Full Body Math


The “Kinect with math” is a math game utilizing the new RGB-D sensor called Kinect, developed and distributed by Microsoft. The goal of this software is to help users to learn how to solve equations, according to 7th grade math curriculum, by using motion control to appeal students’ interests. At the end, users should understand the topic of solving two or more steps equations better and visualize the entire process.

zip file to download

Building the RPI Community Sensor


by Kirk Jalbert

Photos Credit: Kirk Jalbert

In the Fall of 2010 I began a collaborative project with two fellow graduate students at RPI to design an open-source modular environmental sensing platform. This would be used in educational workshops, but also to facilitate conversations about how environmental monitoring could be conducted at low-cost and without a base requirement of having advanced technical skills. These ideas were built on a large field of research in ‘participatory sensing’ also called ‘citizen sensing’.

In the Spring of 2011 we were given an opportunity to work with the RPI Multidisciplinary Lab (MDL) which allowed us to contract a capstone design team of 12 engineering students to develop the sensor platform. Typically the MDL is contracted to provide solutions for industry partners like GE, Boeing, and IBM, and has facilities encompassing over 6,000sq.ft. of equipment for prototyping, fabricating, and workspace. Working with the team was a windfall for the project, although not without complications.

After much effort negotiating open copyright with the MDL administration, the MDL engineering team built their platform on an Arduino architecture, which allowed us to switch core processing components to off the shelf hardware as needed. In the end we came up with a hybrid solution of custom-MDL hardware and off-the-market hardware to bring into the field. The end device was capable of sensing volatile organic compounds (VOCs), carbon monoxide (CO), temperature, relative humidity, and soil moisture.

The MDL team’s final deliverable poster can be seen in the images above. The final presentation photos were taken by Mark Anderson of the MDL lab.

Conflicting opinions on open source

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by Kirk Jalbert

During the development of the RPI sensor in collaboration with the MDL team Chris, Louis and I ran into a rather serious problem over differing opinions on how copyright should be applied to the completed software and hardware. While the Statement of Work stated that the project would be fully open source as seen in the excerpt (below), the MDL administration decided all creations exiting the MDL lab were property of the lab…

3.0 Objectives
We will create a prototype environmental sensor system, using mixtures of proprietary and non-proprietary components.  This sensor system will operate as a generic platform from which a larger infrastructure can be built.  Designers of custom sensor technology, such as Sawyer/Shing and others will then be able to utilize this infrastructure to deploy their technologies into the SOOS sensor community.

The MDL team will be primarily responsible for developing the sensor system/hardware and device interface with the end goal of launching a stable prototype by end of Spring semester 2011.  During this time Gutierrez will be developing the software infrastructure for the SOOS online community. While much of the basic online structure will be built on available Open Source technology, some special-purpose utilities will be developed in partnership with the MDL team to support the sensor device.  The MDL team will also work in collaboration with the oversight team to create supporting documents and educational tools for the community of users (e.g. circuit diagrams, instruction modules, physical layouts and other documents not normally part of open source but critical to the SOOS community).

The crux of the problem was a core disagreement over what “open source” implied as an educational directive in research projects. As far as we were concerned, if the project was developed with open source principles and the parties agreed to the language in the contractual SOW all was well. Various offices across campus, however, each had their own definition of what constituted our intellectual property vs. the inherent right of the school to claim ownership over work done in their facilities. Ultimately, the ruling decision was made by the “Office of Technology Commercialization” that the SOW was indeed a binding contract and the Open Source agreement had to stand.

Interestingly, the MDL administration agreed to this mediation by justifying it as a financial argument:

In this regard, our general policy and stated objective in the Design Lab has been to identify sustainable funding sources for service oriented projects that will facilitate our working for charitable causes in to the future.  As an exception to this general policy and in the interest of promoting entrepreneurial initiatives on the part of the Navajo and Ghanaian people, I’m proposing that we (i.e., RPI and the Design Lab) do not claim IP protection on either of these two projects.

Nevertheless, this is a far more complicated story than I can tell in this blog entry. If you’d like to see the full version go see the 2-part presentation I gave to the Rensselaer Center for Open Source in July of 2011 here: