enjoyed your project.

      I have the Kindle talking over USB to the RasPi, but my guess is that since I originally installed that particular RasPi over my home network, it has a different IP address than As such, I will give the Kindleberry Pi a try again in several days, if I have time, with one of the other Raspberry Pi projects I am doing.

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