Wayland Kosher Kitchen

I took on the task of creating clear signage for the new kosher kitchen opening in Wayland House dorm for student use.

In order to follow kosher dietary laws, meat and dairy must be kept strictly separate. In addition to not mixing meat and milk ingredients, utensils that are used for meat may not be used to prepare dairy foods, and vice versa, necessitating separate sets of dishes. Though in practice there’s ways to use a single stove/oven for both meat and milk, for the sake of reducing mistakes in a shared space, the Wayland Kosher Kitchen has separate sinks, stoves, ovens, fridges, and countertop space for both meat and dairy.

The Wayland Kosher Kitchen, before each side of the kitchen had been designated for either meat or dairy.

In designing signage, several user experience factors came into play. In kosher kitchens, words from multiple languages are often used to describe the type of food or utensil. For example, one might say that a fork is milchig, using the Yiddish word for dairy. Since the English, Hebrew and Yiddish words for meat/dairy are all frequently used, I wanted to include all three on main signage, to make things more clear for anyone who might not know one of the words.

I also wanted to make sure that the content of the signs was not the only thing distinguishing the meat and dairy side, while still giving the space a cohesive aesthetic. To accomplish this, I decided to adopt the standard color scheme for Kosher kitchens, where blue is associated with dairy and red is associated with meat. Additionally, I chose a sans-serif font for the Dairy signage, and a serif font for the meat signage, adding yet another visual cue reinforcing the difference between each side.

In the interest of durability, I chose to create the signs out of acrylic, first laser-engraving the words into a larger white piece, and laser-cutting out the letters from sheets of blue and red acrylic. I then used solvent to attach the colored letters to the white base sheet.

The letters cut out/engraved, ready to assemble.
This can of solvent was impossible to open, eventually I hammered a screwdriver through it to puncture a hole in the metal top, what a nightmare!
Attaching the letters
Finishing touches!
Ready and open for business!

Update 2/25 – Week 2

This week wasn’t nearly as eventful as last week, but I’m moving along!

I got a temperature/humidity sensor for my Raspberry Pi, just to practice reading sensor data with it. That experiment was successful, and happily, relatively easy! I spent a lot of time rereading basic information about working with Arduinos, and getting the Bluetooth Feather up and running. I couldn’t (or at least, haven’t yet) got my hands on resistors to try out making LEDs blink. I also have a LED ring, but I need to do some soldering before I can use it. I also went and got a physical button and started reading documentation to figure out how that might work. I’m still a bit lost on that, to be honest.

The E-Ink display also came this week, which I spent some time looking at the physical connection between it and the raspberry pi, ideating for a custom case. That part of the project is on hold until I get the button prototype up and working.

On the Raspberry Pi end, I got my bash script for sending a datapoint to Beeminder up and running. This coming week, I’d like to port that script to Python and figure out how to make the button interact with the Bluetooth Feather board.

How to connect to eduroam/Brown WiFi on Raspbian

This took me so long to figure out, and I don’t see any reason for anyone else to waste as much time as I did on this!

Things you will need:

  • Raspberry Pi
  • SD card with Raspbian installed
  • Display
  • Keyboard
  • Mouse
  • Power supply for Pi
  • Cords to connect everything

Step 1: Flash Raspbian onto an SD card, make sure to pick a version that includes a graphical user interface (not Raspbian Lite)

Step 2: Put the SD card into the Pi, connect monitor/keyboard/mouse/power supply and wait for Pi to turn on

Step 3: Open a terminal window and enter the following to install wpa_gui (a graphical interface for configuring WiFi that supports WPA2Enterprise)

sudo apt-get install wpagui

Step 4: Now, give wpa-gui the appropriate permissions with these commands

sudo chmod 600 /etc/wpa_supplicant/wpa_supplicant.conf

sudo adduser pi netdev

Step 5: (Optional) Now, create a desktop shortcut to wpa_gui with this command. (I like doing this because it makes launching a lot easier, but you don’t strictly have to)

cp /usr/share/applications/wpa_gui.desktop ~/Desktop

Step 6: Launch wpa_gui, select “wlan0” for the Address, and go to the “Manage Networks” tab, then, click “Add” and enter network configuration details as follows:

insert your school’s information as is appropriate

While trying to connect on Brown’s campus, you can get the information to fill out this panel by navigating to wifi.brown.edu while connected to the Brown_Guest network, selecting “This Device” and then “Other Operating Systems” then “None of these”. After you click the name of the network you want to join, the necessary information will be displayed.

For the “CA Certificate” line, just copy and paste the certificate from the “Root CA Certificate” link.

And there you have it! You’re now connected to your WPA2Enterprise network of choice on Raspbian.

