The Eureka Factory – While we’re working on our video, we thought we’d share a blog post that Chuck put together a few days ago that we hadn’t had a chance to share. We think it serves as a nice cap to the weekend, the cherry on the ice cream, or the olive in the martini, as the case may be.
The best thing about the Deconstruction is it gives us an excuse to call out the troops and make something cool. I have an awesome group that really makes me appreciate the value of collaboration. Working with a good team lightens the load and makes the process much smoother. It also facilitates communication and a productive social atmosphere.
Collaboration widens the scope of your projects. Other people means other skill sets and experiences. I’m not an engineer, but Steve is. Chris isn’t an artist, but I am. Terri can’t code, but Chris can. The whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts. A team also means a larger extended network of sources, contacts and social ties. This makes finding materials, information, support and tools much easier. Working with a group allows for more complex and interdisciplinary solutions.
Working with a team also makes the design process smoother. It’s amazing what another perspective can do when you’re stumped. Sometimes a programmer will see a solution that an engineer can’t. Maybe another team member has encountered the same problem and has a unique solution. Maybe you just need someone to point out that you forgot to plug it in. Another set of eyes and experiences makes design challenges much easier.
Collaboration also forces us to talk about our project. Communication gives us input that can improve the design. It also helps us avoid costly mistakes. When you have to slow down and explain an idea to someone it forces you to think of the idea sequentially which helps you spot flaws in your plan. What seems like a lot of time spent talking is actually a lot of time being saved from wasted effort and dead ends. This communication insures that all the good ideas in the room are heard and considered, giving us the best possible design. There’s no rush. I’m not doing this because I like deadlines- I’m doing it because I like creating cool things.
The best part of collaborating is the social aspect of working with a team. Challenges and ‘problems’ seem less daunting when they are shared. Small victories and successes are reasons to celebrate when there’s someone else to return the high five. Mutual encouragement and a common goal propels the group on. It’s much harder to hit a wall and give up when there are other people depending on you. My solo projects tend to suffer from ‘goodenoughitis’- as soon as I have a functioning prototype I’m on to the Next Awesome Thing. When we work together we tend to encourage each other to follow through and finish the project.
For this year’s Deconstruction we’ve completely shifted gears. It says a lot about the versatility of our team that the same group who built the MIDI controlled LED Bubble Piano, the Instaham drawing robot photo booth, an Arduino controlled robotic marionette and the Bocatron full body 3D scanner, were willing to jump into a literary hack with such gusto.
It’s been fascinating to see how individual team members have interpreted and built on the initial concept. Whatever the outcome, this will be a fun and interesting weekend spent working with a talented group of people to create something cool.
And it definitely was!
Product #4 : The F-Ray – A directional, high-energy (1kW) radio frequency emitter
The original idea this replaced was WERC, my hypothesis of WASTE ENERGY RE-CAPTURE. This is going to be the most important industry on earth by 2050 and I plan to lead the way in bringing this technology to residential dwellings all over the world. Note we did not intentionally abandon the idea, but rather decided we couldn’t do an adequate job proving our ideas in the time we had.
My WERC designs included one I had already prototyped with incredible success: the AC condensation collector. My condensation collector is a 5-gallon water jug attached to the downspout from my rafter-mounted AC evaporator. During the hottest months of the year, it captures 2.5 gallons of condensate per day. This summer, it was enough water to take a crop of green beans, of peas, of onions and of tomatoes to the tune of about 20 plants. The fruit was excellent and full of nutrition, and none of my family went crazy or died. So, I plan on developing it further to capture truly food-safe water.
WERC designs we discussed included moving the hot water reservoir to directly atop the AC condenser. On hot days, this means using less gas to get the same amount of hot water would be an intentional consequence of running the AC unit. We decided that on cold days the same system could loop through the cooling tubes of your refrigerator.
Privately, I have at least a dozen amazing WERC designs. Anyone want to work with me on bringing them to life?
