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 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.

Comments 29 comments

  • Member #1005600 / about 5 years ago * / 1

    Looking For The Best Shower Head? Best Shower Head Reviews in 2017 And Buyers Guide.We have researched hundreds of options, and built this final list!

  • t_furf / about 13 years ago / 1

    Yeah, I second the request for the mini-turbine. That would be oh-so-sweet.

  • Greeeg / about 13 years ago / 1

    skating should be allowed in all work places, makes getting around so much quicker

  • RevEng / about 13 years ago / 1

    What a great poster; I absolutely love it!
    By the way, ThinkGeek has something similar, as well as a sink faucet version, though the later isn't hydro-powered.

  • rdagger / about 13 years ago / 1
  • its cool, but, why the sparkfun crew working less instead of last year? i have problems in every my order.

  • Wait...the shower has hot water now? Mmm...personal hygiene.

  • Exonerd / about 13 years ago / 1

    That poster is very, very well done. Bravo, AnnDrea! Chevy would approve. I love how you worked in the Port-O-Rotary sets too, ha.

  • JRMorrisJr / about 13 years ago / 1

    I might start taking showers...

  • thisupend / about 13 years ago / 1

    i see you got some new Luxeon Rebel High Power LED - Cool White
    question : Are you getting the rest of the assembles as in the diagram?

    • jimblom / about 13 years ago / 1

      Definitely! The remaining components are taking their time in getting to us, but hopefully they'll be posted soon.

  • saccade / about 13 years ago / 1

    Does the light/generator affect the shower pressure? My mom gave me a similar showerhead last year (from Shaper Image RIP, if I recall). It was a large round unit.
    Unfortunately, when the water passed the turbine it went into a much larger chamber before leaving the shower head, totally destroying the water pressure.
    Of course, the obvious solution to the problem was to scrap the unit for parts (turbine generator! thermister! LEDs!)

  • caseyh / about 13 years ago / 1

    I just noticed that one particular vendor (in china) sells the actual dynamo generator intended for shower head / faucet applications:

  • Vasago / about 13 years ago / 1

    Awesome poster! When are you going to start selling them? I'd gladly hang it in my man cave!!

  • NXTreme / about 13 years ago / 1

    My question is, does anyone ever use that couch up there? (I know I would :P) Also, congrats to everyone at SFE on a VERY cool portrait of Nate. Its the spittin' image of him.

  • caseyh / about 13 years ago / 1

    When are you going to start selling the mini turbine?

  • guavaroo / about 13 years ago / 1

    That poster is too funny.

  • Just in case anyone is wondering...yes that couch is on the third level of shelving, how TJ got it up there is beyond my comprehension.

  • Chris S / about 13 years ago / 1

    Huh. I don't remember a couch up there...

  • nect / about 13 years ago / 1

    ^--- For those of you who want one that doesn't look like something that your significant other would enjoy too much

  • Earlz / about 13 years ago / 1

    What makes this especially awesome is the no batteries required. I'd like to see this put in the store.

  • Watchtower / about 13 years ago / 1

    It is a product carried by Trademark Global. The "Trademark Global 80-4093 Temperature Controlled LED Shower Head Light, the Temperature Controlled LED Shower Head Light with hot, warm, cold water detection colors. The LEDs change with the temperature of the water to show you the exactly what to expect before you jump in. The LEDs will even flash red if the temperature is too hot, above 114.8 degrees Fahrenheit, to warn you of a potential burn. Features include: No battery is needed! Dimensions: 2.25 x 3.125 x 8.125 inches Durable chrome and plastic construction When water flows through, the LED will light instantly and automatically This item will change its color by detecting water temperature When the water temperature is less than 89.6 degrees Fahrenheitnbsp; (32 degrees Celsius) the green color will show automatically When the water temperature is between 91.4-105.8 degrees Fahrenheit."

  • billiam2536 / about 13 years ago / 1

    Where and how much!!! I definitely need one, my shower is the leas technically exciting part of my day.

  • cjh08052 / about 13 years ago / 1

    That is WAY TOO cool! I think I want one! :-> (cjh)

  • Are we going to see this in the store? That would be pretty cool.

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