Update 2/18 – Week 1

I’ve learned a lot of lessons from my first week at this project. I haven’t worked with Raspberry Pi in over a year (since my Designing Humanity Centered Robotics course in Fall 2017), and I’ve never been solely or even primarily responsible for the technical aspects of a project.

Forgetting the major differences between Arduino and Raspberry Pi, I didn’t realize that I was going to need a monitor, keyboard, and mouse at the ready to set up my Pi. So I attempted to get started without any of these things. Yikes.

I banged my head into a brick wall for hours upon hours trying to get this all working last week. The Brown University WiFi uses a security method called WPA2Enterprise, not supported by the automatic WiFi setup program built into Raspbian (my Pi’s operating system). I was plugging the Pi’s SD Card (where the operating system, etc. is stored) into my laptop to edit a document which contains the WiFi settings. This worked to connect my Pi to my phone’s personal hotspot, but not any of the Brown networks. Eventually I gave in and bought an HDMI cord so that I could connect my Pi to the TV in my dorm lounge, and connected my Bluetooth keyboard and mouse to the Pi. Great, but I was no closer to being connected to Brown’s internet!

I started complaining about this problem to my friend Seiji, who told me about wpa_gui, a program that makes setting up WiFi connections much easier. This worked and I successfully connected to Brown WiFi! But I still needed a way to access my Raspberry Pi from my laptop and I could not get SSH to work, which left me in a position where I’d still need a separate display, mouse, and keyboard to operate the Pi. Yesterday I figured out the final problem standing in my way (a missing security certificate in my WiFi setup) and I successfully accessed my Raspberry Pi from my laptop using the Brown WiFi. Whew!

Other things that happened this week: My package with the supplies for my first prototype came, courtesy of Beeminder!

Thank you Beeminder!

After the package came, I was able to 3D-print a case for my Pi, making it much easier to throw in my backpack and work on-the-go

protected, and shimmery!

Now that I’ve got a reliable connection to my Pi, I can get started on the real work in the coming week.

What’s the deal with the background image?

I took a Jewelry and Metalsmithing course at RISD this winter (2019), entitled “Repair: Making Connections”. We learned basic cold metal forming techniques, primarily working with found objects, exploring concepts of disposability, repair, and re-use. It was a delight!

My background image is of my final project for this course. I was using the KonMari method to clean my room at the time, and I came across my etrog from last Sukkos. The etrog had materially deprecated, rendering it unsuitable for its original ritual purpose. I sought to restore functionality to this beautiful object, exploring (and challenging) disposability in Jewish object culture.

An etrog (or citron, in English) is an fruit used during the Jewish festival of Sukkos, which lasts a week in the fall. This fruit is used throughout the week for ritual purposes, along with palm fronds, myrtle and willow leaves. Together they are referred to as the arba minim, or four species.

Because of their ritual use, etrogim (plural of etrog) are subject to high cosmetic standards. Specifically, in order to be valid for ritual use according to halakha (Jewish religious law), etrogim need to be moist, virtually free of blemishes, and have an intact pitom (stigma). If the pitom is broken off, or the skin is blemished, the fruit may be invalid for ritual use.

Finding my etrog while cleaning was the first time I had seen it since October. Last Sukkos was my first time owning my own set of arba minim, and they aren’t cheap. In the United States, getting a kosher set for less than $50 would be a steal. What had once been a ripe, flawless yellow fruit was now shriveled and rust brown. Cosmetically, this once perfect specimen had totally degraded. However, miraculously the pitom had still not broken off!

Another important feature of the etrog is its absolutely lovely smell, which only became stronger as mine dried out. It’s similar to other citrus fruits like lemon or orange, but it has this lovely sweetness that’s almost floral. I couldn’t bear to just put it back in its box, and I instantly had visions of how utterly gorgeous that rust orange would look with silver.

A common use for old etrogim is for their fragrance, often serving as the besamim (spices) needed for the havdalah ritual, done each week to end Shabbos. During the havdalah ritual, a multiwick candle is lit and typically hand-held throughout the blessings. When it comes time to smell the spices, they are often kept in a dedicated spice holder which typically look something like this. You need to open them to smell the spices, and as I’m sure you can imagine it can be difficult to do that while holding a candle with a very large flame! It’s easy to drop something, and candle wax will drip over everything.

I saw an opportunity. My prompt for my final was to create a necklace or brooch with found objects, utilizing the metalworking techniques that we learned. I chose to wrap my etrog in silver (which conveniently, is commonly used for Judaica) turning it into a pendant. This takes out the awkward and dangerous step of trying to open a jar while holding a candle! And of course, I wrapped the etrog such that the pitom would be protected, highlighting the fortitude of this fruit that it survived this long!

I began with 4 pieces of 20 gauge sterling silver and my etrog. I used a blowtorch to solder these pieces of silver together into one 2 foot long strip. I decided to mimic a fresh citrus peel texture on the silver, which I did by hammering and poking the metal with a center-punch. I used an anvil to hammer the long strip into a spiral shape, then used my hands to work the etrog into place. I created the bail (hole for the cord to pass through) out of a piece of scrap silver, and soldered everything together.

