Building bGeigies in Aizu

Hikone 2012-12-19

From One Spike to 45 Blinking LED’s.

From one Spike on a Software Scope in a Brazil Bar in Tokyo to 45 Blinking LEDs, the Sound of Fake Digital Crickets in a Science Room in Aizu. (A short summery of part of the flow of the radiation recorded from Cesium in Japan to SAFECAST webpage).
It all started with a short Skype call after having tried the satellite phone. Pieter Franken and others from the “block hoofden” group (a Dutch embassy initiative for organizing Dutch citizen abroad) trying to connect with each other and collecting information how bad the damage of the earthquake was. The next day EenVandaag (Dutch TV channel) called us (Yuka Hayashi and me) to ask if we were willing to go with a reporter and cameraman to Tohoku.
After some doubts we accepted the project. On 2011-03-12 we went to Sendai to visit the family of Pieter in Ishinomaki to make a story for EenVandaag. On the way we were constantly updated with information from Pieter. Sometimes, nearly hourly, he reported to us about the situation of the Daiichi nuclear plant. It became clear that we could not take the road on the east side of Japan and we decided to take the west side, though Nagano-ken.
After 4 days in Tohoku the Dutch TV crew was called back and they offered us the flight with them to Holland. We decided to go with them and see how the situation would develop. In Holland we were often in contact with Pieter to take about ideas how to get a simple measurement for radiation going. Pieter was working on his Iphone bGeigie and at that time I was researching the possibilities to have the same software running on an Android phone.

bGeigie start:
After being in Holland for 6 weeks, we decided to move to Hikone (Shiga-ken) to prevent living in the “radioactive path” of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant plant. Pieter send me a few LND715 to work on a small prototype. Also he sent me schematics. But could not get the high voltage to work.
Bar Hacking:
Then at a visit to Tokyo, Pieter and some other people sat down in Pieter’s favorite Brazil bar at Shibuya. I showed him and Akiba the prototype. I pulled out solder iron and other tools. Akiba-san mentioned we really needed to oscilloscope to troubleshoot it. To his and Pieter’s surprise I pulled out my software oscilloscope and we started to measure at the bar. The term “Bar Hacking” was born. Pieter suddenly mentioned he had forgotten to add a 10mega ohm resistor in the design. Lucky I brought one. And after installing it the first spike appear and the first radiation beep was audible. From there on to 45 blinking LEDS at Akazawa Elementry school, Aizu-misatomachi Fukushima is the rest of this story.
Aizu, Fukushima start:
Comes by September 2011, while daily reporting radiation levels in Hikone, and we (Yuka and me) got a call from a friend to help him with transforming an old school (Akazawa Elementry school) into a datacenter. By doing that, creating work for locals and supplying the local communities with learning opportunities. It felt funny, trying to get away from Tokyo to be exposed to less radiation, and then going to Fukushima. It turned out the levels of radiation in Aizu were a bit lower then Tokyo and we decided to stay. SAFECAST planned some trips to Koriyama but the plans did get cancel a few times. But after a few months Joe and Pieter visited the school with CEO Dan Sythe (Medcom) and Ray Ozzie (former MS). After having seen the possibilities of the school SAFECAST decided to start building bGiegies at science room in the school. I asked two local friends with solder experience and with time to help out. They turned out to be so good that they made most of the bGiegie’s/Ninja’s in Japan. Joe arrived with a lot of parts and a sample Ninja. We, Joe, Kido-san, Umemia-san and me, started to check the parts and discuss how to build tem. Lucky we had lots of space and the desks from the science room turned out to be very useful. The first time it was cold in Aizu and we had created a kind of big kotatsu and had additional heating. But still it was cold. We did get most of the parts soldered/checked and tested. Some cold solder joins (not related to any temperature), some parts misplaced, but after some trouble shooting all worked. The software we uploaded from a PC to the Arduino board for the Ninja’s was simple. Just a jumper and two switches and then upload the program. Joe left after the first few were made. When Joe left, he had to take the only bGeigie we had with him, so we could not test the other Ninja’s. I modified the software of one Ninja to be a fake bGeigie. That way we (Kido-san, Umemia-san,some staff from STP and me) could test and finish them the following week.
Buiding bGeigies:
The following step was building bGiegies themselves. So far it had been just one or maximum 5 at one time. The Ardiuno Chibi boards from Akiba were not so hard to assemble. A few components were added to the standard boards. Joe brought about 35 Pelican boxes to be use for the new bGiegies and lots of parts. We manage to make 5 in a weekend. The bGiegie’s needed to be programed for their individual ID and the SD flash cards needed to be formatted and labeled. The building of the bGiegies themselves was a evolving process of trying to be build will modifying/improving them. Kind of Agile bGiegie building. Most time was spent trying to figure out the easiest way to assemble the units. Machiko-san, a local volunteer did a great job on sewing the straps for the bGeigies.
Pieter sent the final boxes for the units a few days later and the bGiegies were distributed. A few problems with not writing to the SD cards and not locking of the GPS’s were quickly fixed. With the arrival of the new ADA fruits low power GPS’s the bGiegies worked much longer and more reliable. The advantage of using the school in Aizu was the local support SAFECAST could over to the bGeigeis operating in Fukushima.

The last batch of bGiegie we build in Aizu were a series of 15 bGiegies plus. Also that was an Agile project. Figuring out how to make the construction for the batteries, fitting in the components and make it easy to assemble. It turned out that the new design was much more labor intensive. But the charging, operating of the bGiegies plus was much improved. Finally we did build/tested 15 of them. Then all testing at the same time. 45 Blinking blue power lights and the chirping sound of 15 inspectors was a nice scene.That was probably the last batch produced at Akazawa Elementry school, since the project I was working on in Aizu was finished for me at the 1st of November. Now back in Kasai, preparing for the next project, in the meantime nearly daily measuring the radiation levels here close to Oi and keep a close watch at the SAFECAST mailing list. Some plans to help Pieter with the new bGiegie Nano kit.
Pictures of the building of the bGeigie’s are on-line at.
Video of  EenVanDaag
Building bGeigie’s
More bGiegies+
bGiegies Aizu
Testing bGiegie’s Plus
Video of blinking, chirping bGeigie’s plus