Arduino Uno microcontroller
buck toot driven ....
64 inch Ant Farm Habitat. That would have had temperature controlled lighting if it were not for that firmware "issue". More on that later.
Yes, this ant farm is fairly large but it makes for cool nature entertainment as well as a constantly moving piece of art. With a total depth of ½” it sits flush against a wall allowing the paint to fill in the tunnels as the ants dig. The LED's stick to the glass, allowing neat color patterns.
Respect the Ant.
All the disclaimers that need apply are in effect. Just a forewarning about the ants, these suckers bite and bite hard enough to launch my poor friend from a squatting position to a full blown back flipping, somersaulting, front hand spring reaction.
To further illustrate this point, yet keeping it "clean" for the whole family" I was in the men's room, sitting down, having a meeting with myself, when low and behold a formidable creature emerges from the gap between the floor and the door. This ant decided to take a stroll I surmised and apparently needed to use the restroom too. When it became aware of my presence, I believe it did not appreciate me being there. This is due to the fact that this sucker went into battle mode or something. I could clearly see it had spread it's jaws and wanted a piece of me. With my dignity of no concern, I requested the help from my girlfriend. Upon entering the bathroom she looked in horror as I was trapped on the toilet as this insect prevented me from going to the restroom. She stepped on it and it appeared to flatten for a moment. Suddenly, it like did some terminator thing and got back up. Point is BE CAREFUL. They BITE. They STING. They DO BOTH AT THE SAME TIME.
Note: These rogue ants didn't happen as a design flaw but rather as a learning curve as to how best get the ants into the farm.
You will need to acquire the following items:
Ant Farm Related Items:
Double paned window (64”x20”)
Bags of various kinds of sand
Microprocessor Related Items:
Specific electronic component information is referenced in step.
Inductor (16 turns or greater)
Capacitor ( approx 10uf)
Additional Ant Farm Related Items:
A solid support ledge for the bottom***
It is my best recollection that after all was said and done... Only $30 max was spent.
Particulars about some items:
Double Paned window
Obviously it can be of any size but I think the thickness was important. It allows the walls to highlight the tunnels allowing a design to emerge. The lighting from the LED stuck to the glass and appeared to penetrate the sand creating a cool glow effect.
At first I was going to just put in one color of sand. Then I began thinking that it would be interesting to see how much the ants displaced. This led me to the only logical conclusion. Yes, you guessed it, layering it with different colors and grit. It provided a interesting look into how far some of these suckers actually move stuff and it looked neat.
Black RTV Silicone
I tried a few different types of sealant but this seemed the best, cheapest and was easy to work with. There maybe a better product but this worked perfect.
I used an Arduino I purchased from adafruit. Having no experience in anything I was able to get it working with the tutorials and practice. The Uno has a firmware problem that totally messed up my plans to have temperature controlled lighting. Complete let down and at the worst time. I was running through samples, examples, modifications for days and didn't have one problem. Soon as I finish a code for the temp sensor it goes into a looping situation with the serial aspect and it really is a bummer.
The ants can be ordered online at Uncle Milton Company of the Milton Bradley fame. A couple vials can be ordered for a mere $13 http://miloserver.com/unclemilton.com/?view=item&itemId=EGA2 and last a couple months. The warning that they post on the site should be taken rather serious. As mentioned before, these suckers bite. Although they aren't poisonous they sure as heck make you think twice about handling them. As with any insects, when you have them contained, simply put them in the refrigerator for a minute or two and they pretty much hibernate. This allows you to transfer them from container to habitat with ease. You can use this method when you capture insects and want to put them in your ant farm for “educational purposes.” Obtaining any insect, including but not limited to: spiders, earwigs, centipedes (insane), catepillars, aphids (soon to be hostages) far surpass any nature show you may have seen in your lifetime. It's art, nature, science, technology, instructable, diy and educational all rolled up into one.
Step 1: Step 1 Prep Habitat
Finding the most suitable foundation for the habitat came for me as stroke of luck. It turned out to be perfect. I happened to come across a nice sized double paned window that a friend was throwing out. The window was sealed with a black rubber over an aluminum support. This seal extended around each side of the window which made a good seal at some point. However, there was a tear along one of the long edges which permitted environmental factors to get wreak havoc on the inside. To my surprise it was incredibly hard to clean the inside of a double pained window. Many of you may have known this already but apparently, I missed that Instructable. The hard water spots were killing me. What is up with the deposit residue? If hard water was a bodybuilder then Arnold was present and inside my soon to be ant habitat. I did what I could and moved on.
Clamping the window between 4x4's I was able to set up a good workspace. The rubber was damaged along all sides of the window along with the aforementioned breach in the aluminum seal on one side. With a razor blade I removed the remaining rubber that covered all four sides exposing the aluminum seal. Next, the side of the window that had the breach was a starting point for designating a “top”. I used needle nose pliers and some snips to peel the aluminum back and cut it approximately 4” from each of the ends. This will eventually be used for the lighting and habitat access. I left the 4” on each side to help with renegade ants that may break the laws of gravity and escape containment.*
I applied the RTV sealant where the old had been creating a nice black frame like effect around the window while adding a protective barrier for the glass. I wanted to make sure there were no holes in the habitat. The only way I could think of to do this was fill it with water. “...and the people rejoiced” because there were no holes!
It should be mentioned that the RTV sealant has a very strong odor. Anyone that is reading this obviously is aware that proper ventilation is necessary when using this product. I thought it was suited the job just fine. It protected the glass, stuck well, sealed well, touch, durable, etc...
* This would be bad. Real bad.