C3 Pilot Program

Wow, I have not posted in WAY too long.

I have done so much, and not documented it on here at all — but that will change! I’ll be putting stuff up more and more as i get it looking good.

To start, here’s a video of the DIY activity that I developed as part of the Collect, Construct, Change (C3) curriculum at the New York Hall of Science!


I’ll post up way more about this soon! Including… KIT INFORMATION!

Robot Bunny // Desecrated and Celebrated

On Friday, we were told to bring in any plush toy that had interesting innards that we would want to understand. Naturally, I picked out a stuffed bunny that has a switch on his foot which triggers a song to play, and two motors to start up- one in the body, one for the ears. Here’s a vid of mr. Rabbit before dissection time. I accidentally pulled one wire out at the end,but I found it’s connection and had the “bunny” in a fully functional state. Seeing just the motors, speaker, button, and battery working completely disembodied made me feel like some great robot surgeon. Poor bunny.

The most interesting findings in this specimen were

– the PNP/NPN circuit that reversed polarities every second of faster in order to make the ears go up and down
– the gear box that was inside the bunnies’ head was quite intricate, and contained at least seven differently sized cog wheels
– the fact that the PCB was made up of completely through-hole components. This definitely surprised me, as I thought surface-mount is much cheaper. Yury told us that factories are set up to do one or the other, and changing is more expensive than it would be worth.

I will definitely be salvaging both motors, as well as the switch (appears to be a small tactile one similar to what radioshack sells, only in a plastic encasement), and the 8ohm speaker that seems to be quite loud and clear for it’s size. Oh, and the battery holder is definitely something I can use- screws shut and holds 3 AAA batteries. Overall, very much worth the $12 (kmart had a sale on Easter themed plush!)

Spatialized Umbrella v01

This is my first prototype of the Spatialized Umbrella.

The Spatialized Umbrella project offers an entirely new dimension to walking in the rain. Using light and sound spatialization this umbrella creates an immersive, mobile, and highly personal multi‐sensory environment.  Range sensing technology helps the Spatialized Umbrella react to your movement through a space.

5 speakers and LEDs are mounted inside of the umbrella, around the users’ head, allowing for sound and light spatialization.  The ‘raindrop’ samples play in a loop, each speaker playing their own unique raindrop. The LEDs light up the speaker playing at that moment. The tempo of the loop is controlled by a long-range Sharp Infrared range finder.  The closer an object is to you, the faster the loop plays. If an object is close enough and a threshold is reached, a lightning sequence is triggered. Best part: COMPLETELY SAFE FOR USE IN THE RAIN.

This video is actually an early version of the code, and I apologize for not using a microphone INSIDE the umbrella (it’s hard to hear the ‘raindrop’ sounds). New video soon.

The most time consuming part of the project was in soldering the PCB i used (i wanted it to be small to fit at the top, so the entire arduino did not make sense). I designed my own “mapduino” circuit and used an IC socket for the ATMega168 chip to sit in on the PCB. This way i can just pop the chip out and replace it with another I have reprogrammed on an Arduino. Rigging the umbrella also took a little while.

***ALL SOUND IS MADE USING ONLY AN ARDUINO AND 8OHM SPEAKERS:: lookup tables store values for waveshaping, which is output directly from Digital Pins from the ATmega chip. See the current version of the code, which can be found HERE.

still to do: linearize the IR data so that there is a more even rate of change in the tempo. When I began, I also had the thought to use an accelerometer, to measure the direction of movement. BUT, I have been successful tonight in reading data from a digital compass sensor, which can give me degrees of rotation — like say if the user spins the umbrella, i could have the sound/light spin around the users head in that direction, at that speed. This is much more interesting data than an accelerometer, in my opinion.

>> UPDATE :: Featured on HackaDay.com and ArduinoShow.com and CoolCircuit.com !!

monome 40h kit

today, i assembled my monome 40h kit! it’s essentially the same as a 64, but comes in kit form – 2 PCBs and all the pieces that need to go on it – ATmega chip, shift registers, FTDI serial to USB, button pads, etc. The only thing it doesn’t come with is LEDs. These you must find on your own. I ordered these from LEDShoppe, and so far i’m not extremely impressed with their consistency (brightness) from bulb to bulb. However, the color is beautiful (violet).  I failed to realize this while constructing her, but the LEDs are in fact all UV Blacklight LEDs, which is kind of cool — not really something I am into, but once i finish construction of the enclosure w/sensors, I will probably sell this monome and I think the UV aspect will be appealing to others.

