Assignment 7: Mechanical Flower prototype

For the rough crit I have a cardboard prototype of my interactive mechanical flower. Currently it has two axes of motion:

  • the flower opens and closes based on distance readings from an ultrasound distance sensor (opens when you are close, closes when you are far)
  • raises or lowers with a linear actuator (nut and bolt)


Fritzing and sketch: final prototype

Overall, I’ve gotten down the basic range of motion I was going for. However, the motor is too slow even with increased voltage so the raise/lower motion is not very noticeable (in the video, it’s very slowly rising) and a faster motor wasn’t strong enough to carry the weight. I also don’t really like the way the motion looks. Because of this I am considering removing the linear actuator part and focusing on interaction with just the flower.

Next steps:

  • work on form (make the flower look nicer with wooden petals, covered center, etc., replace cardboard with wood/foamcore)
  • add interaction to the petals besides distance (touch)
  • if I’m keeping the linear actuator, find a way to make the motion smoother and faster

Braille Tutor – Rough Crit – Prototype – Akshat Prakash


In this rough crit, I aimed to create my minimum viable product and prototype for the Braille Tutor.


The idea is to help in the adjustment-to-blindness training programs to allow “adults who originally learned to read print but lost their sight later in life” to learn braille.


My braille system consists of a braille pad, that is an Arduino controlled six solenoid pin arrangement that creates one braille letter at a time. The system also consists of a companion android app that pairs with the braille pad to conduct lessons for the user to familiarize themselves with braille.


The prototype, for purposes of the rough crit, consists of two solenoid pins controlled by an Arduino that pairs to my companion android app. The prototype does full justice to the proof of concept. I could achieve harmonic communication between the android app and Arduino and synchronously generate alphabets in conjunction with the two braille pins simulating the actuation of the corresponding braille translation of the alphabet.

The first lesson learn, displays an alphabet on the android screen and speaks it out. This is then communicated to the Arduino which actuates the pins (in the final version, I will have the rest of the four pins) in a 3D printed casing.

The second lesson generates a braille alphabet on the braille pad and asks the user to identify it.

I have more ideas for several lessons/braille dictionaries for the app. The final product will simply include these lessons and the rest of the four pins, enclosed in a professional casing.


The issues I will face are those related to power. Six solenoid pins are going to be using a lot of power and I need to find a way to make this more power efficient.


Link to entire project folder (code and video) (May take upto 5 minutes to download):

Assignment 7: Heartbeat Bear checkpoint

To re-iterate the project intention:

The intention of this project is to develop a children’s soft good that serves as a grounding mechanism for young children who are overly anxious. Grounding mechanisms are used to manage anxiety by creating a movement or feeling to anchor someone back to the environment.

I am using a pulse-sensor and speaker for this project at the moment- I became interested in the tangible movement the speaker generates when electricity runs periodically through it and used it as the output for the pulse readings.

Overall, this checkpoint was a success in getting a basic program and functionality to work. I experienced a few problems reading the pulse sensor as the data is overly sensitive and am still working on making this more fluid. I am also experiencing a slight inconsistency with the beating- this is likely due to code troubles which will need a bit more time debugging.

Buggy heart-beat reading; using an LED

Buggy heart-beat reading; this one’s just fun 

Next steps after cleaning the program and establishing something more robust would be to start housing the electronics and placing it inside a stuffed creature. I am unsure if I will be purchasing a stuffed animal at the time or creating my own- I’d like to first define where to place the pulse sensor that would be most effective.


video 1 (apologies for background noise)

video 2

Final Project – Rough Crit

For my rough crit, I have a prototype of the mechanical “worm” that can move in a couple of dimensions and is actuated by the Arduino. Moreover, I have also ensured that I can get data from an IR sensor and a microphone, but will need to choose which sensor to use based on the final form of my tank.

The mechanical form took a great deal of prototyping to figure out a good mix of flexibility (especially in multiple angles) as well as durability, as I found out rather painfully that many of these patterns broke rather quickly. Moreover, another trade off became very apparent with weight and movement, as not only did it require more strength to move but also it means I have to tamp down the other part of the board.

