I created a very poor implementation of a circuit design that I was very proud of. In the below video, I discuss issues with the quality of my implementation –
poorly secured battery, and a
poor work-around to prevent the battery from draining, and
poor connections between components.
I wanted to create a name tag, that was a wooden cube with a button on the top, and this button would turn on an LED. It would incorporate wood working, and circuit design. My plan was to redeem my poor copper circuit by addressing its issues in the following ways.
Secure my battery in place with superglue (I verified that this was safe).
Secure connections between components with Soldering rather than tightly wrapped copper tape
Circuit design where open circuit when button is unpressed, so that battery does not drain
Additionally, for the button design, I drew inspiration from Brandon’s Midi Controller project. I used the same design process and parameters as he did, and arrived at a well functioning ‘button’ with my name tag on it.
I also soldered the wires of my LED circuit to my LED. This was my first experience with soldering – my friends in Mechanical Engineering taught me to solder, and I took it from there. It was a rewarding process, I was surprised at how easily the solder material would melt and reform, and impressed by how secure the connections it created were.
I investigated and determined it was safe for me to solder one of the wires to the coin cell battery I was using (my initial plan was to secure it with copper tape). I soldered the black wire to the bottom of my battery.
My plan was that when the button was pushed, the battery would be directly beneath the button, and the button would make the blue wire touch the top of the battery and complete the circuit.
An issue I had was that if I just taped the blue wire to the base of mu button and pressed the button, it wouldn’t always reliably complete the circuit. I needed to always push the button at the location where the blue wire was taped below, so that that point was the lowest point and touched the battery.
I needed to create a larger surface area for the button to complete the circuit. So instead of the button pushing the end of the blue wire onto the button, it would push a copper tape onto the button. The copper tape would secure well to the button, and would ensure that it would have a larger area of contact with the button.
I had to find a way to connect the blue wire to the copper tape however, and here my MechE friends pointed out to me that I can solder the blue wire onto my copper tape! I was so excited about this possibility, I tried it and it worked perfectly. I am now a huge fan of soldering.
After I stick the tape to the bottom of my button, the full circuit looks like this.
To create the sides of my cube, I used popsicle sticks, and cut them down to the right size using a wood saw. Here’s how the finished product functions!
I’m very happy with how this project turned out. To test that I met my goals, I threw my cube against a wall and shook it in my hand very hard (in an attempt to loosen the connections. The soldered connections stayed intact, the heaviest component (the battery) was tightly secured with superglue, and the connection was always completed (irrespective of where my finger was positioned on the button) due to the larger surface area provided by the copper tape.
I’m glad that I was able to address all the shortcomings of my earlier copper tape project and create a much more reliable design.
I integrated a computer into my jacket, so that I could play a game on my jacket sleeve!
I used an Adafruit Flora as the computer that controlled the game, and I used sewable circuitry – particularly conductive thread, sewable LEDs and conductive fabric as the inputs and outputs of my game.
A big focus of this project was that this was my only denim jacket – I wear it a lot. I wanted my computer+game design to be robust against the normal usage conditions of the jacket. I roll it up clip it onto my bag, or I wear it on the nasty subway, or I wear it when it is raining. I wanted the computer to be safe from the dangerous environment, and I also wanted to be able to wear the jacket in all the normal situations that I’d wear it in.
I decided that the computer will be positioned inside one of my jacket pockets. That way
it is not exposed to the external environment, AND,
if it gets loose and falls off, it safely falls into my pocket, and not on the ground.
The computer is still a very delicate item, so despite the pocket safety measure, I wanted the option to remove the computer in a modular fashion. Traditionally, the Flora computer is sewn onto the textile (this would be tough to modularly remove a sewn on item). Instead, I attached the Flora to my jacket with snappable buttons (now its modular, I can unsnap the buttons attaching the item to the fabric).
The way this works is that the LEDs and buttons are sewn onto my fabric with conductive thread. The electricity on these threads is supplied by my computer. so these same threads from the LEDs need to connect to my computer. Instead, the LED threads are attached to the male ends of snappable buttons, which are sewn onto my fabric. The female ends of the buttons are attached to the input/output pins of my Flora computer. When I want to create an electrical connection between the LED thread and my computer, I join the male and female ends of the snappable buttons. The buttons conduct electricity and act as an interface between the computer and the thread sewn into the fabric!
I initially planned to solder the female ends of the buttons onto my computer. The solder would act as a “conductive glue” between the computer and button. This was a hard task, and the force exerted by the button-unsnapping process would always break the solder-connection I had created. I spent a lot of time trying to perfect my soldering process before I gave up. This was the biggest challenge of this project.
I’m most proud of how I solved this problem. Originally, The solder was acting as a “glue”, and a “conductor”. Instead, I used superglue as the glue, and conductive thread as the conductor!
With this method, I circumvent another issue. Some snap buttons can be large, and they run the risk of either touching adjacent buttons or touching adjacent I/O ports. As seen in the above picture, I can glue some buttons far away from their respective I/O port and adjacent button, to ensure there’s no accidental touching of circuitry. I just need to create a longer connection between button and port with the conductive thread.
