In the fall of 2013 I returned to my hometown, Haines, Alaska with the idea to turn conservation into a series of games. I had an idea for a tortoise observation device, a vehicle to accompany tortoises as they made their way through their world. I had vague notions of Mars rovers. This was at the dawn of the drone age and I knew about them. Could such a device be hooked up the the Interwebs? I had no idea if what I had in mind was feasible practically or economically, nor what it would take to create it. I envisioned projecting my eye so that it glided along at tortoise level, a couple of meters away, without disturbing the animals, a clear and close-up view of the life of my favorite animal. I wanted being able to share that view with the rest of my species, to show us what we have in the desert tortoise and what we stand to lose.
Haines is a podunk town blessed with some extraordinary teachers. Two of these are Mark Fontenot and Sam McPhetres, respectively the high school science and computer teachers. They are brilliant examples of people who love science and technology and want to share it. At the time they had a student named Eli White, who Mark considered one of his all time bests. I got together with Mark and Eli and Sam to pitch the idea and aks for help.
When I shut up they traded geek-speak comments and returned a verdict of possibility. There seemed to be no inherently insurmountable hurdles. Eli went off to do research and a week later returned with a template: The words Arduino and Raspberry Pi entered my vocabulary. The phrase Local Area Network (LAN) was tossed around. In the end there seemed to be no reason we couldn’t create such a machine. And so we set to work.