How to make (almost) anything

Tim Fallon - 2014


**End of semester note! This project wasn't my actual final project, which you can see here if you so desire. I didn't choose this project largely due to the fact that the moss work to set it up would be a bit labor intensive (there is no "rapid prototyping" with biology). I could have done it with garden variety moss, but that's not as cool the purpose of having a bioelectronic feedback loop using genetically engineered moss.**

Physcometrilla patens is an extensively studied moss model organism. P. patens has a collection of mutant and transgenic strains, the most complete and well annotated genomic resources of any moss, and established protocols for genetic engineering. This makes P. patens an ideal organism for outreach activities demonstrating classical genetics and moss biology, as well as demonstrations of interesting transgenic strains to the greater public. Typically P. patens is grown under controlled conditions in an incubator. I want to make automated physical structures to enable the easy growth and maintenance of P. patens in any room. Most simply, this would provide an integrated scaffold for the cultivation of P. patens as an aesthetically pleasing house plant. In a more complex sense, this structure could measure periodically measure interesting parameters from the plant, such as status of the internal circadian clock, in order actuate a response from the structure, such as a change in watering time, nutrient composition etc, thereby making an interesting biologic/electronic feedback loop. This structure would enable the movement of P. patens out of culture dishes in the lab and into more public spaces for personal use, tangible science demonstrations, and long-term science exhibits. Ultimately this project could be a foundation for structures which interface electronics, biology, and biotechnology to explore each in an interesting way.

Design goals:

  • ~1x1x3' (length width height)
  • Physical structure to support vertical moss growth
  • Nutrient reservoir at the top of the structure for automatic watering
  • Monitor liquid levels to water moss when needed
  • Heat backpanel to keep moss at optimal temperature

  • Week 1 - Inkscape model
    Inkscape model
    Solidworks model of base (also my first ever 3D CAD model)