Finally, you can add that very special member to your online social network—your houseplant.
Why would a plant want to join your network? To let you know when it’s thirsty, of course. Also to regularly report on its moisture level and to periodically thank you for watering it.
The network we’re talking about is Twitter, a group-oriented “microblogging” tool. This Web service keeps networks of friends, colleagues, businesses, and total strangers in contact through barrages of short messages known as “tweets.” And everybody from Barack Obama to the New York Times to my niece seems to be Twittering these days.
So why not Phil, the wilting philodendron that lives in your bedroom?
All you need is a clever do-it-yourself kit from a company called Botanicalls (cost: $89.95). With it you can build an electronic moisture-sensing system that enables one lucky houseplant to join your Twitter group. (Have a look at one houseplant’s tweets.)
This is a fairly geeky project, involving circuit boards, capacitors, ethernet cables, and a soldering iron, among other special equipment. But the kit’s instructions look clear, deliberate, and user-friendly. For a preview, see the company’s getting started and assembly page.
FYI, Botanicalls started out several years ago with a kit that enabled your plant to contact you by telephone, which they now call the Classic kit. If you need a break while you’re building the Twitter kit, I recommend you periodically watch the hilarious video that explained the Classic. It’s at the end of this post.
And, check out this scifi short story inspired by this Science Cheerleader blog post!
> Topics: Biology, plants, computers, electronics.
> Location: At home, or anywhere you have a plant.
> Duration: About 20 steps to assembly, then installation and testing. Maybe one long session or several separate sessions of a few hours each.
> Cost: $89.95 for the kit, which includes the required electronic components.
> Gear: Basic tools for assembling electronics such as needle-nose pliers, soldering iron, wire snips, etc. A computer with Internet access is also needed.
> Level of difficulty: Pretty technical.
Botanicalls “Classic Kit” Video (a hoot)
Go, Science Cheerleader! Your project-finder is a marvelous resource. What an exciting time for innovation. See Time Magazine’s Best Inventions of 2008:
” In the past, only élite researchers had access to their genetic fingerprints, but now personal genotyping is available to anyone who orders the service online and mails in a spit sample.”
Talk about bringing Science to the masses–Hey, isn’t that YOUR mandate?
It’d be an even cooler device if it would use Geobacter (an electricity generating species of bacterium) to generate the electricity needed to run the device.
My name is Gaby, and I am a high school student who loves dancing and medical science, and I am so inspired by your story. It made me realize that I don’t have to go just one route, that I can go many. I want to grow up and help the world in science and leadership while still being able to be a “girly girl”. Sometimes I think that it’s not possible to do both, but you are a great reminder to me that I can achieve both! A lot of the time I get the “Oh, you’re just a airhead blonde who only cares about dancing and having fun” line, and it’s hard to show others that I am so much more while still keeping my modesty. I’m in all International Baccalaureate classes, and I am heavily involved in my school leadership program. I want to show others that I’m a smart girl too; it’s just hard sometimes.
You are a such wonderful role model. Thank you so much! Keep up the hard work!
If the plant is being eaten, does it Twitter with, “Help! I’m being eaten by a MFRFGHRFHMGMMMM..”?