Donald L. Merand

Things I've Recently Made - Some Apps, Some Electronics, Some Art

tags: project code electronics

I’ve done some projects over the years which never really got properly written up. Some are art projects, some are things I did for work that we decided to open-source, and some are just fun things that I couldn’t help but make. At some point I might make fuller blog posts about this stuff, but I thought it might be nice to start with a small catalog so that they don’t get lost to time.

  • The Enigma Explorer (source) uses Elixir, Phoenix and LiveView to generate art inspired by Seymour Papert and Cynthia Solomon’s LOGO language, which was my first exposure to coding.
  • The Faces of EXPLO is an exploration (pun so very intended) into generative image composition. This was powered by some shell scripting and ImageMagick fun. I just realized that I wrote about this but that’s OK, I’m keeping it in the list.
  • The Markov Words Ruby Gem uses Markov chains to make English-sounding words that aren’t (usually) real English words. Actually, the gem allows you to use any dictionary, so you could just as easily make “Elvish-sounding” or “Klingon-sounding” words or whatever, just by feeding it a different dictionary. We use this at EXPLO sometimes to generate passwords with a fun little Elm app.
  • My Pile of Shell Scripts that I use on a daily basis. I actually keep this up-to-date. It’s my most popular repository on GitHub, with a whopping 19 stars at the time of publication. Some favorites include a dpaste frontend, WSL versions of the Mac utilities pbcopy and pbpaste, and tsvfmt/tsv2html which make TSVs easier on the command line.
  • Quarantine Poem Anthology was an early and quickly aborted attempt to reconcile stay-at-home Feelings. It is also a fun Sinatra app that explores using Airtable as the CMS for a web site, with basic caching. I did a similar thing for Homeschool Resources with Google Docs as the backend instead of Airtable, but I never published the source for that app.
  • Compliment Bot was how I learned about Arduino and GPIO programming on the Raspberry Pi. It’s a robot that gives you compliments and prints them out on a receipt! Later, I converted it to draw random mazes, and also give you compliments, at which point I changed the name to aMazeBot. PS: you can visit the robot online at
  • Along similar lines, EXTROVRT was a “telepresence robot” that was basically a phone or tablet holder that you could drive through a web interface. This was another Arduino project, experimenting with MQTT via This project also had some fun 3d-printed design elements.
  • A bunch of custom quadcopter designs: Micro X, Spiral Arm, and Dreamcatcher, all of which use electronics pulled from a Syma X1 quad. I’m especially proud of those designs because they are all parametric - the CAD is code too! This project was also where I learned how to properly use and tune a 3D printer.
  • A DIY CNC Pendant that works with a Shopbot. The Adafruit Leonardo was an early Arduino that allowed keyboard emulation, which is what I used here to make it control a CNC machine.
  • A Drill Press Laser Centering Device inspired by Dan Gelbart.
  • Fully 3d-printable paper rollers that allow you to re-use all of that Amazon packing paper as an infinite-scroll paper tabletop.
  • A series of soldering fan fume extractors, which can be battery- or wall-powered. One design has a very fancy cell pattern inspired by NERVOUS System.