Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Hiraku Dorodango

I crafted a hiraku dorodango over the course of about three weeks using the directions from Craft Magazine (RIP) and

I started with sifted dirt from my own yard. I felt that this project would be more meaningful with soil with which I had a connection rather than going and buying a bag of dirt.

It was easier than I thought to get the initial sphere formed and to work much of the water towards the surface through repetitive tumbling in my hands.


I did not use a refrigerator for the "sweats" between adding more layers of fine dirt and tumbling. At first I tried to hurry the process but realized that was futile.

The transformation of the dorodango from a ball of dull dirt was amazing. The act of adding fine dirt to further draw out the moisture temporarily transformed the appearance until continued tumbling restored its rich, leathery luster. 

My hiraku dorodango's final appearance was different than I expected: less uniform (I can see three different types of soil that make up the dirt in that part of my yard), splintered with cracks from drying out (there must be a good amount of clay) but stable. It is truly an otherworldly artifact from this world.

I would describe the process of crafting a hiraku dorodango as mindless mindfulness. I cannot wait to make another with soil from another meaningful location.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Cybernetic Forest

"Cybernetic Forest" is a nod to Richard Brautigan and an electronically enhanced ink drawing. I programmed the Logo routines for the parts of the drawing and the LogoTurtle drew them for me. Once the drawing was completed I created a circuit using conductive copper tape. Chibitronics electronic stickers make the magic happen.

I started by programming the trees. 

Some trees have foliage, but the big gray one lived out its life.

There are multiple layers of grasses.

The circuit was built on polyester. It was rough traced first with a dry erase pen.

The circuit uses the Chibitronics light sensor sticker and twinkle effect sticker to control the circuit.

LEDs are connected so they alternate and do not all twinkle in unison.

I cut two mats, one for the front and one for the back. This way if I take the frame down from the wall I can show people the circuitry.

A 3D printed battery holder is connected to the circuit.

The light sensor sticker detects brightness and gradually turns on the LED as the room dims.

Here is the complete set of photos.

Cybernetic Forest

Sunday, May 29, 2016

LightLogo Fresnel Jig

During the course of the Wilton Young Makers workshop I ran for a few months two students worked on LightLogo procedures that we projected through a fresnel lens. The beta release of the jig worked well, particularly the focusing function. However, you could really only project onto walls, not the ceiling, and the entire jig was a little fragile.

I asked a friend for some help with using his school's laser cutter to build a better jig. He created the shapes in Illustrator using my design input. We cut them from cardboard first.

Next, we used 1/4 inch plywood as our stock and cut the same shapes.

We cut two of the open "frame" shapes for the lens and one of the solid pieces for the base. The fresnel lens is sandwiched in the frame. The parts are connected with 1/4 inch threaded rods, lock washers, washers, and nuts.

Were I to make another, I would cut some of the wood from the base just for aesthetics. 

Once focused the jig projects both on the ceiling and, tipped on its side, on walls.

The red light in the image above is the power light on the Metro Mini being magnified. I ended up covering the lights on the microcontroller with a piece of electrician's tape so they would not affect the programmed designs.

I really like how this jig turned out. It is very portable, lightweight, and simple. It can still be focused quite easily. I like how it can easily change the atmosphere of a room depending on the procedure running on the Metro Mini. Right now I have my Lopez Sky procedure running on it and it is beautiful.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Approximating Perfection

The most amazing work to grow out of the Logo after school club I facilitated this school year in a Bridgeport charter school is the willingness of the students to iterate on the designs they program for the LogoTurtle to draw. I have been asking anyone who will look at the art and listen, "How many times do you see a student willing to work on a math problem that he or she thinks the solution to is 'wrong,' and will go back on his or her own four, five, even six times to work on until he or she reaches a perfect 'solution'?"

Every time I work with the LogoTurtle with these students on a design that they generate, they inevitably find a fault in the drawing. However, instead of looking at the fault as a problem of the LogoTurtle that could be solved with a better "tool," they willingly undertake an exploration of the math or engineering that might go into "improving" the design and capturing the perfection for which the student is striving. This is exactly the "mucking around" Brian Silverman imagined might happen with programming the LogoTurtle!

A student who dropped out of Logo club returned last week and worked with my constant club member to catch up on five months work! After starting her on Turtle Blocks, she quickly built a small tool that could be used to make a more complex design.

The other student helped her translate the block programming into LogoTurtle text.

Both students were unhappy with the "lash" and the dot that happened when the LogoTurtle turned: the pen moves slightly from its ray and the dot happens when the ink seeps into the paper. We tried scaling the design up 50% to see if that helped with the lash.

The longer ray did help a little, but they still did not like the dot at the turns. I suggested lifting the pen before the LogoTurtle turned then putting it back down after it turns.

The results were stunning!

Loading the procedure on a different LogoTurtle meant we needed to muck with the math.

It was fascinating to see this girl, who had some experience with Logo programming in Turtle Blocks, approach the LogoTurtle angle and degree problem the same way I have seen other students, determined to repeat a design from the screen and willing to muck with the math to program and create an approximation of perfection.

The same tenacity played out this week as the long-time student worked on a flower design that he developed a couple weeks ago. He wondered if he could use the pen up and wait commands so he could change pen colors during the drawing. He was able to easily accomplish this goal but swapping pens produced a gap in the drawing despite using the wait command. He could not tolerate this gap!

We decided if we could get the LogoTurtle to draw a little line towards the stem we would be happy with the design. This led to a careful observation of the state in which the turtle ends the procedure so we knew what additional commands we would have to give it. It turns out a simple "back 5" was the solution!

He ran the procedure a second time with the exact same results!

This student has learned much about angles, degrees, debugging, design, and iteration. I have done very little direct instruction besides helping him with the LogoTurtle syntax. His desire to iterate on the mathematics required of the design is motivated by his own aesthetic choices and sensibilities, something my graduate work uncovered the importance of in any learning situation. I am extremely proud of this student and the progress he made during the course of this club!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

"The Burker" 3D Printed Sculpture

After I tweeted about the organic beauty of some of Fred Bartels' Sketchup experiments, he designed one for me that he affectionately called "The Burker."

After 3D printing a smaller version, I loaded natural ABS filament into the Thing-O-Matic and printed the model as large as I could with no infill.

It printed beautifully and needed minimal cleanup just along the top.

I revised a design I played with previously by creating a base in Tinkercad that included a space for the LED Torch Light model. I drilled holes in the base and sculpture for the LED as well as two 8mm M3 screws to hold the base to the sculpture.

One version I built has a color changing LED.

I am fascinated by the idea of 3D printable art. Once the artist creates the model it is possible to scale it to any size, fabricate it in different materials (or perhaps even with a different technique, such as laser cutting or casting), and remix it like I did by illuminating it from inside. I was very honored to be the recipient of this gift from Fred, and I have shared it with friends and family.