My learning goals were to 1) work with electronic textiles, and 2) also work on a project design that is entirely my own and iterate that design.
I believe I successfully accomplished both goals. I invested a lot of time into understanding how conductive thread and sewable circuitry works, I looked at many different implementations to understand the best practices, and I practiced my sewing technique and improved it majorly also. I hoped to learn how to properly “think” about a sewing project – what are the challenges, what difficult decisions need to be made, how to problem solve on a sewing project. I did learn those things, and I also unintentionally learned how to fix or undo sewing mistakes!
For my second goal, my whole project was my own conception, I borrowed the concept of making the Flora modular with snappable buttons, but I iterated that design by using superglue and conductive thread instead of solder. My design involved 2 types of circuits, so I made sure to sew those circuits into a woodframe and test that my technique would work correctly. After finishing sewing any thread line or snap button or any electric component, I stopped to ensure that the electric connection was still “correct” and worked. This allowed me to catch mistakes early, fix my technique and not repeat those mistakes.
I’m very happy with project, specifically because of how rewarding the learning process was.
I invested a lot more mental, physical, critical effort in the process of learning, and then I felt smart when I applied my new knowledge.
What really stands out to me upon re-reading past write-ups is that I was very conservative with my projects. I was afraid of failure, so I tried to structure my projects around the simplest techniques that had the least scope for errors. It shows because I rarely ran into road-blocks and was rarely forced to think laterally and problem solve. I would instead try to change my project to fit the outcomes of my practices.
With this final project, the requirement of formulating a challenging proposal within the structures of the two chosen learning goals was very helpful. It made me iterate my technique and process to fit the project instead of vice versa.
I really feel much more confident as a maker now – I understand now that failure isn’t such a big setback, and that working on sub-samples of the problem will allow me to catch my failures earlier and spend lesser time overall. Because of this, I feel comfortable trying new techniques and incorporating creativity into my problem solving.
People often say that your life can turn out completely different than what you plan out of college. You can work on something thats entirely outside your major, and you can be working in a work culture that you didn’t think you’d enjoy. I could not see myself in this position, adapting to my environment and pivoting my life’s direction. Its a little extreme, but I feel differently now.
Working on this project, I’ve shown myself that I can work in a domain outside my expertise (sewing and textile) and adapt and excel. Additionally, I can make a new domain my own by incorporating my expertise in other domains. I didn’t see myself having such flexibility, but now I think my mind has opened to the possibility. I was a little scared about making E-Textile the focus of my project, but I handled it just fine. Now, I wont say “No” based on my prior judgment, because I have the potential to surprise myself. I believe being a “maker” also means not saying “no”. You have to be able to think on your feet and “find a solution” in the making process.
I learnt the E-textile process by working hands-on on a project that was personally meaningful to me. Both factors really accelerated the rate at which I learned e-textile. I cannot think of another circumstance that would have been more conducive to my learning process. I feel so confident in my abilities to sew circuits into fabric right now.
For my final project I decided to construct a Bluetooth speaker. Some challenges I faced during this project include: Part shopping for the proper parts that would all work together and create a decent sound. Learning how to solder and using it to help add security to the internal wiring of the speaker. Figuring out how to power the speakers in an efficient/mobile way. Figuring out a well-designed layout for the housing/case that fits properly to help hold everything together. I’m proud of a couple different parts of my final work. I really like the aesthetic and physical design that I landed on for the final version and think that given a second go at it I could create an extremely cool looking exterior to the speaker. I also was just proud that I was able to get everything to work. I’ve never had a lot of experience with working electronics besides computers and it was cool to get a chance to mess with something set up so very differently.
My learning goal for this project was perseverance – I wanted to try and take this project beyond the point of simply ‘being functional’ and make it visually interesting and finished looking. I think one thing I definitely took away in the making of my speaker was that perseverance takes a ton, ton, ton of time. Trying things out, looking at stuff in different ways, and really finalizing what you want your creation to be takes thinking and experimentation until you can’t take it anymore. I still think that I have yet to hit my peak level of perseverance – I didn’t quite end up with the final product I wanted by the time the showcase rolled around (I would have liked to have had reactive LEDs and button controls. I didn’t necessarily not meet these goals because I lack the skills to be able to take on the challenges I set for myself, it was more because I didn’t actually force myself to take the time and really try everything as much as I could. I think one thing that I could definitely benefit from more is documenting what my construction process will look like before-hand so that I can get a better idea of problems that may crop up in the process. I’ve also come to realize how much this helps you figure out what you can do at different substages and helps identify different problems you can tackle within projects while waiting on other things to get solved or become available. All that said, I’m still insanely happy with my final product. As stated earlier, I’ve never really messed with electronics much besides computers and it was fun to make something that’s more on the ‘analog’ electronic side of things because I think the simplicity of how stuff like that works is very interesting. I was also really happy with my ability to solidify this product in a very short time. I was in a huge time crunch at the end of the semester and the fact I was able to create a finished product within a week or two is crazy to me. My project is also meaningful to me for two different reasons – one, it’s my first ever Bluetooth speaker (I’ve never had one before) and I got to make it myself and decide how everything would work and what functions suit me. Two, this project (as well as the iteration project) has shown me how I can take all the stuff I’ve learned in this class, as well as others, and apply them to solving problems myself as opposed to hoping that a solution is created by someone else. This autonomy is really powerful in my eyes and something that I definitely want to foster in myself.
