Aaron Swartz Memorial Hackathon

buildscc | 02 Feb 2013 | | events


Aaron was a hacktivist and friend of many in our community. He helped create RSS 1.0; contributed to Creative Commons; was an early builder of Reddit, where he’s often acknowledged as a co-founder; created the web.py framework; and more recently, became a data liberator, first with PACER and then with scholarly articles from JSTOR, both of which got him into trouble with the law.

Aaron’s Demand Progress project helped stop SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act in the US, which threatened to have far reaching unintended consequences.

Aaron Swartz committed suicide on Jan. 11, 2013, but his work on making the world a better place should not die with him. Join us for two days of understanding his work and contributing to keep his memory and projects alive.

(Intro courtesy of Bangalore hackathon.)


Room B26 in the Math and Computer Science building on 111 Cummington St, Boston MA 02215. (We are located in the basement)


Start: 12pm Feb 2

1pm: Hackathon Opening Meeting. Brainstorming, discussion of projects, organizing into groups.

8pm: Touch base meeting– talk about what everyone’s been working on.

Sometime during the day on Sunday we’ll have a closing meeting and sendoff where we discuss what’s been worked on over the weekend. We’ll decide when this is happening once everyone has a chance to get started on projects Saturday. We can’t stay in the rooms later than 8pm on Sunday, so the sendoff meeting will be before then, and we’ll update the schedule here as soon as a time has been decided.

Note this schedule will be updated as the week progresses.

Our space

We’re associated with Boston University, so I’ve gotta throw in a disclaimer asking everyone to be considerate of our affiliation and not do anything illegal. Alcohol isn’t condoned on school property.


Check out this page for ongoing projects/ideas happening in BUILDS!(also listed are projects that were worked on at the hackathon at Noisebridge (in SF) https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0Ak6vWXbGTU6MdDJVaGxaNHRzVUNJaVQ2SDhXRmh5VXc#gid=3

Original noisebridge/global idea page here (projects tab)

Bring whatever you’d like to work on; we have a lot of power outlets. Our hackerspace has more of a computer science/electrical engineering slant, so if you’re planning on doing physical work, we don’t have a lot of space/equipment to offer in the way of that but we’ll try and accomodate. Let us know beforehand if you have something particular in mind!


BUILDS number: (617) 353-2070 Email: asmh-list@bu.edu

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DIY tDCS Device


The goal of the project is to build a functioning transcranial direct current stimulation device, and to study its effects on the brain.

Later stages of research might include developing and testing interactive “brain training” programs that utilize a combination of tDCS and the user’s willpower to effect long-term changes in neural activity…



Brain-Device Interface

A brain to device interface is achieved via electrodes placed on the user’s scalp. The two electrodes, the cathode and the anode, function as positive and negatives terminals to the device respectively. Studies have shown that areas under the effect of the cathode show decreased firing rates of neurons, while an opposite effect was achieved by areas under affect of the anode.

One standardized method of categorizing locations on the scalp in reference to experimental procedure is the 10-20 System.

The Device


Data Collection

Proposed flow of information between components of experimental apparatus:

    Subject-->Electrodes-->EEG board/similar "processing" (fpga/dsp?)-->DAQ board-->computer-->software---> raw data
      ^   |                                                                ^             |         \------> visualization
      |   \---------------other inputs (switches, cameras, etc)------------|             |          \-----> "quantitiative data"
      |                                                                                  |
      |                                                                                  V
      \----------------------------------------actuators/stimulators/lights/etc<----DAC Board

Data Processing

Python pyEEG sciPy MNE (In Python and C)

C bwtool (loading eeg data) FFT

Java Apache Common Math Lib Parallel Colt scientific library Jsci Jtransform Java EEG Tools

Dummy EEG Data


Python Environments


Biofeedback libraries

EEGLAB suffices for a large component of the data visualization, training, and analysis we will perform in the course of this project, but it does not have much support for biofeedback and actually serving as a scriptable BCI interface.

So, I’ve identified two programs/libraries that would be suitable for triggering computer events/input/output based on biofeedback:\


Brainbay is a windows application with a LABVIEW-like interface for signal input, processing, and I/O driving. Possible behaviors include:

  • driving mouse cursors
  • causing keyboard pressesses
  • causing parallel port I/O
  • playing sounds or MIDI tones
  • displaying images or videos

in response to certain desired EEG signals that can be found through experimentation and analysis via EEGLAB or a similar library.

linky: http://www.shifz.org/brainbay/


However, maybe the pre-packaged capabilities of BrainBay might not be enough. Maybe we want to make a full featured video game using 3D graphics for training. Maybe we want more complex logic than what BrainBay can provide.

In this case, a combination of python/pygame, and some python-based biofeedback library might be useful. Candidates include:

Running Experiments

If scripting dialogues/testing procedures in EEGLAB proves too difficult, psychopy seems to be a wonderful scripting engine for doing just that… (runnign scripted as oppsoed to human driven experiments, of course, eliminates certain sources of experimental error, blah blah blah) http://www.psychopy.org/coder/tutorial2.html


OpenVibe, developed at INRIA, is another training/control alternative that also looks like it might be able to supplant EEGLAB too….


Component devices, costs, etc


Two types: passive, active Per wikipedia/openeeg: passive = less circuitry/amplification/shittier signal quality active = more driving circuitry/higher signal quality/


PEBL: The Psychology Experiment Building Language


tDCS Overview


Local Eateries


CityCo: A convenience store. Found at 725 Comm Ave, right next to Warren towers.

Espresso Royale Cafe: Hipster coffee shop with tasty sandwiches and a variety of bagels. 736 Comm Ave.


UGrill: 712 Comm Ave. Pizza, Burgers. Inexpensive.

Sal’s Pizza: Right next to UGrill. Also has pizza. No one can really tell which one is tastier.


Beijing Cafe: Cheap Chinese food. Greasy but tasty. 728 Comm Ave.

Nud Pob: Thai food. The best Pad Thai and Basil Fried Rice around. Next to Espresso Royal, 738 Comm Ave