Customer Feature- Meelyn Pandit

Customer Feature- Meelyn Pandit

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Introducing TinyCircuits user and former intern, Meelyn Pandit, a 3rd year Ph.D. student at the University of Oklahoma Biology Department, who studies avian responses to climate change. Meelyn obtained his B.S. in Biology at Indiana University where he began conducting research on bird behavior in the Ketterson Lab. Meelyn recently completed a summer internship here because we have been working with Oklahoma State to develop new tracking devices to study avian migration. Meelyn says he has always had an interest in wildlife ecology just not necessarily for birds. Then he started working with the dark-eyed junco and it's singing behavior and became fascinated by birds and their behavior. Meelyn created the Smart Nest Box during his master's degree because he wanted to see what adult bluebirds were feeding their nestlings. 

Small cameras that could fit inside the Smart Nest were too expensive, so he decided o build his own with the Raspberry Pi B+ and the PiNoir camera. At the time, Meelyn had no electrical engineering or computer programming experience, but through online tutorials, he taught himself the basics to get the Raspberry Pi to record video and audio inside the Smart Nest. This interest led him to apply to the Ph.D. program at the University of Oklahoma where he began working with Dr. Eli Bridge and Dr. Jermy Ross, who are also interested in developing open-source data loggers such as a radio frequency identification (RFID) reader based on the Arduino MO and an affordable radio telemetry transmitter and receiver. Building these open-source types of equipment allow labs with low funding or who are just starting, attempt to answer interesting and new questions without breaking the bank. 

The latest version of the Smart Nest that Meelyn developed during his summer internship here at TinyCircuits allows for live streaming and environmental data collection using YouTube and Cayenne. He has added multiple Whisker sensors for Temperature, Humidity, and Pressure using the Whisker Pi Hat. This makes coding much easier because you do not need any other peripheral devices (HDMI monitor, mouse, keyboard, internet connection, etc.) In Meelyn's field of study, RFID readers are all based on the Arduino Platform, so integrating the Whisker Platform was simple. However, figuring out how to transmit the audio data through the 433 MHZ transceiver module was Meelyn's greatest struggle. With help from our lead engineer Ben Rose, Meelyn was able to send data through the radio transmitters and was able to get his microphone to work to measure the vocal activity of birds. This microphone will allow them to measure the vocal activity without needing to be in the field at the crack of dawn! 

Meelyn classifies himself as an "Eco-Maker." Most of the devices he builds focus on increasing access to nature or collecting data for his ornithology projects. By integrating Making and Ecology more affordable data loggers can be made for research purposes, and it helps to get people like engineers and computer scientists interested in nature and ecology. 

Meelyn says,

"I hope that the Smart Nest makes data collection easier for scientists and lets us study new behaviors of nesting birds. For birding and Maker enthusiasts, I hope this project increases access to wildlife for those that may not necessarily have ways to experience nature. Studies show that reconnecting with nature helps our mental health, and one way to reconnect with nature is with the Smart Nest."

In the future, Meelyn plans on making the Smart Nest project open source and available to the public. He would like to develop a Citizen Science Project in which people use the Smart Nest to record nestling bird behavior during extreme weather events to determine how bird behavior is changing due to climate change. He also hopes to continue work on the microphone birdie backpack for another project that is examining vocal activity in desert birds, to determine if dry environments affect singing behavior. Long-term Meelyn intends to become a research professor where he can continue his research on how climate change and other anthropogenic factors affect animal behavior and hopes to develop mitigation strategies to help endangered animals overcome these sudden environmental changes.

Meelyn's word of advice for other makers, 

"Be persistent and be confident in yourself! Making is a huge time investment but if you know how to ask the right questions and know where to look you will be able to solve your coding problem or finish your build. I had no idea that Making was even a possibility for someone like me, but now that I am in it I am enjoying every second of it." 

 

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