Blog - Sketching with Hardware

Day 4 – Making progress vs lowering expectations

Published on: | Author: Felix Dietz | Categories: 2017b, Daily Logs

Yesterday was the last day of the official brainstorming so every team now has a rough idea what they want to do. While most groups even have already agreed on how exactly their final product should look like, a few are still juggling different ideas on how their implementation should look like. One subject everyone agreed is that every team should declare some key features of their product and then add low priority addons if there is still time left. That way our plans should be pretty manageable keeping in mind that we only got three scary but exciting days left.

Team 1 (See the music)
Team 1 is currently testing their acquired equipment for functionality. The data source for the music is still unclear – currently there is nearly every option on the table – from a CD or MP3 player to web radio and more. For some of these options like streaming via the widely known Wifi module ESP8266 or a LAN module more computational power than the Arduino could provide would be needed, so these options where quickly given a low propability of making it into the finished product. Of course everyone simply could pull out a Raspberry Pi out of their pocket and call it a day but we where given an Arduino Uno for a reason.
The relevant parts for the audio output seem to be nearly finished – even the volume control which has been implemented through a simple potentiometer works already.

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Team 2 (Emotional lamp)
Since team 2 got their new lamp yesterday which could be manipulated way easier, today finally the new servo motors arrived. Now they could really start going to work without worrying (too much) about too weak motors. They used one of our Ultimaker 2 3D-Printer to get some custom mounting points on the hinges of the lamp so the motors could unleash their full potential and strength. After all the lamp is supposed to have an evil side as well which must be represented accordingly. Overall they seem to be very enthusiastic about their project and mentioned that their focus for the next few days would lay on the software side of emotions.

Team 3 (The ghost in the machine)
Team 3 is currently dismanteling their projector, looking into what light source would be most suitable for their needs. Maybe the plain old light bulb which was there in the first place or maybe some fancy new RGB LEDs? Those LEDs first need to be properly soldered and equally placed inside. Also an automatic ejection mechanism for the slides would make some great addition to the projector. Since we are equipped with a cool laser cutter why not just use it to make a mounting plate for the slides we want to look at later? To get to the spooky part they are trying to figure out a way to let a ghost fly over the slides. So overall progress is coming along quite well here too.

Team 4 (Pandoras box)
The keeper of the LMU’s Pandoras Box are still refining their keyless lock so even the most ingenious villain will not be able to open it – or maybe it SHOULD be easy to do so? Since what would our world be without hope? But this is another topic which is best discussed at night with some fine wine and not while dealing with sensitive electronics.
To get back to business, Michael is working on a bent lever making the opening mechanism as smooth as possible. During that they also figured out that the servo motors seem to be too weak to lift the heavy cover plate. This problem seems to get quite common along all groups now. To get rid of this problem maybe a second servo motor could help to split the needed force or alternatively a step motor should be quite more powerfull and therefore easily able to do the job.

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Team 5 (Motivational clock)
Team 5 got their trendy old alarm bell yesterday evening and is now starting with the real work. They seem to be a bit worried if it will be possible to cramp all of their electronics into the clock since it appears to be quite a bit smaller than anticipated. Another fear to face is if it will be possible to reassemble it later after taking it all apart – all those fine mechanics inside have left quite an impression. But enough with all the hardware talk, let’s rather do something with software and LEDs – maybe we will even get rid of all those antiquated mechanics and display the time with LEDs only? Maybe even through a fancy binary system – we don’t want it to be too easy to read either 😉
And then there is still the mechanism to construct which is supposed to give some motivational treat every now and then. Quite a lot to do here too but since the test pool of treats is just lying around nearby any signs of stress could not have been found here either.

Team 6 (A very early smartphone)
Team 6 is still trying to solder the LED stripes they want to place around the dial plate without causing the already soldered LEDs to get a loose connection or even fail at all. Since this appeared to be quite a fiddly job, the team members agreed to go double tracked. That way even if the LEDs would fail the time could still be displayed via the dial plate which would be moved with a step motor. Speaking of time, from where do we get it? One possibility would be a cheap ESP8266 Wifi module, but after hours of debugging and trying to flash this damn thing they finally gave up on it (they even tried to give the USB cable they used a hug to shield it from “bad spirits” – yes, that’s real science!!!). Not least because even some “magic smoke” has been produced during one of those attemps. So from now on the current time will be calculated by the Arduino Uno itself – obviously not the most elegant solution but it works. Of course we are going to get some pretty significant time deviation that way but since we will be able to display hours only anyways, that’s going to be the least of our problems. To get a bit more positive, the alarm clock seems to be working perfectly, providing a nice in-your-face sound and strobe effect to make sure even the most tired informatics student makes his way to the lectures in the early morning (or afternoon).

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Team 7 (DIY scratching and mixing)
Having read about nothing but work in the last few paragraphs it is time to have some fun – maybe with some relaxing music? Team 7 a.k.a. DJ Sushi is going to provide this to our restless souls and even throwing some funky tunes into the mix. Yesterday they nearly completely moved into our workshop upstairs in order to fine-tune their input instruments. They made some really good looking wooden slide controls and even already managed to integrate those into their housings. To get the connection to a PC (or Mac) ready at first a plain old keyboard controller seemed to do the trick. But after a few hours it became clear that a keyboard emulation software would be a lot easier to integrate into this project. Another big challenge they have to face is getting the scratching to work. Also they noticed that the available space in those VHS tapes will not be enough to fit an Arduino Uno and a fully equipped breadboard. It seems some additional work is coming their way getting all those electronic parts on to a smaller circuit board.

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Team 8 (The man in the mirror)
Team 8 is still waiting for their mirror foil to arrive. This obviously limits their ability to work on their project at the moment quite significantly. Nevertheless some progress can be observed here too. For instance they used our laser cutter to make a perfectly fitting frame since the original one was a bit too thick. To get a better idea on how the final product should look like they also simulated the magic mirror effect using Adobe Illustrator which resulted in some pretty awesome images. Since their plan included to integrate some small game “research” had to be done.. 😉

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