I think there are probably two main things that I’ve built in myself over the course of the semester. The first, I would say, is the ability to get over my usual fears of talking to others and trying to have them give advice and/or help when I am trying to figure out an idea/project. The sense of community that gets fostered within a fab lab really is palpable and you realize very quickly how helpful it is to be surrounded by a community of people with similar goals/objectives as you, with skill levels across the spectrum in a broad range of topics. It’s also great to use other people as a way to figure out if what you’re trying to communicate or design is coming across in a way that makes sense or works. The second thing I think that I really gained over the semester is the ability to be unafraid to tackle a variety of different skills/crafts when approaching them from an exploratory place. There’s definitely a huge range of topics we cover in this course and I think that doing that allows people to look to even more varied skills and feel as though they have the ability to at least try something out because they know how to use the resources, tools, and documentation that can point them in the right direction. I think that the openness to at least try to learn different skills (and combine them over time) is something really beneficial that can be taken away from this class. I also think that I have built my confidence in my ability to fabricate and create things significantly. I’m an art minor so I’ve had opportunities to make tons of imaginative stuff, but never to design so thoughtfully and never to create more tangible, interactive objects. This confidence definitely makes me want to come back to making things more often in the future and taking on projects similar to those we did throughout this class.
I think this course has definitely helped me feel more connected to my STEM side in some ways, which I really appreciated a lot. I first came to UIUC for CS and then switched after realizing I wasn’t nearly as prepared as a lot of people coming in. This class felt like it bridged the gap between that style of thinking and the styles of thinking I see in classes like my advertising classes or my art & design classes. Even before I took this course, I would probably describe myself as a maker – I enjoy creating my own things and realizing my own distinctions and personal needs and design principles. I think it has become harder and harder for people to describe themselves as makers as time has gone on, but that nearly everyone can take on the role should they choose to. Making is something that is totally within the grasp of anyone, you just need a lot of persistence, patience, and passion. I think this class (and this semester for me personally, as well) has spurred a lot of those three things in me. I’ve started to realize that you can easily fall into some role where none of those things are really an importance, but I personally enjoy the personal growth that can come out of trying to achieve these things. I do still agree with Papert that the most significant learning is hands-on and personally meaningful. I think this class has really shown that to me. I’ve created a ton of stuff in a very short time that’s honestly super cool and decently practical. I’ve seen this through other classes as well – the one’s where I’m making stuff that is going to benefit me and personify me definitely catch my attention the most and help me hold onto the things I’ve learned the best. I think that having the chance to just get your hands onto different things can really help you figure out how you feel about different topics and hobbies in a much quicker way than just reading about it or hearing about it. Answering tests is great and all, but actually being able to show the knowledge physically is really great as well. I also think that working with your hands also just allows more nuance to the learning process and gives you a bigger connection to what you’re working on.
My final project was on a “Smart Trash Picker,” and I have a short slide-deck explaining what that is, and you can view it here
Fully built Smart Trash Picker
I wrote up my final report within a Google Doc, and aligning the images in that Google Doc was difficult. If I copy-pasted that material into WordPress, the formatting would all go wrong. So instead (with instructor permission) I’ve included my final report as a PDF. You can view that report here:Final Project Written Reflection
During these weeks in lab we worked with textiles, sewing, and embroidery. I happened to also be in a fashion class this semester, so I was excited to get the opportunity to learn some new things that could add to my clothing construction repertoire. I’ve also never been around embroidery machines before, so that was an exciting prospect.
During the first week of this lab we had to make small drawstring bags. Since I missed the actual lab section, I ended up constructing this on my own at a separate time. I was definitely still getting a hang of dealing with the ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ sides of fabric during this time and as you can see in the pictures, some of the parts of my bag ended up in the wrong spot. I decided to make the most of this and have a bag that has outer pockets instead of the lining that it was supposed to have. I decided to hand sew some parts of the bag for practice as well (although now that I know a little more I always try and avoid hand sewing). Making this bag actually ended up kind of helping me in my fashion class as well, later down the line. When making two whole(!) outfits for my final project I needed some way to secure the waist of some shorts I planned on creating. I thought back to this assignment and realized I could make a similar drawstring (coming out of the sides of the shorts) that would both be functional, as well as stylistically unique.
The following week in lab, we learned to use the embroidery machines to sew vector images into fabric. This is something I’ve wanted to learn about and play with for a really long time since I draw and have created vector images in the past that I think would be really interesting to sew into clothes. In lab I got the opportunity to make myself the majority of a squirrel patch (side note: embroidery can be really time consuming). I was really impressed by how accurate and clean everything looked with my squirrel. I realized there were probably a ton of really cool things I could do for my final embroidery. I didn’t really experience any serious issues with this patch in lab, but when it came to making my final piece I ran into a totally different set of problems in making a patch work out, which I will discuss a little later.
