Introduction: Shake Well: a Musical Aquarium of Glowing Plankton

Bioluminescent Plankton is a tiny organism that emits light when stressed. We want to take this magical light produced by bioluminescent plankton and translate it into music. We do so by putting the plankton in a transparent orb, then shake it to stimulate the plankton. A light sensor in the same dark room will pick up the light produced by the plankton, and our Arduino unit will render that signal into sound.

Credits: Our project was inspired by " Singing Plant. Make Your Plant Sing With Arduino, Touche and a Gameduino" and " Touche for Arduino: Advanced Touch Sensing." Instead of making your plant sing, we decided to make music from a living aquarium. We referenced " Arduino, Sensors, and MIDI." People who worked on this project are Henry Kim, Charlie Denton, and Edward Zhang. Edward brought up the concept of using Bioluminescent Plankton's light as the source of input, and handled getting the Plankton and the container, as well as writing the Instructables. The concept was further developed through collaboration and the team decided on making a sonification of the light signals. Charlie made the first mock up of the Arduino unit with photocell and completed a website for the project. He also came up with the name of the project and led the presentations. However, Edward and Charlie struggled with the issue that the prototype only produced a boring mono tone responding to the light levels. Henry made significant contributions by finalizing the hardware and writing the code, which solved the biggest challenge in this project--transforming Arduino readings into MIDI. He also helped with putting the coding steps on the website and the Instuctables.

Step 1: Components and Tools

Components needed:

Step 2: Assembling the Arduino Board

You need

  • Arduino Uno board
  • A photocell component from the Arduino package
  • Jump wires
  • Arduino IDE

Assemble the board according to the graph provided

Step 3: Turn the Photocell Readings Into MIDI

While I was looking through how we can manipulate the number from a photocell to music, the first option was tone() function within Arduino. I played with the sample code and was able to hear sound, but wasn't satisfied. I wanted to use external software to make different sound. Therefore, I was able to find some information about Maxuino and Firmata. With Maxuino and Firmata uploaded on Arduino, I could connect my Arduino to Max 7(professional music software), and see the data coming from a photocell. However, the software was not easy to use and I was not able to find any good tutorial on how I could achieve my goal. In the end, I chose to find a different solution.

I found one at Instructables. "Arduino, Sensors, and MIDI" was super helpful on how I could use various sensors on Arduino to change the data to MIDI output. I used a sample code for a photocell and, with an extra software, was able to get the data from Arduino to MIDI output on GarageBand. -- Henry Kim

Step 4: Test Your Product

Congrats! You are done.

Put the Arduino board and the Plankton in the same dark room and test your product!