Other designs included the “smart stove,” which has no plumbing coming up to the user’s knobs but instead uses Arduino to control valves deep within the machine. The smart stove recaptured waste energy by expelling its hot air through a Seebeck generator. It also used two sensors on the cooktop to determine if fire was on and to determine if a pot was on the fire. It would automatically light the burner you dialed in, but if you forgot to get a pot onto the stove, or if you left the fire on and forgot about it, it would automatically shut the fire off. And it could be programmed with recipes like, “bring to boil, simmer 15 minutes, then keep warm 45 minutes.” And of course, its companion app would know your location and commute time, so it could start your cooking when you start your commute home. This automates some of the processes you used to take a lot of time on only AFTER you got home from work.
We have many, many WERC devices in our minds and we want to bring them all to the society at large.
Now to talk about the F-Ray.
I designed it as a microwave emitter in a self-contained package. I had to use primitive means to bend the sheet metal, including hammering and hammering boards onto it. Creating a Faraday cage was tricky and required careful planning each step of the way. By the end of the project, though, we had a very safe emitter that produces a spotlight of microwave energy which we confirmed by boiling a plastic water bottle until it melted and exploded and by burning the heck out of a CD.
Objects deconstructed included two microwave ovens, tabletop timer, a steel-screen barrier, a computer and the computer’s power supply.
It’s a one-kilowatt microwave spotlight, essentially. And it’s really heavy.
~ dan ~
Product #2: The Gorilla – A four-wheeled machine that moves like a hovercraft, but with real maneuverability
The Gorilla is our response to the omni wheel. We respect the beauty of the design in an omni wheel, but we also acknowledge the intricacy, potential for junk to jam them up, and that because they have many moving parts they have more opportunities for moving part failure.
I did not contribute to this project except to show them how to use a vise, hacksaw, and hammer to cut and bend some steel channel.
Our project was designed to minimize the number of moving parts in an omniorientable vehicle. The total number of moving parts is eight, which is less than one omniwheel has.
The team did not complete this project. Playtesting did not commence.
However MY angle on the project was different: the two boys who worked on it had never operated a saw, a drill, a soldering iron in their lives. And yet they were able to put this together with just a little coaching. So, from my perspective it was a massive success: We were able to provide an experience powerful enough to upgrade the wiring in their brains!
I’m very, very pleased with the work they did.
Great job, Jonathan and Niraj.
~ dan ~
First I’d like to give a few shout-outs.
1) To Brian Beck, for loaning us a drill press, bench grinder and some cool measuring tools. We couldn’t have made ‘The Gorilla’ (press) or ‘The Temperizer” (measurement tools) without you!
2) To Ansel Halliburton, for offering us a box full of supplies. I never managed to get over there, but I very much appreciate having friends who are so supportive!
3) To my parents for taking my kids off my wife’s hands for a long time on Sunday.
4) To my wife, Melinda, for rising to the occasion and supporting the kids and home all weekend long so I could direct my attention elsewhere. Damn, I love you.
Alright now. It’s time to really discuss some of what we’ve been up to.
Product #1: The Temperizer – A Medical Device to Help Anger-Management Cases, Domestic Violence Victims, and Sufferers of Panic Attacks
For The Temperizer, our prototype secures to your finger and keeps track of your emotions. It emits multiple-measures warnings as your stress level increases. This is just a beginning for this product, which we plan to miniaturize using a Nano and a rechargeable LiPo battery pack (from a LELO “personal massager,” actually; the Rolls-Royce of such products). I’ll have to learn how to make a voltage step-up thingy, because it seems to run most reliably at 9V.
The work on this project was entirely student-led. My only contributions were as a project director:
(a) Developing and maturing the idea
(b) Miniaturizing our sensor design (it now fits in a 1cm x 1.4cm x 0.6cm package)
(c) Smoothing algorithm (mathematically, this is surprisingly simple because of how we built our sensor)
(d) Software troubleshooting
(e) Preventing the kids from hurting each other while playtesting it (LOL)
Here’s what it does: it keeps track of your galvanic skin response by sampling the sensor every 40 milliseconds. By doing a bit of smoothing, then by taking derivatives, we can use some math to determine whether your stress level is mostly constant, trending upward, or trending downward.
