3. Assignments

Following is the draft of the full list of individual and group assignments. This course is still under revision, so this may change. Please keep in mind that the objective of each of these tasks is to develop individual skills in each student so they may contribute to the success of the team project.

3.1. Discussion Presentation

Objective: lead a 20-minute discussion of a paper or project related to robotic or machine manipulation from either an artistic, industrial, or research context.

Deliverables:

  1. Five to ten minutes of didactic presentation to provide background.

    Points to consider:

    1. Who, what, when, where: make sure we know the basic context, what the thing does, etc.
    2. What was the question or problem the project is addressing?
    3. What new insight did it take to make it happen?
    4. How well did it work?
    5. What are ways it relates to our theme?
      1. Is there a clear boundary between the machine and the material or object?
      2. Where is the agency?
      3. What kind of uncertainty is present in the process?
    6. What do you consider to be the one key takeaway lesson?
    7. Is there a way your peers could apply the core idea?
  2. Several prepared prompt questions to guide a class discussion.

  3. Blog post with all citations, notes, and media.

    1. All sources must be cited. For papers, please use a standard bibliographic form. Web resources should be linked in a browsable form (e.g. make sure they are links).
    2. All media should be included in a browsable form, either as external links, Google Slides, or directly posted.
    3. Please do not post a PowerPoint file, that isn’t browsable.

3.2. Project Pitch

Objective: develop a specific project idea to propose as a group project.

Deliverable: a text blog post with an outline or description of a complete idea, including one or more hand-drawn sketches which illustrate the concept.

This assignment is intended to develop individual skill at resolving the general questions of the course into a specific project idea. The actual group project focus will be reached by consensus, probably from one or more of these pitches.

Please keep the idea within the general theme of the course: the dynamic interaction of a robot or machine or mechanism and an object or materials as a performance medium.

Specificity is generative. The more details you can generate, the better you can communicate your intent. The following list of prompts may help you clarify details?

Prompt Questions

  1. What the main idea?
  2. What is the machine? What is the object?
  3. What is the narrative implied by the physical interaction?
  4. What, where, how? I.e., exactly what does the viewer see and hear, over what timescale, and at what physical scale? Are there multiples? Is it repetitive in time? Is there a beginning or end?
  5. What question will be answered by making this work?
  6. What are creative constraints which would focus the performance on the chosen question?
  7. How does the physical form underscore the dynamic behavior?
  8. Where is the locus of agency?
  9. How is it surprisingly animate?
  10. Is there some sense of success versus failure?
  11. What kind of materials are needed? How do they support the concept?
  12. What kind of sensors and actuators?
  13. Where can we cut corners on implementation? Where can we not?
  14. Are there specific alternatives to consider?

3.3. Project Proposal

Objective: negotiate a group consensus around a specific project idea and develop a detailed project proposal.

Deliverable: a text blog post with an outline or description of a complete project idea, including hand-drawn sketches and project planning outlines as described below.

The project proposal is a design document which should both capture the project group consensus and detail a plan of action. It is not a contract; it is expected that details will change. But it must represent a full and feasible plan for producing a successful piece to show. It should raise all questions which the project might answer, even though more will be uncovered.

As with the pitch, please keep the idea within the general theme of the course: the dynamic interaction of a robot or machine or mechanism and an object or materials as a performance medium. The same general prompt questions also still apply.

Please include at least the following main elements:

  1. A clear and concise statement of the overall concept.
  2. A narrative description of what the viewer or participant might experience.
  3. A brief justification how the project relates to the course themes.
  4. A description of the physical resources required: materials, mechanisms, electronics, computation.

Please also identify the objectives for the following milestones:

proof-of-concept demonstration:
 The smallest possible demo which supports that the concept will work both artistically and technically. Most projects usually start with one or more unanswered questions, and this demo is the chance to test the most critical of these.
initial design documentation:
 Once the concept is established, a detailed design can be developed. A kinetic sculpture is a machine with tightly intertwined constraints; planning is essential in the form of paper and CAD drawings, block diagrams, code outline, parts list, and a purchasing plan.
critical path analysis:
 The multiple parts of the project are dependent; some decisions must be made sooner than others. The critical path is the longest path through the sequence of decisions and represents the rate-limiting development pathway.
phase 1 prototype:
 The first prototype should realize the concept, albeit imperfectly. Your group should focus on the critical path and may choose specific implementation details to neglect.
phase 2 prototype:
 The second prototype will likely be a revision of the first to account for unexpected outcomes. All elements should be resolved.

3.4. Proof-of-Concept Demonstration

We have defined ‘proof-of-concept’ as the smallest possible demo which supports that the concept will work both artistically and technically. Most projects usually start with one or more unanswered questions, and this demo is the chance to test the most critical of these.

Objective: demonstrate key elements of the performance or installation at a level sufficient to show the main idea will work.

Deliverables:

  1. Short video (less than one minute) posted to the blog.
  2. Live demo in class.

Some approaches:

  • Role play. A well-executed live demonstration using human actions instead of machines can be very informative. The difficulty lies in the discipline of accurately mimicking the machine limitations. Useful methods: wear blindfolds and gloves, use tools to hold objects, choose real props, stage the settings, etc. Please rehearse carefully.
  • Interaction mockup. If the viewer or user directly interacts with the work, provide a visual mockup at a level where a naive user can experience the essence of the piece with some coaching. This can be a paper mockup, e.g., buttons drawn on paper at actual size, but if at all possible, provide real objects.
  • Technical demo. If the piece hinges on a specific technical effect, you may build a rough prototype (e.g. from laser-cut scraps) which demonstrates the movement, even if under human actuation.

