Slide show


An engineer working for the Oregon Coast Aquarium asked AO to create a tiny data logger that would fit inside a tufted puffin egg. Tufted puffins are sea birds and the aquarium wanted to hatch the eggs in an incubator for a breeding program. The researchers wanted to know more about how the birds incubated the eggs (they do so quite successfully).


The engineer had a schematic for the data logger and wanted AO to translate it into circuit boards that would fit inside the small egg (about 3 cm long and 2 cm diameter). This was in the early 1990s and the ICs were in DIP packages. We had to cram the CPU, several memory ICs, a regulator, the battery, several motion sensing switches, and a thermistor into the egg.

Most of the parts fit on an oval circuit board just small enough to fit within the egg shell castings. However the memory ICs required too much board area to fit on a single board. Our solution was to splay the IC pins out from the side of the packages, similar to a flat pack IC. The ICs were sandwiched between a small PC board positioned above the packages and the main board below, with the leads soldered to these boards. The whole assembly barely fit into the closed egg.


It seems puffins don't sit on their eggs to hatch them, but tuck them under a wing. When they pick them up from the nest and put them back down the eggs are rotated, and this prevents the embryo from sticking to the inside of the shell. The data logger determined the frequency of rotation (eight to fifteen minutes) and the temperature under the bird's wing (97°F). With this knowledge the scientists at the aquarium designed an incubator to hatch puffin eggs. If you visit the aquarium in Newport, Oregon, be sure to visit the aviary and admire the locally hatched puffins.