We initially began researching bio-luminescence for a hack idea because we wanted to do something completely different than everyone else-- not a software hack, and not just hardware, but what might actually be Hack the North's first science hack! The idea was to find a way to sustain, control, and manipulate organic light created by bio-luminescent organisms and apply the principles to off-grid chemical lighting.
The more research we did, the more the scope of this project was revealed. We discovered many real-world applications for our initial idea, but as the hackathon progressed we realized that we would have to pivot our project to stay within the given timeline. Our final product is a simple showcase of very complex bio-luminescence at work outside of its normal environment.
The team spent a ridiculous amount of hours before the event working to gain access to a laboratory on campus for the weekend. We tested, manipulated, and explored a protein called GFP, researching its properties and creating new applications for the chemical. The team also jumped head-first into using a Raspberry Pi, Leap Motion Controller, and some other hardware without any prior experience-- it was tough to get started, but was an awesome learning opportunity for each of us.
Being completely new to the tools we were working with caused quite a few issues, where we were learning to use hardware from scratch, or completely clueless as to how to program something. In the lab, restrictions placed on what we could test because of how much protein we had led us to keep downsizing ideas for the scope of this event. To create our more promising applications, we'd need much more time in the lab with more resources to learn from.
As a team, we are all proud to have been part of a hack that is completely different from the rest, showing that hackathons don't only apply to programming and software.
We each learned valuable skills, but more importantly were taught from experience not to be over-optimistic about the easiness of a task.
Next, we're planning on either exploring our research with more detail since we've had a huge amount of support and inquiry from professors and others on the topic; we may also try something completely new, just to see what comes of it.