1. Test and build a few Beta ERGO pixels using the last remaining circuit boards from last summer. Sloane is leading the team to build these “Beta” units which are the same as the units now placed around the world.
2. William is leading the team to build a few Generation 3 ERGO pixels using the Freescale Ethermega processor board and a custom ERGO “shield” which contains the Geiger counter and GPS systems. These pixels are functionally the same as our existing “Beta” units now placed around the world. We have built a few of these. One is online in the map at www.ergotelescope.org as pixel 333. We’ve built three others that have the internet connections disabled, so they can be used in balloon payloads. We’ve sent two of these to experimental groups in Italy, and one more is being tested for a balloon launch in Latvia. The Generation 3 board has a couple of disadvantages, though: it only works on local area networks that have DHCP enabled and no security; and, they’re expensive (the Ethermega board costs around $120). That’s why we’re also working Generation 4 and 5.
3. Generation 4 uses a Raspberry Pi processor board along with our custom ERGO Geiger-counter/GPS circuit board. Since the Raspberry Pi is actually a linux desktop computer, it includes all the hardware and software to enable connections to any kind of LAN you can imagine, including WiFi! The Raspberry Pi is amazingly inexpensive, too: about US$35, which will bring the total cost of parts for an ERGO pixel down to under $150. We’ve designed the custom board for the Raspberry Pi, and bare boards are now being fabbed in China. We hope to have a manufacturer build complete boards that can be purchased by anyone who wants to build their own pixel.
4. Generation 5 is a totally self-contained ERGO pixel on a single circuit board. Simon and his team are breadboarding that system, and we hope to have software developed and the first boards being assembled by the end of the summer. Generation 5 will be the lowest possible cost, because it is only one circuit board, so we don’t have to buy a Raspberry Pi or Ethermega board to build a complete pixel. Simon’s team is also working to develop a better muon detector for future ERGO pixels. They are trying to build a PIN-diode detector with a plastic scintillator, and they are setting up a vacuum-coating system to attempt making our own silicon detector wafers.
5. Another team, led by Steven, is working on ERGO data analysis. They are developing apps and techniques to look at the very large database of information we have built up over the last few years. We expect to find patterns in time and spatial distributions, some of them random, some caused by our pixel’s, themselves, and perhaps some caused by natural physics.