Sunday, November 20, 2016

Light Up Poem

I was fortunate enough to be provided with a Chibitronics Love to Code prototype board for evaluation and use in a project. A conversation with Colleen Graves about blackout poetry inspired this project, in which a poem is revealed by light. I chose "Boo, Forever" by Richard Brautigan. 

Boo, Forever
Spinning like a ghost
on the bottom of a
I am haunted by all the
space I will live without
I re-used a laser cut wood box from a prototype for a different project. It has sides two inches deep. 

I built a paper circuit on the piece of wood cut from the front of the box. I used conductive copper tape and white Chibitronic LEDs. In the areas of the circuit where the ground needed to cross one of the A pins circuits, I used pieces of the anti-static bag from the LEDs to provide a non-conductive bridge for the copper tape.


Above the LEDs were two pieces of wood the same size with rectangular slots cut to expose the LEDs below. A piece of parchment paper was placed on top of the second sheet to diffuse the LED light.

The poem was also laser cut through a piece of wood.

On top of the four layers of wood is a piece of dark blue laser cut acrylic.

The Chibitronics LtC board clips onto copper tape leads that are attached to the circuit board. The four leads are sandwiched between pieces of packing tape to form a ribbon cable. The board hangs behind the wood and acrylic pieces.

The acrylic and wood pieces are held in place at the front of the frame with a laser cut wood bezel that is wood glued to the front of the box.

3D printed brackets designed in Tinkercad hold the acrylic and wood in place from inside the frame. They are contact cemented to the interior of the front of the box.

The sketch running on the LtC board is still a work in progress. Right now it turns on the the title and the two sentences in sequence. It is super difficult to photograph!


Video does not capture the ghostly effect of the text hovering behind the acrylic, but hopefully you get the idea. 

The ease with which one crafts and programs the Chibitronics Love to Code board is an exciting preview of things to come. Although still in beta, the web-based programming interface is packed is helpful examples, and the clever way of programming the board through the headphone jack and an audio signal is magical and nearly fool proof. Keep and eye out as the hardware is finalized and released: you will want to add it to your maker toolkit!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Fabricating LogoTurtle Wreaths

I have been using the LogoTurtle to fabricate cardboard wreaths made from overlapping and repeating geometric shapes.

The first part of the process is developing the design and mucking with the math to get the right number of repetitions and to adjust the angles and arcs so there is symmetry and the correct shape. This process results in its own art.

Once the design approximates perfection, the LogoTurtle draws it on cardboard. The art is hand cut with a box cutter, X-Acto knife, and a ruler. The wreaths use multiple copies stacked and offset to develop the design further. The layers are separated by small pieces of cardboard. The layers are affixed to one another with hot glue.

The last wreath also used acrylic paint to define the shapes against one another. This wreath does not have spacers between the layers. The squares were hand cut, while the curves were cut with an electric jigsaw and cleaned up by hand.

Unlike screen Logo turtle art, there are imperfections apparent in the shapes drawn by the LogoTurtle. These imperfections are carefully lessened but never eliminated by the math and adjustments that are programmed into each procedure to approximate perfection. Each wreath is an individual creation, the imperfections, or wabi-sabi, evidence of the LogoTurtle and programmer's efforts at shaping the art.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Circuit Bending

Emily Sticco and I just finished a four week course on Circuit Bending as part of her "Bits of Music" mini course at The School at Columbia University. Twelve students worked in small groups to hack a variety of children's instruments and to make them create strange, crazy sounds.

It turns out that most children's toys nowadays use Surface Mount Components, which are incredibly tiny and difficult to solder to. The students were not deterred, however, and spent much time probing the circuit boards looking for strange bends.

One of the easier hacks we accomplished was adding headphone jacks to the instruments. This also involved using a power drill to put a hole in the case for the jack to be mounted.

Many of the circuit bends the students found and used made use of skin contact pads they built using wire and sheet metal screws. The wires were soldered to the appropriate resistor or capacitor on the circuit board on one end and to the screws on the other end.

All in all, this project was pretty difficult because of the small size of the components. With a steady hand we were able to perform a few circuit bends, but not without destroying a few toys in the process. 

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Sidewalk Chalk Geometric Art

I built a cardboard octagon template to play with math and sidewalk chalk during The School's weekly recess in the park.

I used three pieces of cardboard for this template. The Skil cardboard cutter made quick and easy cuts, though its speed was a little intimidating and young students would need supervision using them. The pieces were glued together with Elmer's glue.

The 3D printed rivets are one of my favorite go-to 3D printed tools. They work best in ABS because they need to be a little flexible. They are optional but do provide a good means to attach the handle. 

I wrapped the edges in masking tape since the glue did not extend to the edges and I wanted something slightly more durable than cardboard for the chalk to come in contact with.

I took the template to recess and drew a couple designs. The template was easy to work with and it was fun to replicate some TurtleArt designs with which I was familiar. 

The students enjoyed playing with the template, too.

 My son had fun with it as well.

I worked on a more complex design at home. Using different color chalk in the shapes created by overlapping shapes brings complexity to the design.

Next, I built a circle template. I used a Home Despot bucket lid as my template and cut it with a box cutter and a new blade. This time I used two pieces of heavy duty cardboard. 

The cardboard was too thick for the rivets to go through both layers, so the washer end of the rivet is sandwiched between the layers. 

I used duct tape to cover the edge and help attach the handle over the rivets.

Using the edge of the sidewalk helped me arrange the first row.

I filled the overlapping shapes with different color chalk. You don't need to draw too hard to create the fill: try not to burn through your chalk by gorilla'ing it into the ground.

People have suggested different materials from MDF to laser cut acrylic and I encourage them to pursue these materials. However, I felt strongly about stopping at cardboard and iterating on details like cardboard heaviness, tapes, and whether the 3D printed rivets were necessary because I wanted this project to scale. Most people do not yet have ready access to laser cutting, while cardboard is nearly ubiquitous. 

@tieandjeans asked what other shapes might be a good "starter kit." Circle, Square, and Triangle, of course, and whatever other polygon tickles your fancy.

Build some templates for yourself and share the shapes you and your students create.