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The Mystery Tube and a Surprise for Nate

SparkFun receives a random surprise from a supplier...and Nate gets a surprise from his employees.

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Meet TJ. TJ is our Inventory Control Samurai (meaning, he reigns over what comes into the SparkFun loading docks).

Under TJs watchful eye, inventory exists in a state of controlled chaos.

A few weeks ago, SparkFun received a shipment of parts and as it was unpacked, TJ noticed something a little...um...out of place.

The Mystery Tube. If you got this in the mail, what would you think it was?

TJ found this floating around in the bottom of a box from one of our many suppliers. It was in a nondescript plain white box. To make matters worse, he set the mystery gadget on his desk and forgot about it while Nate was out of town. Fast-forward a few weeks, and the original shipment box it came in is long gone. So now we have a mystery product, with no packaging, and we don't even know where or what company it came from.

So yesterday, Nate approaches me with this stick thing in his hand and gives it to me and says, "What do you think this is?" (mind you, Nate has already figured it out and he is just toying with my simple brain). Instinctively, when he handed me this baton lookin' thingy, I sprinted down the hallway (middle school track, FTW).  Calling me back, Nate asked me my best guesses. After such stellar tries as "durrr, a light bulb?" and "uhhh...a glow stick?" (and then just staring at it, wide-eyed and drooling), Nate broke down and told me. It's a water-powered LED tube nozzle thing-a-ma-bob.

A close-up of the innards. The center piece is the LED cluster, turbine, and thermistor.

Wait, what? Taking it apart, the device is composed of a small turbine, connected to a cluster of RGB LEDs, and a thermistor sensor. Sweet! We figured that the color of the LEDs changes with the temperature of the water. So now we wanted to hook it up, but the threads on the top of the tube didn't connect to any sinks in the SparkFun building. Hmmm...what to do? Well, we can see if it even works by blowing in it!

Those clarinet lessons from 6th grade finally pay off. Grandma would be proud.

So we determined the light does function, if we can just get the turbine to turn with water. Fortunately, we have Casey - our smarter-than-the-average-bear mechanical engineer with a knack for handyman-ism. He reminded me of the SparkFun shower we randomly have in one of our men's rooms and noted that the tube would probably fit perfectly on the shower head. Lo-and-behold - he was right! The tube turns blue for cold water, green for warm water, red for hot water, and flashing red for really hot water. Check out the video...

And so the case of the mystery tube was solved. Why we received it, we will never know - but now our shower is sufficiently disco-fied.

And now for something completely different...

Our fearless leader, Nathan Seidle.

This past Christmas, we (the employees at SparkFun) wanted to get something completely different as a end of the year 'thanks' for our boss and CEO Nate Seidle. We threw around all sorts of ideas, and finally settled on some kind of portrait. We looked into commissioning a local artist to do it, but realized we had our own artist in-house - Director of Marketing AnnDrea Boe.

Realizing undertaking a project of this magnitude might take a while, we decided to give El Queso Grande (the big cheese) the gift after he returned from a trip. Many hours of work later, AnnDrea had created the above portrait - a replica of the famous National Lampoon's Vacation poster featuring Chevy Chase. We think she did a pretty amazing job!

How did Nate react? Well...

He loves it! He really loves it!

Feel free to come by, get an office tour, and see the poster in all its wall-sized glory.

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