A spectrometer may not sound like what you wanted for your birthday, but it's a ubiquitous tool for scientists to identify unknown materials, like oil spill residue or coal tar in urban waterways. But they cost thousands of dollars and are hard to use -- so we've designed our own.
Now we need your help in collecting data to build a Wikipedia-style library of open source spectra, and to refine and improve sample collection and analysis techniques. We imagine a kind of "SHAZAM for materials" which can help to investigate chemical spills, diagnose crop diseases, identify contaminants in household products, and even analyze olive oil, coffee, and homebrew beer.
It's clear that they aren't building these spectrometers for their explicit use in the classroom, but I can already see a huge benefit for them there. Physics, chemistry, and astronomy teachers might want to take a look at this on-going project and perhaps fund their kickstarter to get your hands on one of the simple paper-folded spectrometers to play around with.
I'm quite certain this could be used to really modernize the classical spectrum labs done in secondary schools these days, and they really aren't that expensive. Plus, you can go ahead and check out the software if you already have a portable spectrometer. Check it out here
Big props to this group for their awesome idea, if anyone gets a chance to use it in their classroom, report back to the STEM Room and let us know!