If your stress level after “calm calibration” is constant, the machine stays quiet. But if your stress level starts to go up, for example if you start to get really angry, The Temperizer notices this and lets you know. The alert type we’ve already proven is a beep using a piezo buzzer. The beep count per second increases as stress level increases. If the enraged individual stays in the same location, and their skin response stays at a plateau, then The Temperizer will add vibration in the same pattern as the beeps (but out of phase with the beeps, like a garbage truck backing up). Once the enraged individual starts to calm down, the machine responds appropriately: vibrating attenuates, beeping slows. This can be measured in concert with a companion app that listens to accelerometer data to verify the upset person has walked away for safety.
Future plans include more miniaturization (nano or pico), adding the vibrator, adding a Peltier cooler or resistor (to create physical sensation as a last resort). We plan to document, through user stories, many ways it can help with road rage cases as well as domestic abusers and even people who suffer panic attacks.
I feel great about this project because it has immediate utility. I feel great about my work with the kids on this project because I really felt like I coached them positively to bring out their best work and I kept collaboration positive and productive with zero wasted time.
~ dan ~
From an idea, parts scrounging, soldering, coding, debugging and gluing, to a final creation – it’s an accomplishment.
During these 48 hours, there were connection faults, hardware problems, software issues, but in the end its complete.
So what did NOP_ make? A 2D Mapped Fiber Optic Christmas Tree 360° RGB Display!
A Christmas tree, an old Nokia phone, a broken flashlight, all came together in deconstruction to become something wonderful.
Taking the phone’s 132×132 LCD, attaching it to the tree trunk, connecting it to an Arduino, writing code, writing more code, oversizing backlight, webcam 2D mapping, and more coding.
An adventure and a reason to create.
Our complete 8-song album from The Deconstruction 2014 on Soundcloud:
Dennis Michael: Beats, Production, Samples
Slurz: Beats, Samples
Clarissa Eisler: Samples
This set includes audio samples from the following recordings of Charles Bukowski:
Poems And Insults
Charles Bukowski Uncensored
King Of Poets
90 Minutes In Hell
Ok, so we’ve all had a chance to get some sleep and do some documentation. Instead of doing another video, I’m deconstructing the deconstruction submission process and using this post as my final submission 🙂
For all you ADHD kids out there, here’s our show and tell video so you don’t have to read all these scary words:
Our goal seemed simple: make the perfect marshmallow (or smore to you yanks). However, along the way to this goal a bunch of other things happened. In this post I want to highlight some of those things.
1) We met some cool people. I invited people I knew, they invited people they knew, and on the day we all got a chance to meet someone with the same interests as us and hang out. And then, thanks to skype, I got to talk to the good folks doing the live show – such fun 🙂
2) We ripped a bunch of appliances apart. I got people to bring things like toasters or microwaves, which we had great fun ripping apart. For some of us, this was old news. For others, it was a totally new experience! They got to see what makes a microwave tick with someone around to stop them killing themselves in the process.
3) We cooked some marshmallows! The show and tell video covers this fairly well. What it missed is the best part – getting to eat them! I took the bullet by trying out the ones cooked in the more… interesting ways. I know, what a sacrifice having to eat a bunch of gooey yummy sugar!
4) We had KFC!!! Trust me, this is a big deal – Zimbabwe has only just got our first KFC outlet 🙂 It was a highlight for me to be sitting there with a bunch of guys unafraid to be different. Praying before we ate, laughing at our weird jokes, being ourselves without worrying about appearances – I am so happy to have friends like this.
5) We played with some dangerous toys. Magnetrons, high voltage, spinning tornadoes of fire, an air cannon, molten metal…. yeah we had lots of fun 🙂
All in all, this was a really great experience. Everyone had their own tasks to get on with, we all worked together smoothly, we got everything we wanted done done, we had so much humour doing it, we achieved the perfect marshmallow!
Thanks to everyone who organised the event – you guys rock!!!