This project represents the intersection of my two greatest intellectual and personal passions. Using my intimate knowledge of Jewish law, practice and tradition along with my object fabrication skills, I restored function to a object rendered halakhically invalid, re-purposing it to enhance a different ritual experience. And I think it’s rather beautiful, too!

Planning for an initial prototype

Looking to make my vision a reality, I’ve decided to use a Raspberry Pi 3 as the hub for all of this hardware. I hope to both run the display and Beeminder API calls from it (essentially, the Raspberry Pi will make something happen when the button is pressed, in this case telling Beeminder that I’ve completed my task) .

I think that the most sensible protocol to use for the buttons is Bluetooth Low-Energy(BLE). In other living settings, Wi-Fi might make more sense, but since I’m setting all of this up in a college dorm and in previous projects I’ve come across issues with the university networks, BLE will create fewer headaches. Additionally, I’m only planning (at least for now) to place these buttons within my ~100sq ft dorm room, so range and interference isn’t an issue.

I’ve found a few preexisting projects that are serving as helpful guides, especially since I’ve never worked on a robotics/electronics design project before without a team. Aside from of course phi’s dashboard project, which sparked my interest in this sort of project, I’m also referencing this model for bluetooth low-energy buttons made for accessibility applications, and this wifi emergency food button.

I have points of divergence from all of the pre-existing designs I’m drawing inspiration from. With phi’s dashboard, I’m largely hoping to mimic what he sets out to do, but I’m adding this datapoint creation component. The “Pip” bluetooth low energy buttons are build on a now-discontinued bluetooth low energy board. They also have components I don’t think I need, like a buzzer. And they run on AA batteries, making them much bulkier than I’d like my buttons to be. The wifi emergency food button is obviously, run on wifi and not BLE, and accomplishes a singular (and very different) task.

Nevertheless, I’m taking major guidance from these projects. For the dashboard, I think it’s self-explanatory, I’m essentially trying to accomplish the same thing. The “Pip” buttons will help me figure out what hardware components I need, and give me one model for coding to look at. The emergency food button inspired me to really want to design a custom PCB for this project, which I didn’t know was possible on such a small scale until finding this project!

My current plan for how I’m going to spend my time and get from an idea to a working, albeit clunky, prototype(excluding planning and the wait for hardware, of course) is as follows:

1) Get Raspberry Pi set up (SD card, 3d print a case, etc.) and connected to university wifi

2) Make Raspberry Pi successfully call Beeminder API

3) Set up button prototype based on a Feather BLE board

4) connect button prototype to Raspberry Pi

5) successfully transmit some data from Feather to Raspberry Pi

6) get button press to trigger an action

4) Connect these processes to make an API call when button is pressed

I’m realizing I’ve left out the display in this, I need to go read phi‘s documentation a bit more closely, and probably also have the hardware in my hands, before I quite know what to do with this part.

But this alone is a lot of work and feels like a good amount of direction! I’m very excited, see the spreadsheets I’m using to organize myself here. There, you can see my task list and a list of the hardware I’m using.

Starting the Beeminder Button Project

I use a website called Beeminder to track various habits/tasks. What’s special about this app, is that they charge you real-world money if you don’t follow through with your commitments.

Most of the tasks I track, like reviewing Hebrew vocabulary, have an automatic data source. That means that after I finish reviewing with Clozemaster, Beeminder is automatically told that I did my review for the day, and they shouldn’t charge me! But some tasks I want to track (like flossing, taking medication, or doing laundry) would require me to tell Beeminder manually that I completed the task. Often, I’m in a rush, or my phone isn’t near me, or I just plain forget, and I don’t remember to log these tasks.

I saw this post on the Beeminder blog, showcasing a user who tracks various tasks using a physical button. I instantly saw that this would solve my problems and allow me to track these tasks, but when I researched the available options, they were all very expensive. Based on my experiences in the course Designing Humanity Centered Robotics in Fall 2017, I knew that I could make Bluetooth buttons myself much more cheaply (and have more control over the design).

Additionally, I was already inspired to DIY some Beeminder hardware by this post in the Beeminder forum, where another user was building an dashboard that would display all of your goals using an e-ink display.

So in summary, I’m working to build a system where pressing a button will log the completion of a task with Beeminder, and a display that shows upcoming goals. I hope to use this system for more smart-home tasks once I know how to make Bluetooth Low Energy buttons.

It’s really important to me that my documentation for this project is accessible. I don’t have much formal technical background, and have mostly learned from working with people with more experience and the internet. So please, don’t hesitate to comment or ask me directly to clarify if something doesn’t make sense to you.