Thursday, December 17, 2009

smartsurface 2.0

Smartsurface is really an exciting experience that I will recommend my peers to take next year. Here are some suggestions for the course design next year.

1. More material engineering or energy related hands-on experience. Nanoworld may be far from reality but build some solar charging circuit will be helpful.

2. Intro to arduino tutorial can be assigned/recommended before the semester begins(in the summer). So that students have time to learn more advanced applications later in the semester.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

final project recap - idea evolution

Stage1: After brainstorming, we restrict to several ideas that we want to develop.

top: water purification using sun shine:
under it we considered a wall of water fall OR a wall of algae

Stage 2: cigar butt wall using themoelectric couples to harness heat and collect micro-pollutants

Stage 3: kinetic wall using concentrating mirror as a trigger for human interaction

Stage 4: broken solars arrays
We bought them from ebay and Michigan solar car team (high voltage). We gave it up because the appearance is not as good as we expect, and not robust at all.

Stage 5: shy solar arrays

core material selection: from foam to high density polyethylene

shape design:

shadow effect:

smartsurface 1.0 recap

The evolution is really amazing, from naked circuit to nicely fabricated arrays.

Learning to use arduino is a really good experience. I was interested for a while when I was in high school but did not move much further. I never thought it is so widely used in art design.

1. M rock: my first experience with arduino, show some M spirit. The featuring music is 'we will rock you'. the egg shell is processed by the weak acid from vinegar, so that it became more transparent for LED.

2. first 2D heliotropic smart surface : simple, but was the essential idea

3. first 3D sun tracking : Phaeton, very compact and sensitive design

4. Hex fabric: a district 9 style! This is the one our group really proud of , especially in one week. very organic feeling.

5. The cube: interactive art piece with solar power. This is a really solar powered (the first one in smartsurface history!)

6. Shy solar array: self-protective, heliotropic, interactive with beautiful shading.

I wound image, if all of those prototypes are fabricated as the standard of the final project, and increase its volume or number of unit by 100 times, it will be very very impressive!

implementation: back to the arguement with Max

Remembering a group argument with Max about our cigar butt idea, he emphasized the importance of a good implementation, and keep refining the idea to the end of the world is not the right way. Decisions have to be made.Smartsurfaces12_007 by rootoftwo.

But we were still reluctant to make decisions but time pushes us eventually to get hands dirty. And surprisingly, we had a better implantation of project. The shy PV arrays worked well.

Although we were not very happy to follow Max's advice at that time, but it made a big difference in our project.
Photo courtesy:

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Quantum phenomenon in running multiple servos

After I successfully run one single servo based upon sensor's signal, I simple assume the add up of voltage/current will work. However, this is totally wrong. Here I will share some trouble shooting experience. Most credit should go to John and Neil.

1. The signal from range finder freaks out when you use 1 big servo.
Solution: use other power source to power servo, such as 9V battery(this sometimes also do not work.....), adapters, instead of 5V pin on arduino.

2. Rule of Thumb : connect all ground termials (arduino, power source, servos) to one place.
I can not explain but this helps a lot.
3. If I notice this ahead, I will try servo controller (a customized version of arduino that has more pins for servo, but still you should separate power source)
This guy has some postings for running multiple servos:

Saturday, November 28, 2009

range of a range-finder

This is the range of the rangefinder we ordered, with 1 foot by 1 ft by 1 ft square of the grid.
The problem I am trying to tackle is that signal is too easy to trigger in the area that is close to the device. That means the beam above is not sharp enough for me, and the it is too sensitive than I want.

The way I am working on is to store the signal value to a secondary value and then compare it with the signal reading in the next loop. if the difference is large enough, the servo doesnot turn.

So the problem is to find a good threshold for this difference.