For my final textile product I decided I wanted something that could be useful to me and serve a function instead of something that just looked cool (especially since I was still working on upping my fabric craftsmanship). When I looked through all of my options I eventually came across a pencil bag that I thought would be super helpful because I’m always searching for all of my different art pens, pencils, and other tools which can be spread across my apartment, throughout my backpack, etc. With this bag I would be able to keep everything contained and in one place.
I immediately thought of a drawing I had done a while back that would make the perfect embroidery to put on it and I thought about all the extra clothes I had at my apartment that could possibly used for fabric. I ended up deciding on a tie-dye shirt as the fabric I would use for the outer lining. Once I started working on the actual bag, however, I realized all the mistakes I had unwittingly made. My original drawing, vectorized, turned out to be too much for the embroidery machines to handle. The file size was too large, even when trying to reduce the density of stitches, turn outlines into running stitches, or trying to simplify the vector image. This was a major bummer for me as I really wanted to see that image in fabric form. After I gave up and decided to create a new vector image I began starting into my patch for the outside lining. This is when I ran into even more problems!
I soon found that the embroidery machines don’t quite work with t-shirt material by itself, not matter how taut you get it on the hoop. The fabric I had cut from my t-shirt ended up getting sucked down into the bobbin pit and getting all caught up in everything. I decided to suck it up, cut a new piece (the last I could get out of the t-shirt), and try it again with some stabilizer. The stabilizer did help some, but with my specific design having the heavy filled areas, it still ripped and ended up letting the fabric get caught up in the machine again. I tried one more time to no avail and just decided to get my patch made so I could move on.
I grabbed a piece of canvas and started into it. One of the types of fabric I tried to use to embroidery immediately broke and I couldn’t get it to work no matter what I tried (it was pearlescent and I think it just wasn’t strong enough for the tension the embroidery machine needs). What happened then is still somewhat of a mystery to me. When I started into my canvas piece it was late into the night and I was unable to finish before the fab lab closed up. I left my machine until the next day and started back into the patch. Somewhere along the way it got unaligned which ended up being the final patch you see on my bag. I decided that I was fine with just using that patch to try and get this whole ordeal over with. As per usual, I decided to try and work with what I was given and decided to try and use the patch as a little pouch on the front of the bag, to help give it some utility. After attaching that to the outer lining I ironed some interfacing onto the outer lining to help give it some rigidity. I then attached my inner lining and a zipper to enclose the whole thing. My bag ended up being a little different than what the guide was looking for, but I like the way it looks personally and think it is much more unique than the standard pencil bag.
I had a lot of trials and tribulations in the process of making these objects, but I think that’s a lot of what getting good with textiles takes — experimenting and trying things out until the process makes sense in your head. I definitely think I need to spend some more time around embroidery machines to try and really get my skills up to par there and test out how you can make different fabrics work out with them. I also think that designing projects to be cut into pieces and aligned later takes a certain level of organization skill and planning that I still might not be at yet. Either way, I was still really happy with the items I produced and plan on getting as much use out of them as possible. That’s one thing I really love about textiles — the opportunities are so limitless and it’s instantly gratifying to make an object that can serve some kind of real purpose for people.
I learned a lot about handling machines through these weeks and in conjunction with my fashion class, this time period was a time where I really upped my skills in textiles a visible (at least in my opinion) amount. Being able to figure out ways to turn mistakes into benefits was definitely a skill I pulled out of textile work quickly. I actually bought my own sewing machine recently due to how much fun I have had with all the textile prospect I’ve taken on now and hope to make lots more stuff soon! Since I’m a little late in turning in this write-up, I’ve decided to include some other projects I took on in my fashion class in hopes for a little credit or at the very least to show that I do kind of know my way around textiles. There are more, but here are the highlights:
For the final project, I created a press-fit constellations box powered by wireless inductive coils.
Initially, I intended for the box to be powered by a solar panel circuit. But along the way I ran into some revelations and restrictions that led me to replace the intended solar panel circuit for a wireless inductive coil circuit.
I used an online press-fit box generator to get the 5×5 box I envisioned and I imported an image of the sky into Inkscape to begin working on my design. I attempted to change the image to a vector image by tracing the bitmap but the vector image was choppy. Therefore, I opted to manually create each element of the image one at a time, from the stars to the lines of the constellations. I created the stars in the sky using the circle tool and the star tool in Inkscape. I used the pen tool to create the lines of the constellations. My main goal was to make sure the majority of the constellations would allow for light to pass through so that the constellations could be seen in the dark. For the lines of the constellations, I converted the stroke to a path, and removed the fill to give it a 0.001 inch outline, therefore creating a thicker line to be vectored.
This process took an insane amount of time because I wanted to really get the design right. I felt pretty comfortable on Inkscape, but there was still a lot of features in the program that were unknown to me so I was learning as I was designing. There was a lot of back in forth in designing.
