The IkeHaus

The IkeHaus: a custom-designed and -constructed bearded dragon luxury enclosure

A throne worthy of a Reptile King!

A throne worthy of a Reptile King!

Who

Icarus, Rex.  The kingly reptile (or “tyrannosaur,” if you will) who rules the basement portion of the house I am renting in New Haven.  Ike is an (approximately) 18 month old bearded dragon (specifically, a central bearded dragon, or pogona vitticeps).  Hailing from central Australian deserts (by the route of the Milford CT Petco, one of the more common paths between those two places), Ike really likes: 1) eating bugs; 2) heat; 3) some vegetables (but ideally bugs); and 4) HEAT.  He prefers to have at least one spot in his vivarium which gets up to 110-115 degrees Fahrenheit.  He wasn’t getting that in his original home.

Ike is a JUST shy of 17 inches, nose to tail

Ike is a JUST shy of 17 inches, nose to tail

What

The IkeHaus is the name of this project, and it is a custom-designed and -built reptile.  Alright, let us face facts: it is a luxury condominum for a herp.  The stats at a glance:

Physical dimensions:
* 36 inches wide; 30 inches deep; 24 inches tall –> these are the dimensions of the living space
* 112 gallons of volume
* includes what I call “The Ziggurat,” a custom-designed and -built internal structure with a basking platform, a ramp, a multi-level cave… and a goddamned canvas hammock (kept me up until 4am, getting it *perfect*)

The Ikehaus in scale to my tallness.  We are both tall.

The in-progress Ikehaus, as compared to my 6’4″ frame.  We are both tall.

Data galore:
* x2 AM2302 temperature and humidity sensors, one on the top and one on the bottom
* x2 Raspberry Pi computers to provide network connectivity, and to control all the sensors and electronics
* x2 LCD screens in the nameplate, to display all manner of interesting data
* Many, many wires. In the aptly-named (and fan-cooled!) Wiring Alcove

The roof-mounted wiring alcove, pictured here as I got the LCD screens working.

The roof-mounted wiring alcove, pictured here as I got the LCD screens working.

Safety:
* steel plating to keep the halogens from overheating the plywood roof; also armors against brush wars which sometimes arise in New England basements
* x2 intake fans, x2 exhaust fans – all 12v Cooler Master computer fans, these 120mm fans are designed to cycle the air on an hourly schedule but will kick in whenever the temp sensors see it is too warm
* non-toxic waterproofing which other reptile-keepers report works well and doesn’t harm their scaly charges

Ecological disposition
* the entire IkeHaus apparatus uses something like 285 watts during daytime hours; this is compared to the ~700 watts of Ike’s old home, which still was too cold for him
* So, I got a simple power use meter (adapted from this project), which is wired to one of the Raspberry Pi’s… and keeps a running tally of how many more hours the IkeHaus needs to operate, to pay itself off in electricity savings.

Single rail power usage meter, which will keep track of how long the IkeHaus takes to pay for itself

Single rail power usage meter, which will keep track of how long the IkeHaus takes to pay for itself

Portability:
* While the IkeHaus was initially envisioned as a way of making Ike live in a warmer and bigger space (and the concommitant energy savings for me), I also realized I want this project to be movable by one person, and have all the components fit into my beloved VW Passat B4V in one trip.
* the walls are held in by a total of two (2) threaded rods.  Only the back wall, actually – the back and side walls are all designed to slot into both base and roof.  The entire set up takes 10 minutes to put together or take apart.

When

I am in the midst of my second graduate degree, and gee golly I am sick of abstraction without practical benefits to anyone, anywhere (editor’s note – learning is important; Mike is burned out on school, but very thankful for the positive aspects of this education he has been blessed with. But still burned out).  So, being clever, I decided to take this project on during the early part of April 2013… when the semester is over at the very beginning of May!  The initial weekend saw 26 hours over a 2 day period.  The remainder of the project was worked into study breaks or quick trips to CEID on evenings when I could get away from everything else.  All told, I am going to estimate 125 hours put into the designing, building, refining, coding, testing, and perfecting of this IkeHaus you see here.

