Monthly Archives: May 2015

Wearables in the Wild

The 2015 Wearables in the Wild Hiking Hack takes a crew of biologists, engineers, designers, and craftspersons into the Appalachian wilderness. Our mission, as with many of the hiking hacks, is to test out contextually creating tools for understanding living creatures in nature. Sponsored by the Georgia Tech Wearable Computing Center (, an extra component of this investigation is how wearable devices can be built in the wild and to withstand the harshness of the wild.


Biology Target:  explore the Synchronous Fireflies that occur in June!

Technology Target:  Making Wearable devices for exploring the environment and interacting with animals.

Hiking Hack Target: developing and testing tools



Field Notes: We will not have communication access where we are going. Thus we will document the trip when we come back, reliving the trip day-by-day and posting updates as if we were in the field. So stay tuned!

Safety: This is the first Hiking Hack where we will have to worry about bears! We will be needing to be setting up bear traps and all sorts of stuff, but should be all good!

To be extra safe, our emergency contact info is here: [We all made it back safe! contact info removed]

Location: This map also shows about where we will be:’14.2%22N+84%C2%B002’07.5%22W/@35.4031385,-84.0116501,12z/data=!4m2!3m1!1s0x0:0x0

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Wearables in the Wild - The 2015 Wearables in the Wild Hiking Hack takes a crew of biologists, engineers, designers, and craftspersons into the Appalachian wilderness. Our mission, as with many of the hiking hacks, is to test out contextually creating tools for understanding living creatures in nature. Sponsored by the Georgia Tech Wearable Computing Center (, an extra component […]
Crew – Wearables in the Wild - The Wearables in the Wild 2015 expedition has attracted quite an amazing crew! We have a diverse background of ages, jobs, technological and biological experience.  Dozens of incredible researchers, designers, artists, adventurers and biologists, applied, but we were only able to accomodate 10 positions. The final selected participants originate from all around the world, and […]
It’s Over There – a box with a good sense of direction – Paul - I’ve been thinking about navigation in the wilderness and how digital media can support it. There are a couple of things that are particular to the type of navigation in the wilderness we’ll be doing  (foot travel in a place where routes aren’t necessarily defined and never square)  and some related work that might give […]
Ethogram Jam – Laura - Perhaps the only thing more interesting than the history of ethology itself, is the history of the crazy contraptions that have been designed to support such a science. The most temperamental, yet pervasive, of these tools is the ethogram device. Looking a bit like a bloated calculator, an ethogram is made up of rows of […]
Dirt on My Mind: Angela’s Initial Musings - Animals are sexy! We’re fascinated by them, fear them, watch viral videos of them, and feel a special rapport with them. Then there are plants, which help us breathe, feed us, shelter us, and provide satisfaction or awe when that prized orchid finally blooms. However, the biomass – all living things – in any given […]
Starting the Wearable Hiking Hack - This latest hiking hack is the most organized one to date. Lessons learned from the magnificent experiences in Panama and Madagascar left me prepared to tackle the many obstacles standing in the way of prototyping digital equipment in the wilderness. This is also the first funded hiking hack thanks to Georgia Tech’s wearable Computing Center […]
Preliminary Projects – Wearables in the Wild - During our initial workshops we brainstormed about different gear and superpowers we wanted to bring with us into the field. The targets were for digital, wearable devices that could help us explore the environment or interact with other living creatures. We batted around ideas covering a broad assortment of topics, and these then we loosely […]
Hanging the tarp Hanging Out – Laura’s Guide to Hammock Camping - The smallest things can make the biggest differences when you’re out in the field for long periods of time. After years of being a ground dweller in tents, I was ready to take to the trees and finally develop my hammock kit. Since I got confirmation that I’d be going on this trip, I’ve spent […]
Field Power - The first question we always get when talking about making electronics and computers in the wilderness is how to power all of our tools. During this trip we tested out numerous different ways of getting the electrical power our devices needed.   Needs From extremely rough estimates of previous hiking hacks, we came up with […]
Diving in Heavy: First Day Hiking - After the last day of the prelim workshops, there was still SOO much for me to do. I had to finish charging all of our batteries, finish up several projects, organize the last bits of electronics we needed to take, and prep the hacking laptop (hacktop). Just getting this laptop ready was a major time […]
Standing on the shoulders of giants – Jeannette, Andy - J- I loved my role as Master Blaster. At 5’, 96 lbs and agile, I could stand on the shoulders of Andy Q and reach heights that we could not have reached alone. We raised the tent of our workplace to unprecedented heights. A- Our formation as the amazing Master Blaster duo was an important […]
North Fork Citico Creek Digital Lab (NFCCDL) (Owl Camp) – Hugh - Building the infrastructure for North Fork Citico Creek Digital Lab (NFCCDL) (Owl Camp): From This:   to This:  First day out of Unicoi Gap (TN) opened with an easy (albeit pack-heavy) stroll down an old logging road, later turning steep, wet, and slippery. After a night sleeping in a trailside encampment and a shorter hike down […]
Where am I? You are here. – Paul - June 11th, 2015 The first day of hiking was easy, until it wasn’t. I had planned it to take two days of walking to get to the NFCCDL (Owl Camp), but the early part of the day had been so easy that we’d gotten optimistic that we could make it in one day of walking. […]
