Well, I jumped on the Arduino bandwagon. Definitely coming late to this one, but it seems a hot topic right now (meaning, I have 3 friends that are really excited about Arduinos right now, one being Moose, the post-doc at Friday Harbor that I'll be working with. Yes, he goes by Moose and you'll hear more about him).
For those still new to the bandwagon, Arduinos are the new wave of opensource, multipurpose microprocessors. Yay! What does that mean?
They are basically mini computers, about the size of a well-made S'mores. They got a couple inputs and outputs, and as I've learned are great at controlling simple stuff, like stepper motors and your roomate's alarm clock on April first.
The best part is that they can be controlled by their own, open-source programming language. So you can give them a set of commands, and they run like a super simple computer. Open-source is key here as it aides laziness- you don't need to program it from scratch, but can use any one of the many programs other people have kindly made available all around the internets.
Only two pieces left to buy now, a moving platform to hold the microscope, and the glass plates for spores to settle. Unfortunately I found out that McMaster-Carr (the number one online source for raw materials) does not sell glass sheets in 2 foot lengths, so need to find another option.
I swear one of these days I will upload schematic diagrams so you can understand how this all fits together. Not now though.