Additionally, I had originally planned to actuate the system using muscle wire, but it ended up being too weak to move the worm. Therefore, as a work around, I actuated the worm using string and servo motors – the servo motors pull up the string, which are attached to specific points around the worm and then pull up the worm accordingly.

However, I’m trying to get a more natural movement, so I might have magnets on the underside of the wood so that way there is only a small part of the wood that peeks up with every string.

Code: prototype

Rough Crit – Elton Spektor

So far, I have created the startup procedure for my personal assistant. It “boots up” with an LED strip and a NeoPixel and says ‘Welcome’ through  speaker. Next, I have created capacitive touch hooks by soldering wire directly on them, this worked by sanding off the brass finish first. This is instead of the Android app that was supposed to change the modes of my device. The Android idea failed hard so I decided to make capacitive touch sensors rather than using basic buttons.

There are four weather modes currently in my project: weather, traffic, time of day, and music. When a new mode is entered, the name of the mode is played on the speaker.

When you go into the weather mode, 4 LEDs will change color based on the “outside temperature” that is randomly generated every time you press the button on the breadboard (see video below).

In traffic mode, the LEDs associated will light up to the corresponding traffic scenario that will be generated randomly.

In time of day, I did not figure anything out yet but I’m thinking of removing it or changing it to something else.

In music mode, I will have all the LEDs light up and the speaker play music from a small library I will make.

For all my LEDs in the 4 modes, I did not make any smooth and pleasant color transisitions yet. It’s not much of a worry just yet.

Code: Code

YouTube Link:

Assignment 7: smartCUP (phase I)


Smart Cup can currently do two things:
1. Tell if your cup is ready to drink; 2. Animates if you are drinkingTo achieve these tasks, my product has 3 component: a NeoPixel (8mm), a potentiometer, and a tilt sensor.

Problems I ran into/Lessons learned:

  1. LED vs NeoPixel
    Initially when I got the NeoPixel
  2. Tilt sensor
    Originally I was going to use an accelerometer to detect the cup’s motion in space. But then I realized I only need a True/False statement about whether the cup is tilt. so I used a tilt sensor instead.
  3. Transfering to small breadboard
    Originally, I got everything to work on a medium-sized breadboard. But my control rod of the potentiometer can only be oriented horizontally. See below video.

So I transferred everything to a smaller-sized breadboard, which allows my control rod to point upward.

4. Adafruit Gemma/ Teensyduino not working with Arduino
Now that I can fit the breadboard into the cup, I need to fit the arduino control in the cup as well.  I first tried Adafruit Gemma and got through the installation process. Unfortunately, the port cannot be recognized by my arduino.

Next I am going to try teensyduino. This will be the next step of my project.

Coming up, I am thinking about incorporating the following things:
1. temperature sensor
2. battery-powered
3. Proximity sensor: if there is the couple cup is nearby, the cup does something
4. Add customization

Class Notes, 14 Nov

Class Notes, 14 Nov

Appropriating technology for form, retaining functionality

Dazzle” was invented in WWI to protect ships from being seen by observers

Automobile designers have used it to protect/hide the shapes of new cars while they are tested on public streets.  Dazzle also prevents digital cameras with auto focus (like your mobile) from focusing on the car.

Now, dazzle is used to modify makeup and hair styles to protect individuals from facial recognition by systems using machine learning/AI software.

Applying one field’s form to another field

In the early days of music video and MTV, many videos were awful.  Video equipment was expensive and out of the budget of bands, but you have a friend who can “borrow” some equipment over the weekend…

The Toy Dolls, “Ellie the Elephant” (which is a classic punk/skater track)

Or you shoot your band playing live in a garage(?) then mix it with footage from movies, Dead Kennedys’ “Holiday in Cambodia

Or you hire an up-and-coming filmmaker and let them do what they do, make a movie, not a “music video”.

Jonathan Demme:  New Order, “The Perfect Kiss“, shown in movie theaters after trailers and before his Talking Heads Movie, “Stop Making Sense“.

Other movies made about music worth watching, Laurie Anderson, “Home of the Brave” and Tom Waits, “Big Time“.