Portable Studio Design - Many of our initial thoughts for the design of a fully portable digital crafting studio have been loosely compiled in this, yet-unpublished, paper: Portable Studio Practice – Wear and Tear – Quitmeyer Perner-Wilson
Hydroelectric Power from Citico Creek - We tried to generate power from Citico Creek using a fire hose and some sort of generator. This was originally Scott Gilliland’s idea, and we volunteered to put this craziness to the test by carrying an extra compatible hose all the way down the mountain with us! We were trying to make it entirely gravity […]
The Most Useless Machine (Without an Arduino) – Paul, Hugh, Laura - The party boat activity prompt was just to take a bunch of outputs and link them together in a way that might stimulate some sort of organism. Basically, it’s just use a combination of natural and digital materials to make a thing that makes noises and flashes lights and things like that. While digging through […]
Setting up for Wildhacks – Andy - On the first day in basecamp, I sent the crew out on a “Smell Adventure.” The goal was to help them explore their environment in new ways by giving them the fun task of collecting as many unique smells from the nearby areas. While they were out, I started organizing and setting up electronics at […]
Leaf speaker A Day in the Basecamp Life – Laura - One of my favorite things about working in the field are the natural routines you fall into without even realizing. A typical day in basecamp commenced sometime between 7:30 and 8:30am. The ample tree cover and eponymous Smoky Mountain haze kept the sun’s heat and brightness from our site and let us wake slowly. Early […]
Reflection: It’s More Than Seeing Yourself in the Creek – Katelyn - There are specific tools used in back country living and digital making. When we combined these tool boxes into heavy backpacks to bring on our expedition, we brought the infrastructure to support the most critical tool, our minds. My daily life as a hiking hacker began with coffee at the creek side. A warm drink […]
Gimme shelter: Animal Homes in the Wild – Jeannette - This week, I left the hot sticky stoney enclave of urban/campus life at Georgia Tech in Atlanta and entered the cool dappled forest of Tennessee. I brought my own home with me: a hammock tent. Instead of carrying a support system, I used the structures in the forest, namely the trunks of rhododendron bushes. At […]
Etho-Smock In the Field – Laura, Katelyn, Paul - Challenge One of the most useful, yet also most potentially frustrating, tools for ethologists is the handheld ethogram device. This pocket computer has re-programmable buttons that allow a researcher to capture details of organismal behavior including action type, order, frequency and duration. The challenge in using a handheld ethogram is its un-intuitive interface. The design […]
The Night Crawler, he was called!! – Shiva - After a long day at the SCCDL (South Citico Creek Digital Laboratory :P) and a great Turkey Tetrazinni and Raspberry Crumble, we decided to take a stroll to observe some fireflies!!   We merely walked around a hundred yards from base camp. We used flashlights to reach the observation site. However, we had to stand or […]
Amazing Lifeforms at the NFCCDL (Owl Camp) – Angela - Maybe the mountains imprinted themselves in my dad’s DNA during his childhood in South Korea, and those highland genes are what always draw me to the spectacular sights and sounds of southern Appalachia. While camping in Joyce Kilmer National Forest, I was completely awed by all the life that was around us, and the cool, […]
Backpack design: Projection system as part of the function of backpack. -Jeannette - Jeannette Yen- Scientists often rationalize that our advancement of knowledge is equal to the costs of the lives of living organisms. It isn’t. I took disdain at this idea. Instead, with the advances in modern high image resolution in time and space of the digital age, we now can produce large magnified images that are […]
BOB SOS: Back off bear alert – Jeannette, Hugh - Context: First, a report that a young boy was lacerated by a bear in a forest near us and a suggestion that we build a bear detector. A week before, JY learned how to solder and program an arduino to make an LED blink like one of the firefly species. A day before, she got […]
The Succession of Trees – Hugh - The Succession of Trees   The Tennessee/North Carolina Appalachians are renowned for their diverse tree population, and our trek took us from 4470 feet at Unicoi Gap to the Citico Creek Campground #14 elevation of 1720, providing an altitude-inflected arboretum. Different areas were logged off over the years, so at the higher elevations most were […]
PhotoSphere – Matt - Part of the experience of hiking in the wild is the dramatic flow of changes in light as you move through the forest. To capture part of this experience we created a cap with photo sensors on it to record the changes in light patterns as we walk. The cap was made before we left […]
Cheap Portable Laptop Power – Matt, Andy - Matt Swarts and Andy Quitmeyer came up with a way to cheaply power laptops and other high-voltage devices off cheap powerpacks! Difficulty: Medium-easy. We cha The Problem Laptops demand lots of power. They also usually need to charge from voltage source that is much higher than the 5 volts you can get out of cheap […]
Schedule / Emergent Syllabus: Wearables in the Wild - Days i and ii: Pre-workshops First Day Brainstorming wearable technology ideas Building two select items Second Day Finishing wearable technologies for field use Sorting gear Sorting food Packing Prepping hack computer with drivers and libraries Day 1: Hike In Challenge Find an interesting organism while we hiked Activities Hiking Set up mini-camp Reflection ·         Evening […]
Wildhacking Basecamp Tour - Come along with us and see the amazing studio we set up entirely in the wilderness!
Bug Buddies – Angela - My original idea  the hiking hack was a very practical, very serious soil testing shoe attachment, but my brain took a direction 180° from my initial thoughts – finger puppets! What could be more practical and serious than finger puppets, right? Although finger puppets may not seem utilitarian, potentially they can serve an educational purpose, […]