Where

I built this project in New Haven, split between Yale’s Center for Engineering Innovation and Design (CEID), and the comfort of my own (rented) home.  I spent a great deal of time at the Home Depot of Hamden, and would like to thank Paul there for his help in coming up with the rather clever notching method for holding the walls in place.

Paul from Home Depot Hamden and I, after another successful brainstorming session for this rather atypical project.

Paul from Home Depot Hamden and I, after another successful brainstorming session for this rather atypical project.

Also, you can follow the temperature and humidity data; check out the once-a-day photograph which is posted at a random time; and other updates from the IkeHaus on Twitter, @IkeHaus_HQ!!

Why

Ike (as he is known to his friends; The Destroyer, as he is known to his prey) is still growing as he reaches the end of his adolescence – he is currently SIZE but could theoretically grow up to 24 inches, from nose to tail.  So, the 29 gallon aquarium he was living in was simply not big enough for him.  Additionally, the damned glass aquarium leaked heat like crazy, which wasted a lot of money on electricty.

Ike's old house, all decorated for Christmas

Ike’s old house, all decorated for Christmas

Finally, as I get closer and closer to the world and the job I have been waiting for, I am finding I really flourish when I take up projects like this, which involve creative designing alongside carpentry and metalworking, all tied together with a certain panache electronique.

How

For more details, please check out the blog posts which examine each of the 4 core stages of design and construction:

Part I: the initial build, this post covers the 16 hour day I put in at the CEID to build the majority of the physical structure

Part II: this was the next day, I spent a good 10 hours building the roof and the internal Ziggurat for Ike to enjoy

Part III: Slowly over time I actually got the nameplate and wiring alcove on the roof done; I moved Ike in right on time!

Part IV: The final post, finished after final exams and papers for the spring.  Electronics are working, Ike is thriving. 🙂

The finished IkeHaus, next to my project workstation.

The finished IkeHaus, next to my project workstation.

Solarium Reptantis – building Ike an outdoor sunroom

Several months after the bulk of the IkeHaus project, I realized it would make it far easier to clean the damned IkeHaus if Ike had somewhere else to reside while I did so.  While the 5 gallon bucket that serves as his bathtub is a viable option, I feel bad confining him to that space for so long a time, so I decided to whip up a quick outdoor sunroom for him.  Unlike the IkeHaus, this solarium took me only part of an afternoon to construct, and significantly fewer resources (but, to be fair, it also isn’t nearly as cool).  Ike’s first foray into it was as the evening began to cool the neighborhood to a chilly 77 degrees, which is bedtime temperature for him, but I look forward to giving him the chance to run around in fresh air and real sunlight as much as possible.  Who knows, perhaps I will rig up a small solar panel and a small ceramic heat emitter, so part of the cage can cook him as much as he likes! 🙂

Check out the build pictures and full story here.

at 5 by 2 by 2 foot, Ike has a lot of space to sun himself and run around

at 5 by 2 by 2 foot, Ike has a lot of space to sun himself and run around

Coda – the Adafruit 6Sec video contest

With the help of my good friend and former roommate Dylan, I decided it would be fun to enter Adafruit’s 6 Second Video Contest – as the title suggests, my favorite electronics company is doing a simple contest to show off projects in a VERY short video clip.  Over the course of this weekend, we had a lot of fun putting the video and effects (we used an open source sound effect for the filming, from here) and so forth together

Dylan at work with the iPhone camera and custom poplar scrap-wood grip

Dylan at work with the iPhone camera and custom poplar scrap-wood grip

My entry to the event is the following:

Adafruit6secs video contest submission

We also decided to make a couple of other micro-videos to help showcase the project:

* Seeing the interior of the condo

* Temperature sensors, fans in action

* Meet Icarus, Rex

While I did not end up winning the contest, it was a whole bunch of fun to put together, and I hope you enjoy the brief video clips!

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