Notes:

  1. Please work at 1:1 scale. If necessary, choose an area in the classroom lab area and mark off spaces and blocking with masking tape.
  2. Please find real props (even initial proxies) wherever possible.
  3. Please consider how to stage the work so that your classmates can approach it as much as possible without prompting.
  4. Please consider writing a title card and statement as might accompany an exhibit.

3.5. Initial Design Documentation

Objective: resolve physical design details to the point where materials can be purchased and fabrication can begin.

Deliverables: a documentation package including the items on the checklist below. This may be delivered as one or more digital files or as a blog post.

Rationale: purchasing parts and materials frequently represents a key rate-limiting milestone on the critical path. Making efficient and successful purchasing decisions requires a clear plan for the overall bill of materials (BOM) and budget. However, producing this plan requires resolving the detailed design to a level where all elements have been identified. This typically requires drawing mechanical designs at a level sufficient to resolve all significant design decisions.

The next step in the fabrication process will be producing individual part production drawings with final dimensions and features.

3.5.1. Checklist for Initial Design Documentation

  1. A candidate title for the work.

  2. Clear statement of project narrative in a few sentences, especially if revised since the proposal. Please include a clear and concise statement of the overall concept, and a narrative description of what the viewer or participant might experience.

  3. Detailed sketches. These are not yet production drawings; the purpose of these sketches is to resolve mechanical design approaches, select materials, establish part scale, and identify all interferences and interactions between parts.

    As partial example, for a notional arm modeling a human skeleteon, this might include:

    1. top and side views of the hand showing individual phalanges and tendon paths.
    2. top and side detail sketches, showing finger joint construction, with shafts and bearing surfaces indicated.
    3. top and side views of the wrist, showing finger base joint placement, forearm connection, and load cell placement.
    4. top and side views of the forearm, showing the structural elements, cross braces, elbow bearing structure, finger actuator placement, and tendon paths.
    5. top and side views detailing the elbow joint, showing the structural elements, bearing locations, shafting, shaft retention, limit stop surfaces, range of travel, and actuator link placement.
    6. ...

    The full list would include similar drawings for the humeral section (upper arm), shoulder joint, scapular section(shoulder), and the mounting to the base.

  4. Bill of Materials (BOM). This is an itemization of all parts, whether borrowed, purchased, or fabricated, at the best possible level of detail. For fabricated parts, this should include the material, and a working name used to identify the part on drawings and in discussion. If possible, please include specific part numbers for purchased parts wherever known. Please be sure to include electronics and sensor parts. This is probably best delivered as a spreadsheet.

    Partial example:

    Quantity Part Name Part Number Description
    8 Finger Phalanx   custom 3D printed plastic finger ‘bone’
    2 Thumb Phalanx   custom 3D printed plastic finger ‘bone’
    1 Carpal Structure   custom 3D printed plastic ‘wrist’
    2 Forearm Plate   custom laser-cut 6mm plywood lower arm ‘half’
    2 Forearm Cross Brace   custom laser-cut 6mm plywood cross structure
    2 Humeral Plate   custom laser-cut 6mm plywood upper arm ‘half’
    2 Humeral Cross Brace   custom laser-cut 6mm plywood cross structure
    2 Scapular Plate   custom laser-cut 6mm plywood shoulder ‘half’
    2 Scapular Cross Brace   custom laser-cut 6mm plywood cross structure
    ... ...    
    10 Finger Shafts McM 91585A909 1 mm x 12mm stainless steel dowel pin
    6 Arm Joint Bearings    
    3 Arm Joint Shafts    
    6 Arm Shaft Clamps    
    6 Arm Shaft Washers    
    3 Pneumatic Linkage Pin   1/4” by 0.5” steel shoulder screw
    1 Finger Pneumatic Cylinder   0.5” x 4” double-ended pneumatic cylinder
    1 Thumb Pneumatic Cylinder   0.5” x 4” double-ended pneumatic cylinder
    1 Elbow Pneumatic Cylinder Clippard UDR-17-6 1.063” x 6” double-ended pneumatic cylinder
    1 Shoulder Pneumatic Cylinder Clippard UDR-17-6 1.063” x 6” double-ended pneumatic cylinder
    ... ...    
    1 Arduino Uno    
    1 Wrist Load Cell   10 lb single-axis load cell
    1 Load Cell Amplifier    
    1 8-channel Valve Stack   pneumatic valves to drive four double-ended actuators

    Please note that including prices and part numbers wherever known will ease converting this into a purchasing order.

  5. Budget. This is an itemization by category of all spending. This need not replicate the level of detail of the BOM if reasonable estimates can be made, although specific high-value items should have their own line.

    Partial Example:

    Amount Category/Description
    $100 finger and thumb pneumatic cylinders
    $300 3D printing services for finger and wrist
    $50 plywood for laser-cutting
    $50 ball bearings
    $50 small parts (shafting, washers, clamps)
    $50 two-part silicone rubber

    If you exceed the amount promised from the course budget, please explain how the group will negotiate out-of-pocket spending.

  6. Electronics Sketch. Our electronic systems do not typically require highly engineered solutions, but often require purchasing particular components. If your project requires more specialized development, please provide a block diagram of the electronics system, identify particular resources needed, and outline the early tests and critical milestones.

  7. Software Sketch. Our software development does not typically require acquiring outside resources and so does not have much impact on the fabrication decisions. However, if your project requires significant development, please provide a block diagram of the software system, identify particular libraries or tools required, and outline the early tests and critical milestones.

  8. Schedule. This is an outline of milestones to achieve week by week. The specifics will vary considerably by project, but please keep the critical path in mind, prioritizing the longest chain of development, but working on other tasks in parallel.