My learning goals were to (1) challenge myself by learning and integrating wireless inductive coils into my design and the all the components needed to create the circuit because I was never really knowledgeable or comfortable with circuits before, and (2) to extensively plan out each of my steps before I started the project because I’ve found that I usually just throw myself into the assignments without thinking through all the factors and outcome.
For the first goal, I hoped to create a successful circuit that could power my constellation box. I was pretty much clueless on wireless inductive coils so I did a bit of research to find sources so that I could get a better grasp of all the components and functions. I read a few Instructables, blogs, and watched a few videos. I essentially followed the circuit diagram off of https://learn.adafruit.com/wireless-inductive-power-night-light?view=all and the circuit was successful. Before, I was a bit intimidated by circuits, but now I feel a lot more comfortable working with them.
As for the second goal, I really tried to hold myself to the goal. I created a step-by-step list for myself so that I could try to plan out all the components I would need beforehand. I found it helpful in the beginning but realized as I really started getting to work on the project, a lot of factors were shifting and at a certain point my step-by-step list kind of fell apart. But I still believe writing out the steps of a project is really helpful. It got me to really think about the logistics and design of the box in respect to the circuit as a cohesive piece, rather than the two as separate projects that needed to somehow come together in the end.
I’ve learned a lot in this project and the course. Often times, I got really frustrated when something would go wrong in an assignment. I would end up spending more time than I anticipated in order to fix the issue or coming up with an alternative. I treated arising issues as a barrier rather than an inevitable part of the process. I’ve always considered myself a good problem-solver, but I was never very comfortable when I ran into one. I think now, I have a much better approach to problems. I’m less emotional about them and more productive. I tackle the issues head-on.
As an advertising major, I always saw myself as a strategist. To be fair, I’m not sure where I’ll end up but I’ve always been drawn to the duality of the profession. Analytic and Creative. This course allowed for me to experience with different mediums (almost all that were new to me) and I think it sparked the creative side of myself. I would consider myself a maker. To me, a maker is anyone who devotes their time and their craft to create something. Making is collaborative, challenging, rewarding and unlimited.
For my Final Project, I worked on making a programmable keypad. I idea behind this keypad is that it could be used for multiple purposes, like data entry, coding, gaming, etc. To build it, I needed several tools and materials, like Adafruit Its Bitsy, sottering tools, wood, wires, mechanical switched, keycaps, etc. Through out the project, I was following the guideline from the instructables website. The first step of the process was to sketch different designs for keypad; I sketched many different shapes for the keypad, like square, rectangular, circular, etc. I decided to move forward with the square design, because it was easier to interact with. Then, I build a press fit box, and laser cut it. After fitting the mechanical keys in the top portion of the box, I had to sotter them with the Itsy Bitsy. Sottering was the most challenging part of the entire assignment, because it was my first time doing it. In beginning, it did not work well, but with some help, I was able to sotter the keys with one another.
After that, I connected Its Bitsy to the keys. Again, it was challenging because the Itsy Bitsy was very small, its ports were very tiny; I had to be very careful in Sottering, so that I don’t damage it.
Connecting keys with Itsy Bitsy
Wired all the keys
After wiring all the keys, I had to do the coding part of the keypad, which was very straightforward, and went very smoothly. After coding part, I just had to assemble all the parts, and also attach Itsy Bitsy into the box. Sottering took me most of the time, but it was interesting to learn a new skill. The final product looked like this:
As I mentioned earlier, this is a multi purpose keypad, and it could be used in many different ways. For my final product, I coded it in a way that first three keys were cut, copy, and paste, and the second set of three keys were select left, select up, and select right, and the third set of three keys were undo, select down, and delete. It turned out really well, and it was as I wanted it to be. I am proud of the entire product, and specifically how convenient it could be for the users. For instance, this keypad, the way I programmed it, was doing performing cut, copy, and paste commands with just one keys, while in the standard keyboard, users have to press two keys. It was also great that how it could be used in different platforms like gaming, data entry, etc. The final product turned to be great, and I was happy with it. Below is the video of the final product:
My first learning goal, was to push my creativity in designing the keypad, and do something innovative and helpful. I believe in most of the way, I have met my first learning goal. I tried to push my creativity in designing and coding aspect of the product. In the beginning, I had many different design ideas and sketches for the product. I designed it in shape of gaming joystick, two handed gaming controller, circular shaped keyboard, etc. I chose the square design because it could easier to use, and users are already comfortable using something like this. Also, the idea was that it could be used in different platforms, so if I could have chose the design for gaming, then it would not work in data entry or coding. Because of that, I moved forward with the square design. I also programmed it in way that it could be useful in entering commands, like copy, paste, etc. In the intractable’s tutorial, it was used for typing numbers. My goal was to make it very convenient for the users. This could also be very helpful because of its convenience and usability. This could also used by the elderly people, who have trouble pressing the combination of keys. I believe that the final outcome was innovative. In future, I plan to make it more innovative, by adding some extra features.
My second learning goal was to learn and do Sottering. Through out the project, I sottered a lot. In the beginning, it was a bit challenging, but, later, I got comfortable with it. I enjoyed the learning process. I had nine keys in the keypad, and each key had two terminals in it. So, I had to sotter eighteen times on the keys. I had two to sotter on ten ports of the Itsy Bitsy, so, in total, I sottered at least twenty eight times, through the project. I met my goal of learning to sotter, through sottering to create a final product. I am happy with the final product, because it would very useful to anyone, in daily lives, and it is also very convenient to use.
Through out the course assignments, I have learned many useful skills, techniques, and tools. One of the most useful things that I have learned is the usefulness of prototyping. In most of the assignments, I created many different prototypes for the final product. I learned that how much prototypes can be useful in understanding the design of the final product, and ways to make necessary changes in design. Another important skill that I learned was design thinking. In most of the assignments, we had to come up something different or new, and coming up with something like that required a lot of thinking, creativity, and ideas. The entire process helped me strengthen my design thinking skills. With the help of all the assignments and process, I have become comfortable with coming up with something new. I also loved making things and designing stuff. The process was time consuming, but, most of the times, I was satisfied with the end result. I have definitely developed confidence as a maker and a thinker. It would be very helpful in future projects and goals.
This course was very useful in making me think, from a different perspective. Through out the course, I learned a lot, and it would help me in future goals. I consider myself as a maker. I have learned so many different making skills and techniques, and also learned to apply those is real life projects. In the beginning, I thought that making is straightforward. However, through this class, I learned that it is not very easy, and it requires a lot of planning, thinking, iterations, time, etc., to finalize a product. To create something, it requires a lot of effort and commitment. I think that I am a maker, and anyone who is able to come up with an idea and implement it should be considered as the maker. I agree with the quotation of Papert that it is very important for any type of learning to be personally meaningful. If someone is attached to something, then learning about that is fun and interesting. I think all the assignments were in some ways hands-on and personally meaningful, which made the class, a great learning experience.
For my final project I made a slide puzzle utilizing my own artwork. The inspiration for it was that I wanted to meld my love for both games and art into one project and the slide puzzle to me felt like a good mix of those two interests.
The first thing I started doing was the artwork in the center of the piece. This led to my first challenge, getting out of my art funk. I went through at least 3 different ideas for the art before I settled on the final piece. Once I finished the project the artwork is what I feel the most proud of. Both the line art and the finished art can be seen below.
Then I moved onto the sliding pieces and the overall frame. This ended up being quite easy to do since I found a simple Instructable online to help me. Check it out here: https://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-Make-a-Wooden-Sliding-Puzzle/
The primary challenge in this build process is dealing with the material I ended up using. Initially I wanted to make the frame out of something like wood or acrylic (acrylic being my number 1 choice), however due to the time spent on the artwork I needed to downgrade to cardboard. The challenge from this was dealing with the difficulty of sliding as well as the inaccuracy of my own cutting. Some of the process can be seen below (The last picture is after the presentation)
I want to get used to utilizing the poster printer.
For the most part I met this goal as it was simply learning to work with a piece of equipment. However in future uses of this machine I should look to explore different types of paper to see how it might change the final product. I also gained some more experience converting between different file types and formatting things for a poster printing, which is small but still useful.
I want to challenge myself by combining my passion for both games and art into one interactive art piece.
By just executing my project I feel like I met this goal as I made something that leveraged my love for art and made something that is playful and somewhat game like. Reflecting on this learning goal I could have taken the project one further and made a slide puzzle that had multiple different correct configurations. Additionally if I had the time I might have crafted something that allowed me to switch out puzzles making one harder than the other. This would allow for a sense of progression to the person playing with the puzzle much similar to a traditional video game. This goal in particular allowed me to learn how to meld different mediums in a way that highlights both of them.
I also want to challenge myself by making a piece with a lot of moving parts, in contrast to my other projects that are primarily stationary parts.
This was the learning goal that I wanted to meet the most, as it was something that none of my previous projects were able to do, except for the Pom Bot. For the most part I was able to accomplish this as the slide puzzle actually slid, however if I had enough time to laser cut pieces it likely would have slide even better. Ultimately I am still happy with my final project, however as I mentioned before I do regret not having the time to make even better.
A common theme throughout many of my write-ups is time management. Throughout these projects I don’t think I’ve gotten better at managing my time making, however I feel like I have gotten better at dealing with the consequences of it. Mainly how as the semester went on the less and less time I actually had to work on these maker projects, however even with the lack of physical time, I was still able to make projects that at the very least got close to my intended vision.
While it didn’t really change my thinking, this course helped reinforce the idea of iteration, which is something that has been highlighted within my own major LES: DELTA and is something that is necessary within my intended career of game development. Many of the projects throughout the semester required me to go back to the drawing board and having multiple different ideas to work off of made things go a lot smoother.
At the beginning of the semester I didn’t really think of myself as a maker mainly because I just didn’t feel very comfortable using many of the things that are associated with making. However after many of the things discussed during lecture made me see how making can take many different forms and it doesn’t have to just be about laser cutting or 3D printing. As a result now I relate a little bit closer to being a maker since I can see my own interests being a part of it.
