Museduino Creator Miriam Langer Named OSHWA Trailblazer Fellow
The idea of the Museduino was born in early 2015. The Cultural Technology Development Lab (CTDL), an ad-hoc team of faculty and students in the Media Arts and Technology at New Mexico Highlands University had been grappling with the role of supporting the development of responsive exhibits for museums, historic sites, and traveling exhibits. The team found they were repeatedly making versions of the same thing – different sensors (proximity, capacitive touch, buttons) and actuators – lights, audio, motor movement, video – similar processes with different inputs/outputs. The challenge was often the maintenance, cost, and the footprint size (ie- sensor in a doorway, actuator across a gallery space). So, after lots of discussions and proof-of-concept work, Stan, Rianne, Miles, and Miriam developed the Museduino.
In the summer of 2015, Rianne Trujillo and Miles Tokunow, then graduate assistants leading the project, shipped version 2.0 (1.0 was internal) to some friends who had agreed to try it out. After receiving feedback the team built some “first one is free!” demos for their cultural partners, and continued to develop and refine a modular, open-source Arduino shield with external boards that could respond with no detectable delays using CAT5 cable at distances of up to 100 feet from the central microcontroller.
The team led Museduino workshops at ASTC (Association of Science and Technology Centers) in 2015, Museums and the Web in 2016, and INST-INT in 2017. Since the CTDL was something all members squeezed into their full-time academic schedules, they posted documentation and tutorials as they could, but finding the time to fully document both the technical iterations, code examples, and project demos/tutorials was difficult. The OSHWA Trailblazers Fellowship will be dynamic resource to revitalize the project after 18 months of being away from the lab due to COVID restrictions of state museums being closed.
The OSHWA Trailblazers fellowship will allow the current team, Rianne Trujillo (research/technical lead), Miriam Langer (PI, researcher) and Becca Sharp (graduate assistant, technical assistant, exhibit designer) to update the online documentation (museduino.org and GitHub repository) including tutorials, schematics, soldering instructions, and project examples. Along with this, each team member will be writing a textbook – with case studies from our various projects with museums, national parks, historic sites and installation artists, addressing issues around design, installation, and example applications. This document will be posted on the Museduino site, and distributed through OSHWA, along with partners at a few other universities and organizations.
Like most OSH projects, Musedino’s work would benefit from a larger community of users/practitioners who could modify the work, make changes specific to their needs, and share back to GitHub or another shared repository.
Internally at NMHU, they are working with faculty in the Forestry Institute to help their students work with sensors spread out over a large area (where wireless communication is impractical). It may seem that running CAT5/6 cables is impractical, but it does take some uncertainty out of the hardware setup, and Museduino easily accommodates 50+ meter runs in four directions from the central microcontroller (operating on battery or w/ solar).
Primarily many may think of Museduino as an OSH tool for arts/culture/exhibits – as they say, “The street finds its own uses for things”, or in this case, the forest does (apologies to William Gibson).
About the team:
Miriam Langer (she/her) is a professor of media arts/cultural technology at New Mexico Highlands University, an Hispanic Serving public institution in northeastern New Mexico. Miriam has been a professor of multimedia & interactivity with a focus on cultural technology at NMHU since 2001. In 2005, she initiated a partnership with the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs and has since worked with cultural institutions (museums, historic sites, national parks and libraries) around New Mexico (and elsewhere) to use emerging technology and open source solutions for these organizations. Since 2005, 268 projects have been completed at 62 cultural institutions. She is one of the founders of the Museduino, along with Rianne Trujillo, Miles Tokunow, and Stan Cohen – an open hardware platform for responsive exhibits and installation art. Her partners for this fellowship are Rianne Trujillo, instructor of software design and co-developer of the Museduino and Becca Sharp, an MFA student in Cultural Technology.Museduino.org, cctnewmexico.org
Rianne Trujillo is a professor of Software Systems Design at New Mexico Highlands University where she teaches web programming languages, experimental interfaces, physical computing/ internet of things. As the lead developer of the NMHU Cultural Technology Development Lab, Rianne has worked on Museduino and several exhibits for cultural institutions using open source software and hardware.
Becca Sharp (she/her) is a physical computing and fabrication artist with different focuses such as conservation and technology as well as technology and mental health. She has created projects using recycled materials, reused electronics and information about climate change, and is currently focused on mental health. During her undergraduate studies she had her first gallery showing and was in multiple art shows. She strives to create her work based around empathy and understanding. Her work often places one in “another’s shoes” to help spread information about current matters that need attention. She works primarily with 3D modeling, video game design, generative art through coding, soldering and physical computing. She has worked with museums and visitor centers around New Mexico including Bradbury Science Museum (2017), Meow Wolf (2018), Jemez Historic Site Visitor Center (2019), and New Mexico Museum of Art (2020). She is currently working on her MFA with mental health and technology as the center of her thesis, she is also teaching a course in her program using open-source softwares Unity 3D and Blender.