Whether you’re ready to convert your garage into a full blown laboratory or just want to try a few fun experiments with your friends, here are some projects to inspire and to DIY.
Anouk Wipprecht designed this playful unicorn horn to aid ADHD researchers by making EEG sensors a more comfortable and playful experience for children. The sensors track changes in brain waves that indicate increased focus, which then triggers cameras to start recording the experience.
Makers are exploring a growing number of neural interfaces to control devices, but Greg Gage of Backyard Brains uses electromyography, or EMG, to control something more interesting than a robot — he’s using it to control humans! With DIY human-to-human interfacing you can send signals from your muscles to your friend’s and make them move under your command.
Legos for Biochemistry
Researchers at the University of California, Riverside created a Lego-like system of building blocks that can be used to create biological or chemical instruments on the fly. The blocks, known as Multifluidic Evolutionary Components (MECs) each serve simple functions like valving, pumping, mixing, controlling, and sensing, and can rearranged to serve different functions.
3D Print Your Lab Gear
3D-printed lab equipment is a great way to begin setting up your home lab. There are a wide variety of open source designs with the citizen scientist in mind, including Raspberry Pi microscopes, centrifuges, syringe pumps, and much, much more — this journal article lists a full range of the options available to makers.
OpenBCI’s boards and components allow amateur scientists to easily and affordably access the EEG, EKG, and EMG (brain, heart, and muscle) activity of a subject. Through its open protocol, you can track health data and brainwave activity and use those measured values to trigger and control any number of other programs or projects. One cool implementation: Controlling a toy helicopter throttle using just your brain’s alpha waves.
The BITalino (r)evolution is a microcontroller with built-in biosignal sensing modules making it perfect for transforming your body into input. Use this board to play the classic pong video game by moving your arm to move the paddle, or get creative using input from your heart activity, brain waves, skin conductance, or muscle signals.
Replicate DNA at Home
Being able to replicate DNA is a necessary part of experiments that involve mapping genomes, detecting viruses and bacteria, and diagnosing genetic disorders, but the lab equipment that enables this replication can cost upwards of $10,000. This DIY polymerase chain reaction (PCR) thermocycler setup is an affordable alternative targeted for high schoolers.
Open Source Biohacking Class
BioHack Academy offers a 10-week online course that covers the principles of biotech and how to construct 14 pieces of DIY lab equipment. Even if you don’t join one of the sessions, the group has videos from past classes up on their site and the files for the lab equipment on GitHub.
If you were building your own science lab in the 1960s, you were probably using Raymond E. Barrett’s wonderful resource to equip it. This updated version includes Barrett’s original plans for equipment and experiments along with modern suggestions from Windell H. Oskay of Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories.