Field Week 2 Brainstorming Ideas

This Thursday, under the eye of Paul Granjon we had a brainstorming session for ideas for a group project. A variety of ideas were put forward but we quite quickly settled on a theme of making an interactive game. First we considered the small scale with thoughts about a snakes and ladders style board game and a lights sequence memory game also board sized. We then moved on to consider how a whole room could be used for a arduino game, now we are thinking more along the lines of a kinetic environment. Some ideas put on the brainstorming page were laser-maze/tag style games. The suggestions were of fun environments. How could we make people interact with a room in a fun, game like way.

Then I remembered my idea for hacked, cut-and-shut amalgamation toys, sort of like Sid’s creepy monster toys in Toy Story.One of the ideas was that the audience would change the environment in ways that the ‘monster-bots’ sensors could pick up on as they move around within it, they may shy away from the audience perhaps or from bright light and loud noises. There are some other ideas for what these monster-bots could get up to.

We were all pretty happy with this idea, but we continued to explore the theme of sensory objects in simpler terms. Our main aim is to make some objects that interact with the environment they are in, and use all the different types of sensors for arduino that we can, for us the focus is on learning how to make working objects that use arduino and having the skills to take on to future projects. So with the call for simpler objects, we started thinking about how to make simpler objects that are less about hacking and tinkering with existing objects like ‘robot’ toys and more about the skills we are learning with arduino. With simplicity of concept comes simplicity of form, we have decided on simple geometrical forms like cubes, pyramids and spheres made of a variety of materials. These simple objects are just that – simple. Their complexity and interactiveness now comes straight from the arduino board and its sensors and actuators. Through the arduino we want to give personalities to these simple forms, to create distinguishable characters with recognisable behaviours. They may interact with each other, convey data, jostle for space, follow each other around, make sounds, lights and movements that can be identified as happy, angry, sad, curious, hot or cold, shy etc.

So now we have started making some prototypes, Becky made a origami cube and then we started to code and circuit build. The first geo-bot we have decided to work on will have a shy, scared personality. So we are going to make it light up in the dark with concerned squeaks. It will also quiver when approached and perhaps move away from  a hand (possibly) whilst glowing different colours. The coding today proved quite difficult for us – getting multiple LED’s to work off one digital output from the arduino. I have brought it home to work on so hopefully I will crack it tonight.

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For me my main goal with this field module is to see an idea through from start to finish. From idea to finished object that meets all the criteria that the idea puts out.

Arduino Workshop with Dennis and Paul Granjon

This morning comprised of more group work, I partnered up with Becky Durbin and together we followed some more example circuits. We made a LDR (Light Dependent Resistor) and LED programme that brightened or dimmed the LED according to the amount of light (or photons) that were hitting the sensor surface, this gave a range of brightnesses the more or less the light source was blocked. This was really similar to the sketch I build last night that was the same thing but using a buzzer rather than an LED. This let me make really weird sounds like a theremin as I moved my hand in and out of the light source area – but im not sure it was technically quite a theremin at that point.

Next Becky and I tried to run a sketch to run a motor off the arduino Uno but we keep kept running into problems. We are not sure if its the transistor (could be bust), the resistor  (which we are sure is correct value) or the motor (which is very low power 2.5V thereabouts). The circuit is perfect and the sketch is perfect, verified and uploaded no problem….so why isn’t it working?!

We shall try again after lunch.

After lunch we finally got it working after much more trial and error. We then moved on to using an inferred proximity sensor to switch an LED on and off with motion. This then refused to work… everything was correct so I think it must have been a dodgy sensor. We will try it again on Thursday before continuing with more exciting projects. We are to try and find and bring in robot toys that we can hack to do our bidding and carry out operations other than that they were intended for. This idea reminds me slightly of Sid from Toy Story with his rather gruesome creations constructed from the parts of different toys making strange and disturbing beasts. Maybe we will do something like that….

After a bit of research on the interwebs I came across some projects I’d like to try.

Picture of Infrared Proximity Sensing Coffee Table Module & Color Changing Glowing Faucet

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Get started with the Bend Sensor

Internet-Controlled RC Car

4x4x4 LED Cube (Arduino Uno)

Arduino Basics DIY Totourials

The examples of arduino circuits that Paul gave us in PDF are the ones I’m covering in this post. I have done most of these types of examples and tutorials last year when I got my own arduino board, but I have not really used it properly for a project yet. I decided I would run through them all to refresh my knowledge and try to commit the basic stuff to memory which will hopefully allow me to be a bit more spontaneous with the arduino when trying to make something creative.

Working Out Resistors: for this Dennis the TD produced a rhyme or mnemonic which you use to work out your resistors value. I have not quite memorised it yet but it is very useful. It goes as follows:

Some of these we covered in workshop with Dennis but most I went through at home

Multiple Digital Outputs

Digital Input

Analogue Input

Analogue Output

Analogue input and output

Ultrasound distance sensor

Next I shall experiment with motors and infra-red light sensors – hopefully out of this I should be able to make a theremin which drives a motor making an object move.

Finished Grinding and Sanding Bowls Stumps

Today I finished grinding the foot-ring stumps of the bottom of my steel bowl. I have the foot-ring on the side awaiting it’s fate, I may at some point turn it in to a display stand and cut a pattern out of it to me it less chunky and industrial looking. Once the stumps were ground down Dallas gave me a sanding pad for the grinder and I set to smoothing out the rough grinding wheel marks, this also trued it up a lot, adding the patches to the bowls contour so that no fine filing will be needed.

So now it looks a lot more bowl shaped with the end form visible. Where the stumps where are now silvery patches in the orange paint smooth to the touch but with an interesting visible sanded texture that you cant really feel. After it has been sand blasted I may go over the outside surface to get this effect again – it looks good.

Next is sand blasting off the remainder of the think orange paint. After that it will be time to enamel the inner surface. Its now time to start getting my designs down out of my head onto paper. Before I commit a design to my larger steel bowl I shall carry out a few sample ideas with a number of copper test pieces. These are relatively straight forward to make. 0.8 gauge copper sheet in a doming block to produce some small copper bowls and then ensuring they are clean with rubbing alcohol they are enamelled with test designs.

Gas Bottle Bowl Has Lost Its Foot-ring!

After my field workshops I went to the metal room and managed to see Dallas, He set up the plasma cutter for me and I then proceeded to cut the foot-ring off the steel bowl, I was really glad he suggested the plasma cutter, it was MUCH faster than cutting it off with a cutting disk, my only wish is that I had cut it a little closer to the bowl, I had been worried it would cut into the bowl underside. The cuts were quick and controlled so I probably could have cut closer and saved time with the grinding down of the stumps which is taking a while.




Its half way through grinding off the stumps, that will be finished tomorrow and then filed down to be smooth and true. Then it will go into the cabinet sandblaster to take off the orange paint on the outside surface and to clean the whole thing up ready for enamelling.

The foot-ring looks pretty good, if I grind of the plasma cutter marks back till its smooth I’m sure I could find a use for it. One idea is to make a stand for the bowl, but cut out a pattern to make it less…dense and think, and more appealing to look at.

Basic Electronics and Circuit Building Workshop Day.

First Dennis talked about electricity what it is exactly and where it comes from. He mentioned about transformers and stepping up and down between mains, buildings and appliances. Arduino boards need steppers to step up or down depending on what they are doing, whether they are driving something or if they are being powered from a large voltage source they cannot handle.

We looked at resistors and learnt what they are and how they work. Dennis gave us a rhyme to helps us work out the resister colour code so that we can work out what type of resistor we have. Then we tried it out a few times. We also looked at resistance calculations and ohms law.

Soldering. We had a bit of hands on soldering practise. Nothing I hadn’t done before though.

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After lunch we had a go at building some simple LED circuits and seeing what we could make.

Multimeter demonstration was given to show how to use one in order to measure resistance of a thing e.g. resistor. (mine didn’t work) measure current, amps, ohms, dc/ac type voltages and currents. I think I may purchase one this weekend, it’ll be some much easier and time saving than working it all out every time.

The day went well and I enjoyed it thoroughly, It was good working and experimenting with the people in the class and I’m looking forward to more programming and more complex arduino circuit building next Tuesday.

Upcycled Garden Table

My house mates and I wanted an outdoor table for our garden in our new house. We didn’t really want to fork out any cash for one, and I had no luck in finding one. So Rossy and I decided to make one ourselves.

Sourcing Materials

After a while of keeping our eyes open for materials we one-day came across a pallet and an old mens room door. After checking if we could have them we wheeled them home on our bicycles (a comical effort) and into the back garden where we set to work constructing the table.

There was very little plan, we just sort of devised a vague picture/goal, took some quick measurements but for the most part just improvised with the materials and kept it simple as possible.

The build took a few hours to complete, we deconstructed the pallet and reconstructed it into two wide ad-hoc-ly cross braced legs. We then screwed the door-now-table-top onto the the legs.  A cross bar across the middle was added for support. It was pretty wobbly and so an A frame support made from 2×4 was added to the cross bar which eliminated much of the wobbly-ness.  Its not pretty but it does the job, it was free and was made in a couple of hours of fun.