This assignment was all about improving and building upon one or two of our previous assignments we did for this semester. I decided to combine the laser cutting and copper tape circuit projects by creating a wood cut-out of a cat with glowing LEDs for eyes.
Below are the laser cut and copper tape circuit assignments I had previously completed.
Laser name tag
Copper tape circuit
The first part was the laser cutting. I used Inkscape to create a silhouette of a cat image found on the Internet and added two 3mm-radius circles as eyes (3mm being the radius of the LEDs so they could fit through). In my first attempt, 3mm for each eye ended up being too small. I needed to make the eyes slightly bigger so that the LEDs could fit through, but not enough so there were noticeable gaps. 5 mm ended up being the ideal size. I also wanted to make some sort of stand that could hold the cat upright. Sara recommended trying the press-fit box design, so I used a website called MakerCase to design the box and also laser cut that out.
Then, I bought some acrylic paints and painted the cat silhouette so it looked more like a cat. I wanted to make it look like my cat at home, who is a gray tabby.
Press-fit box parts and painted cat silhouette
The final iteration was implementing the circuit. For this part, I used two batteries, two blue LEDs (as my cat’s eyes are blue), and copper tape to put together a series circuit that would light up the LEDs when the cat leaned against the stand. Thus, the stand also acts as a switch to complete the circuit and illuminate the eyes.
Unfortunately, when the cat rests on the stand it doesn’t light up very well unless you line it up just right and press down pretty hard. I think I needed to attach the batteries a little more securely so everything remained connected when upright. But it still turned out kinda cute.
Nonetheless, this project was fun to do because it provided us a better opportunity for creativity and improvement. Personally I feel like if I had more time I could have come up with something a bit more useful or interesting, but I still enjoyed getting to be a bit more artistic with what I was doing.
For this assignment I decided to take a whack at combining what I learned from the name tag assignment and the Arduino assignments and create a little ‘light show machine’. The plan for this creation is to combine more complex woodcut patterns with motors, LEDs, and an Arduino to make an object that spins the designs over top of lights to make cool patterns.
I started out this assignment in class by drawing out some ideas and creating a general sense of what I was going to do. Once I started thinking more on making my light show machine, I realized that 3D printing parts would be a great way to house everything very securely and making sure that everything kept from falling apart. Given the time constraints I had, I realized I could make small 3D prints to help create the most essential parts of my machine.
After planning out my design, I went on to laser cutting. I had designed a file in Illustrator and made the design go radially, resulting in a sort of flower-like pattern for the wheels that would be spinning on my machine. Creating this pattern was easy enough, and I realized that I could go back later and create multiple different types of patterns in the future for different kinds of visual effect.
After laser cutting my wheels, I went on to setting up circuits with my Arduino and component parts (breadboard, resistors, etc.). I sat the breadboard on top of the Arduino to try and save lateral space and make the final device more column-like as opposed to plate-like. I had to work with some components during this part that I hadn’t worked with before — RGB LEDs and a 6V continuous servo motor. Wiring these in was a fairly simple task, however I quickly realized that I wouldn’t be able to run the motor and both of my RGB LEDs off the same power source feeding the board (at least without a motor controlling chip, which I should’ve asked about at the fab lab; my Arduino kit didn’t contain one). To help alleviate this problem I set up a separate controlling chip to power the wheel off of a 9V battery. The Arduino controlling the LEDs would then be powered by a computer or power brick (what I used to help make this thing a bit more portable — an initial goal of mine.
Once I got that all set up I went about mapping out 3D designs for my adapter to help hold the wheel to the servo and a bracket to try and contain the breadboard and Arduino on the bottom, while housing the motor. I got help from Brandon and worked in Fusion to map everything out to the mm. This part way definitely new for me, but got pretty understandable pretty quickly, so I’m glad I now can work software like that better.
After printing out my component parts I headed home to assemble everything and add a piece of wax paper to the wheel that was closest to the LED (to help disperse the LED light and make it more ‘glowy’ as opposed to super direct beams). I housed my final machine in a roll of duct tape and some cardboard for the time being, as I didn’t have time to accurately measure everything and create a 3D printed housing (although at this point, I definitely want to do that).
Getting everything to sit in a way that kept the servo from getting jammed was definitely a challenge, as was finding ways to house everything that are neat and still accessible. Another problem that I realized far too far into this project was that continuous servo motors can’t be controlled speed-wise in the same way that stepper servos can, at least without additional parts. I wasn’t able to take care of this before turn-in so my light show machine looks a bit more like a glowing jet engine, but I still think it’s cool.
I would say that as much as I would have wanted this project to end up looking really finalized, there’s still some stuff I could add to it to make it better. I plan on 3D printing a housing for everything once I find a way that I can make it all sit uniformly. I also want to be able to make it so both wheels on the machine can spin in different directions, but this may take some more time and effort to crack. I lastly would like to be able to incorporate some type of sensor into this project, but again, I think I may need to take care of some other parts before that happens.
I was really happy with what I made for this project, even if it is somewhat rough, because it really helped me use the skills I already had, expand them, as well as learn new skills I wasn’t planning on learning. The coding on this project was fairly simple, as it usually seems with smaller arduino projects. Housing and measuring things was definitely something very challenging, as well as learning to approach the different design challenges that would pop up in the process of working on my gadget.
