Chandni Venkataraman

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Andaman and Nicobar Environmental Team, ANET

Initial Impression

ANET the place we are staying is beautiful. Infact, much too much nature for a city girl like me to be honest but its definitely something I could get used to. The ideas of being nature friendly and “in touch with nature” is easier said than done. It’s romantic and utopian to talk about conservation of water and electricity but when it actually comes to living like that it is hard. I hated that there wasn’t cold water, or that we were expected to use no more than one bucket of water which was a unique shade of brown.

“I am nervous. I am nervous because I don't know what is coming” - Day 1, ANET

I was slightly nervous about the project as I started to have doubts as to whether I picked the right project. The brief was slightly unclear to me, and the point of the trip to ANET was also something that I didn’t see at that point in time.

I had a lot of burning questions. 

What did electronics had to do with a place like ANET?

Did I HAVE to make only a DIY toolkit for school childen?

Did I have to have a background in electronics?
Was the medium of the final outcome have to be a toolkit and was there no other possibilities?
Could I make an electronic art installation?
Was I capable of making biosensors when I formally studied biology over 8 years ago?

After a few conversations with my facilitators, I realised that I was just being anxious about a design process that I should learn to trust by now. Once that realisation came to me, I was open to taking in whatever experiences came not questioning how it is relevant to the brief/graduation project. 

I decided to be present in that time and to do what was to be done in that time.

Getting your feet dirty

There were four zones to explore in and around ANET. The mangroves, the intertidal zone, under the ocean and the rainforest.


In morning walk, I sat by a small water puddle as I observed the creatures inhabiting that space. Mudskippers, Hermit crabs, fiddler crabs and other types of small crabs. 
 The fiddler crabs were extremely shy creatures. The slightest movement and they would go and hide into the burrow that they dig for themselves. When I tried to stay as still as I could, I observed that they would peak out to the check if I was gone. They were also extremely sensitive to light. When my shadow fell over their burrow they would immediately go and hide.
As we walked along, at some point, I had to remove my shoes so as to not get them entirely dirty and wet. The sensorial information that you can feel under the soles of the feet is one that we ignore. We are so disconnected from the earth as between the interface of the feet and the ground we always have shoes. It was a barrier that was broken.

What I really enjoyed about the entire experience was that I had no prior information on what I was going to see. Everything that I took away from the walk in terms of the names of the creatures I saw was by asking someone after noticing them in that environment.

The mangrove walk at night had a different vibe to it. I could not trust the dark enough to remove my shoes. I’d rather kill a crab than to step on one barefoot. On our walk, the strong smell of hydrogen sulphide filled our nostrils. As we walked through the pungent smelling mangrove, we spotted a the dog faced water snake. We entertained ourselves by feeding it two mudskippers.

We started at 5am for the intertidal walk as the high tide would come in at about 10 am. It was a long walk and there were many interesting creatures in the tidal pools.


As the tide was calm, we got to the breakfast point earlier than expected. While waiting for breakfast to arrive, I decided to lie on my back on the shore and feel the sun rays on my skin and listen to the sound of the waves. It was extremely calming and relaxing to just listen to the continuous sound of the waves.

We sat down to make sand sculptures by the shore. I tried to make a hermit crab.

At night, we went on a walk on the beach in attempt to spot the black-banded sea krait which is supposedly one of the most poisonous snakes in the world. We spotted 4 snakes that night.

What was most striking for me was the drastic change in scene between day and night. For me, I compare it to changing the set on stage in a theatre performance. It is the same space with different props, lightings and characters.

The Scuba diving experience for me was the highlight of the entire trip. I was very anxious about feeling claustrophobic underwater. The idea of breathing underwater is something that your brain takes a while to get used to. During the pool session, I constantly felt like I was choking underwater even though I had the regulator in my mouth to breath. I was determined not to give up and cave into my fears as I so badly wanted this experience. I focussed on breathing rhythmically in order to stay calm and to stay focussed. The urge to gag underwater disappeared and I was able to do all the exercises with ease.

On the day of the scuba diving, from the moment of the back flip to going down 10m deep into the ocean I was calm and composed. The ocean is such a beautiful and a surreal place. An alternative world that exists on the same planet. It’s like nothing I have ever seen before.

Getting hands on

One of the things I made during the trip was set of speakers made out of coconut shell. Unfortunately, since we didn't have a amplifier chip we could only connect it to a stereo system. However, I think its a nice first idea and can definitely undergo further prototyping. it would interesting to see how the acoustics might change with the use of different speakers and different coconut shells as the thickness and size would also effect the acoustics of the sound.

I also made a mosquito repellant from an existing DIY kit. I am very doubtful as to whether the circuit really repels the mosquitos. I would like research on it further.