It took me about 2.5 / 3 hours total, at which point i plugged her in, to discover that one LED was burnt out, and entire row would not respond to button presses. It took me a while to de-solder and remove the dead LED and replace it, but i did, and it works. the row, however, i believe is a circuit problem, and I’m waiting to hear back from Brian Crabtree (inventor of monome) to see what’s up. other than that, it works great, and looks great. The hardest part of the process was soldering 64 surface mount diodes on the button pad PCB. I didn’t expect to have to do anything that tiny. Luckily I got a Weller soldering iron and a couple 0.8mm tips. nothing beats a fresh tip. here are some more images from the process.

__________ the 40h comes with 4 ANALOG inputs that are just waiting to be sensorized. I am considering a capacitance touch sensor, or possibly an IR rangefinder, or maybe even just a potentiometer(s) to have some knobs. the most common is an accelerometer, so that the monome has tilt control. My 64 has this, so i probably will not do that. I still have to build an enclosure (obviously) and what sensors i choose to install will determine what the enclosure looks like. i’m excited.

Breadboarding an Arduino (ATMega168)

arduino, breadboarded.
arduino, breadboarded.

I recently found a FANTASTIC tutorial on how to breadboard the ATMega168 chip. I can’t even begin to list out how many good reasons there are to do this.  However, I will attempt:

1. cost. sparkfun sells ATMega168’s with the arduino bootloader for $4.95 (versus $35 for a full arduino)

2. size. now, instead of needing space for that entire bulky arduino board, you can make your project as small as you want, well assuming you can fit this chip in (which is very small on it’s own i’d like to add.)

3. pin access.  now, you have unlimited ground and power pins, something that you previously NEEDED A BREADBOARD TO DO ANYWAY.

4. reproducability. now, if you want to make several copies of one prototype, this is an actually viable process you can follow, whereas previously you may have thought “oh, i guess i’ll need to port this to PIC or BASICStamp to be cost/size/design effective”. nope. not anymore.


the tutorial (of course) is from the ITP site. man, ITP, you are great. thanks.

LED time piece • v02

second iteration of the expression of time through LEDs and an arduino project. i built an enclosure for the LEDs, complete with outside access to both power and USB inlets for the arduino mounted inside.

i tried to arrange the LEDs in a pattern according to color (yes, believe it or not, they are not randomly spread out over the cardboard backbone with which they are held. My idea was that the color alone would express the progression of time, along with the incrementing light. I think the result would make a good entry into the failblog(.org). Aesthetically, i am satisfied, and the sequence still comes through, but it doesn’t have the same gravity as when the colors were placed together, in order (like in v01).

here is the schematic i used for construction, followed by more images of guts, etc…


my hilariously ineffective code can be viewed HERE.  yes, i realized a nested for loop could accomplish the final 500 lines in about 10, but that’s my style, OK?! i’ll fix this in the next iteration.

speaking of my next iteration, i realized after working on this project, that i am BASICALLY re-constructing the same object/aesthetic as i did for my studio final LAST SEMESTER.  a cube, littered with colored LEDs. see what the hell i am talking about.  i have decided that my next iteration will be a completely new enclosure, and one consisting of perfect spheres. i’m done with cubes, it will be a very, very long time before i put LEDs into plastic or plexi cubes. this i vow.

soldering workshop

This weekend, Joel Murphy, my physical computing teacher, held a soldering workshop at the 10 floor DT lab at school.  We built 555 timer circuits, able to control up to 220volt anythings (lights, motors, etc.)



Pin three on the right side is the important part – it is raising and then sinking a voltage at an adjustable rate, which is what operates as the switch.  Two power relays (which can handle up to 220volts) are then attached to the PNP/NPN section, which is what you connect any apparatus to (robot arms, vacuum cleaners etc).

We started by building the circuit on a breadboard, which was met with instant success, everyone had theirs working within the first hour of the workshop.  Then the real work came when we had to design and furbish our own PCB boards for permanent implementation of the circuit.

This got extremely tedious, and real frustrating.  Nick and I left after working on it for 5 hours, our circuits not functioning at all.

Somehow, I perservered, and returned on sunday (yeah, sunday) and fixed my circuit!  Nick is jealz0r.

top of finished PCB
top of finished PCB
bottom of PCB board - thats all solder and stripped wire
slop solder city. bottom of PCB board
Nick; before reaching the point of utter frustration and humility
Nick; before reaching the point of utter frustration and humility
nick, joel, claudio, and dan from the left
nick, joel, claudio, and dan from the left

In this vid, you can see the soldered mess I made on the underside of the PCB board, and all of the components on top. So, so, so sloppy, Joel doesn’t have any faith in my completing any of the ridiculous projects I have proposed for the rest of the semester and beyond. It’s ok, I’ll show him.


Only thing left is to include the on/off switch in the project box enclosure, as well as terminals for the power relays to connect to the robot eyes / traffic lights i’m going to control with this beast.