I’m excited to keep prototyping my light box and see if I can make one that really looks professional within the next couple of weeks. Maybe if I get it really right I can use it in conjunction with the speaker I plan on making for my final project!
I decided to revisit my Copper Tape project since I had a bit of trouble originally completing the structure and getting the circuit to work, as the copper tape is very difficult to get working in series due to limited voltage.
This time, I wanted to add in a bit of locomotion, adding in the canards and ailerons to the aircraft. To accomplish this, I would need to make use of Arduino and actual (thank gods) wires, building a more robust circuit and working with a more stable power source. Ideally, I wanted to find an Arduino PS2 joystick so I could add in some interactivity (i.e. all surfaces pitch up when the controls stick is pulled up, etc.), but I had to settle for having the control surfaces sweep back and forth. Since I wanted to add in space for servos and an Arduino board, I had to work with a bigger surface, prompting me to switch to the Laser Cutter and a 12″ x 24″ plywood board for the baseplate. As such, I had to upscale and modify my original paper template, sectioning off the control surfaces.
Build Process and Modification:
My first iteration was to get a basic feel for the circuit layout and size, so I used a 12″ x 24″ board as the base. It would later turn out that this board wasn’t large enough to accommodate the servos and Arduino Uno controller comfortably, so I would need to choose a bigger base for the later iteration. While laser cutting, the large board had warped slightly and this caused the laser to be out of focus at times due to an inconsistent z-distance. For example, note the minor offset cuts on the baseplate in the picture below:
The first issue was to attach the canards (forward winglets) to the baseplate via a servo. Since the canards were cranked at a certain angle, I had initially intended to tilt two servos, one for each canard, and rotate those independently. However, since space on the baseplate was limited, I decided to use one servo and link the two canards together via a bent paper clip. To prevent the paper clip from rotating in place from the servo’s control arm, I had to secure it in place with a bit of hot glue…
Okay, a lot of hot glue.
The first thing to get used to was working three servos in parallel. This usually would be a bit problematic with only two ground pins in the Uno board, so I had to hook them all up to the breadboard to get them working in parallel
For the prototype, I decided to keep it simple and simply attach the servos to the control surfaces (instead of using control horns and push rods as is the standard case with RC aircraft). After working with the Arduino IDE I was able to get the servos moving independently simultaneously:
When thinking of ideas for this project, I wanted to incorporate sewing or embroidery since I really enjoyed those weeks earlier in the semester. To step up my previous work a bit, I decided to use sewable LEDs. My final work is really a combination of a couple of previous projects. Originally, I was planning to have sewing and wood working combined to make a new name tag that wasn’t laser-engraved but embroidered and lit up with LEDs. When I thought about the usability of this, I was discouraged since it wouldn’t be very easy to use a piece of wood and cloth as a nametag. But the wood gave me the idea to make it a frame instead – that way I could make a larger piece of work and not have to limit myself to a small piece of wood.
Since a frame wouldn’t make much sense I thought about making the embroidery part a quote or the name of my club that could be used as art. The first part in making this was the wood frame, which was relatively easy but I had to fiddle with it quite a bit towards the end. Once I had the measures of the frame, I could start the embroidery and make sure the text wasn’t too big or small. My first run with the embroidery machine was a failure since the cloth and thread caught on the machine and I had to cut the whole thing just to remove it from the machine. The frustrating thing was that it was entirely done by that point, it just wouldn’t let go without me completely cutting it off.
I attempted to do a fading effect with the thread to make it switch between multiple colors, but with the stabilizer on the back of the cloth, since didn’t have the same effect that I had hoped. With my second try, I just used one color thread and it thankfully worked. After that was set, I started working with the LEDs. Sewing by hand isn’t my forte and sewing LEDs is a little finicky since you have to wrap the conductive thread around each LED multiple times in order to ensure it connects. I messed up the first time I tried this because I connected the positive side of the battery holder to the negative side of the first LED, so I was extra careful in not making that mistake again. Once I got the hang of it, it went okay but it didn’t look pretty from the right side.
I tried to cover up the messy parts with a bit of trim I found which was good since you can still see through it to see the lights. It still looks a little messy since I didn’t use a sewing machine to sew any part of it, but I thought it went okay since I hadn’t had any experience with sewable LEDs. I checked the connection with a sensor and it was completely connected everywhere. I had two purple LEDs and three blue and that was a bad combination since only the blue will light up. To fit it into the frame, I sanded down the sides of the inside that was cut from the frame a lot so the cloth would fit snugly without being too loose. This worked much better than the idea I previously had about cutting multiple different sizes of wood to see which would fit better.
If I had more time, I probably would have figured out how to make a hinge and an easel back so it wouldn’t have to only stand upright, but I didn’t want to attempt this without a hinge because I didn’t want it to be stuck in the same position forever. I also probably won’t be using sewable LEDs in the future even though it is a cool technology, it’s a lot of work if you’re sewing multiple on there and the battery life is very short.