Personal learnings - A Reflection

I think one of life's most complex struggles is learning to trust. Whether it is learning to trust nature, life, the people around you or yourself. We all have our comfort zones, our anxieties and our issues. When you set your mind to overcome fears that you might have there is always something rewarding waiting on the other side of it.

For me a big learning was actually getting over small conditioned habits. Fear of creepy crawlies, fear of walking barefoot, fear of the ocean, obsessing over clothes being clean, feeling uncomfortable getting wet in the rain,etc. As the week progressed, it was virtually impossible for me to exist and have a good time without letting go of all these conditioned habits.

Putting yourself outside your comfort zone (extreme space?) makes you learn something about life and yourself. (extends your senses?)

An Introduction to Electronics

Batteries, LED's and the Switch

Today we were formally introduced to electronics. We were also introduced to the breadboard for circuit prototyping.

Our first circuit was pretty straight forward, 3V battery connected to a LED. Our Second circuit was to connect an LED to a 9V battery.

After burning the LED out, we were introduced the to resistor. Using a 1kΩ resistor, we rigged up a circuit such that the burning out of the LED could be prevented.

Preventing Burning out of the LED

We explored the adding of a switch to the circuit. I tried the flip switch and the button switch. We then had to make out own switch. I used a nut and bolt as a switch.


I call this circuit the dancing ballerina as the lit LED circles the bolt as the nut is screwed on.

LDR, Capacitors, IC's and building an amplifier circuit

We then learnt about capacitors. We build a circuit that would slowly diffuse the LED when the battery was pulled out.

Hellocapacitor.jpg Workingogacapacitor.gif

We found out that in order for the LED diffuse slower we either had to replace the capacitor with a higher value or use a resistor that was higher in value. The problem with using a resistor with a higher value is that the LED doesn't burn as bright to begin with.

We learnt to make a circuit with which we could listen to the different qualities of light. By connecting an light-dependent resistor (LDR) in series with a resistor and connecting it to an amplifier we were able to listen to the change in light that the LDR was sensing. We then learnt to make our own amplifier circuit.

Error creating thumbnail: File missing


Rapid Prototyping

This week we worked as a group towards making an instruction guide for building the amplifier circuit. The documentation can be found below.

--> Explaining the Amplifier Circuit

Oscillator Circuit with the NAND IC


I built an oscillator circuit in which I wasn't able to hear the anything from the speaker. For a while, I thought I had made some mistake. Using an Spectrograph App on Marcs phone, we were able to see the frequencies as opposed to hearing them!!!


Colour Sensitive LDR

I decided to make an colour sensitive LDR circuit. For this purpose, I wrapped each of the LDRs with coloured cellophane sheet. When a light is shone on the LDR, the LDR now will only allow the frequencies that the coloured paper will allow to be passed through it.

Hence, when a red LED is shone on the blue wrapped LDR, the audio frequency doesn't spike. However, when a Blue LED is brought near it the audio frequency increases.


Exploring Pascos

Looking at the box full of Pascos, I looked through all the sensors to find one that I found most interesting. I picked up the EKG (ECG) sensor to work with.

I rigged up myself to the EKG and the entire group came together to explore it.


Brainstorming Extreme Places

As a group we brain stormed to the questions

1. What according to you is an Extreme Place.
2. What defines an Extreme place.

You can see our visual maps here.

//== Researching Tides ==

Ekalavya Toolkit

Exploring the Ekalavya Toolkit.

Ekalavyatoolkitexploration.jpg Exploringmicroscope.jpg

The Stupendous Diy Kit


Check out the The Stupendous Diy Kit.

Skills Mapping


See how we mapped our skills.

Seminar 1 Presentation

Click here to view the project proposal along with the presentation for Seminar 1.

Diving into making

Working with the Arduino

Since none of us have ever worked with the Arduino before Marc gace us an introduction to it.

After which we looked up some of the starter tutorials on the website and tried it out.

Once we got the hang of things, we made a couple simple circuits.

Me and Shloka made a keyboard using the Arduino.


We also tried the ultrasonic sensor out and made a simple experiement.


We connected the LDR as well as the temperature sensor and saw the values it outputed through the serial.println()



Watching Vikramranu making bots using vibration motors also got me interested in trying my hand at bots that could be made using a motor.

Improvising with the materials I had I made this.

Looking at a tutorial online, these were the first prototypes of the drawbot.

I found that the 9V motor was better for this kind of bot. I made another version after Yashas suggested that we hold a workshop for kids teaching them to make these bots.

Microrobotics Workshop

We conducted our first workshop. Click here to know more about how what we did and how it went.

Robotics workshop.jpg



Some reflections and insights based on the workshop experience can be found here!

The Light Following bot


I made a light following bot following this tutorial online.

Since I didn't have a N- channel MOSFET i used an NPN transistor (bc547) I used plastic balls instead of toothbrush bristles.

I also tried to see if my bot could move through water

How to take it forward? +Mindmap of possibilities+


Seminar 2 Presentation

You can find the presentation for Seminar 2 along with some thoughts here.

Persistence of vision and the Temperature sensor

After attending the Arduino day 2015, I got inspired by a project I saw there and I decided to adapt the code found online to output the value of the temperature sensor real-time.

POVtemp prototype1.jpg

First I tried outputting the value directly by entering a value in the code.


I then attached a temperature sensor and programmed the arduino to output real-time values. I also made a second prototype in order to be able to mount it on a motor.



I also kept the temperature sensor inbetween an ice pack and noted the values.

Here is a screenshot of the value hitting 0.

And there is a screen shot of when the sensor was taken out of the ice pack.

I discovered that the value wouldn't hit below zero as it needs a slight modification in circuit ,according to the data sheet of the LM35 to hit the -55 to 150 degrees range.

You can find the Arduino code here.

Circuitdiagram POV temp.png

^ the above circuit diagram was made using the fritzing software. download link ->

Playing around with the makeymakey


Playing with bananas mostly and one orange!

Arduino Synth

I made a synth look at this tutorial.


Heart Rate sensor

Experimenting with a heart rate sensor from seeed, I downloaded a sample [arduino code] from their website and connected the sensor to the arduino board.


Graph of the heart rate: Heartrategraph1.png

Graph of a bunch of other variables and heart rate: Heartrategraph2.png

Connecting Arduino to processing

Using these instructions in the link below, I got the arduino to communicate with Processing.

As a starting exercise I connected a potentiometer to the analog input and outputed the changing values real time through a graph in processing.

<<insert screenshot>>

Making an ARDUINO

So first we set out to make an arduino. From looking at tutorials online... we made a standalone breadboard arduino.


So great we made it... with a virgin atmega328.

Bootloading the Atmega328

Make the bootloader circuit. I used the arduino to programme the chip.



1. Open the ArduinoISP firmware (from Examples) to your Arduino board.
2. Select the board you are using under Tools > Board and Serial Port menus that correspond to the board you are using as the programmer (not the board being programmed).
3. Upload the ArduinoISP sketch to your board.
4. Change the programmar to Arduino as ISP under Tools> Programmar > Arduino as ISP.
5. Click Burn bootloader under the tools.

Your atmega is now bootloaded.

Arduino and the FDTI driver

so going back to the standalone attaching the FTDI driver we can serially communicate with the Atmega chip.

In order to be able to do this... We need to connect the FTDI chip to the circuit.

We used the FTDI basic by Sparkfun.

To connect the FTDI chip:

- place one lead of a 100nF capacitor to pin 1 and connect the DTR to the other leg of the capacitor. (make sure the leg of the capacitor connected to DTR isn't in line with the reset button switch (just a mistake I made))
- connect the TX to pin 2
- connect RX to pin 3
- connect 3v3 to positive
- connect GND to negative ground

To install the FDTI driver for a mac:

- Download the latest version of the driver from the FDTI website ->
- if you get an error which says cannot be opened by unidentified developer hold the control key and click it to bypass the gatekeeper.
- if that doesn't work either, go to system preferences > security and preferences and click on the lock on the bottom.
change the " allow apps to be downloaded" to "anywhere" and then try step 2 again.
-Hopefully, now you managed to follow the instructions and successfully install the driver.
-Restart your computer and your arduino software should show the new usb serial port.

you should now be able to use your DIY Arduino.



Here are some of the excerpts from the readings that I personally felt was important to me.

Shop Class as Soulcraft

What ordinary people once made, they buy; and what they once fixed for themselves, they replace entirely or hire an expert to repair, whose expert fix often involves installing a pre-made replacement part.

Today, in our schools, the manual trades are given little honor. The egalitarian worry that has always attended tracking students into “college prep” and “vocational ed” is overlaid with another: the fear that acquiring a specific skill set means that one’s life is determined.

Craftsmanship entails learning to do one thing really well, while the ideal of the new economy is to be able to learn new things, celebrating potential rather than achievement.*

Shop class presents an image of stasis that runs directly counter to what Richard Sennett identifies as “a key element in the new economy’s idealized self: the capacity to surrender, to give up possession of an established reality.” This stance toward “established reality,” which can only be called psychedelic, is best not indulged around a table saw.

Of the Smith-Hughes Act’s two rationales for shop class, vocational and general ed, only the latter emphasized the learning of aesthetic, mathematical, and physical principles through the manipulation of material things (Dewey’s “learning by doing”). It is not surprising, then, that the act came four years after Henry Ford’s innovation of the assembly line.

A man whose needs are limited will find the least noxious livelihood and work in a subsistence mode.

Other readings links

[ |The Fine Art of Electronics: Paper-based Circuits for Creative Expression]