Art

Little Pig’s Safe House

Three Pigs Safe Room

I decided to make a safe room for the three little pigs.  When the wolf finally figures out how to blow down the brick house, they need somewhere to go.  This room is under the brick house and it is totally secure.  I started with a leftover Starbucks gift box, scraps of colored paper and cardboard, glue, copper tape, Chibi lights, a coin cell battery, Sharpee pen, and duct tape.  I also printed a tiny pig portrait from the Internet.

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First I mounted the Chibi lights on the back wall of the room.  Chibis are tiny LED stickers.  Each one has a positive and negative side. When place on a copper tape circuit they will light up.  

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Next I created a a switch for the lights on the outside of the box using red duct tape.

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Finally I constructed the furniture, the refrigerator, the books, and the locked door with the scraps of paper.  Instead of working with patterns, I decided I was going to make myself go through the mental gymnastics of trying to figure out how to construct each piece of furniture in the room by cutting, folding, and gluing the paper.  

When the glue on them had dried, I glued them into the room.

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I didn’t face any big challenges.  After I gathered the materials, it all seemed to come together pretty easily.  

 

Thinking about how to construct each piece of furniture was really the only challenge.  I didn’t want the furniture to be made out of separate pieces of paper so I tried to cut each one into one piece of paper when was then folded and glued in sort of an origami fashion to create the final piece.  It was kind of like solving a puzzle.  I think my experience with dismantling cardboard packaging to save the cardboard helped a lot.  

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Lego Pen Holder

This project started when my friend and colleague, Shahwar,  sent me a link to an article on The Tinkering Studio’s blog, Sketchpad.  We had been talking about ways to expand our lower school robotics program and she wondered if we could print some pen holders to attach to our EV3s.  The article explains the iterations the Tinkering Studio staff went through to create an adjustable pen holder to attach to a Lego brick.  It could be used on builds with the WeDo hub or the EV3 motor.  

I downloaded the file for the Set Screw Version of the pen holder from Thingiverse and loaded it to the Up printer we use in the lower School Lab.  They printed perfectly.  Next came the step of cutting the threads, or tapping, the hole for the tightening screw.  This will allow users to use any drawing tool that is the same size or smaller than a Crayola marker.  My husband, Russ, never fails to have just the right tool.  He found the ¼” tap and tap handle and we easily drilled the threads into the 3D printed pen holders.  
Next step: Challenge my students to attach the pens and program the EV3s to draw geometric shapes on large sheets of paper taped to the floor.

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Categories: 3D Printing, Art, Engineering, Robotics, Technology | Leave a comment

Rapunzel’s Bird

Rapunzel’s Bird

As an assignment for a class I am taking on early childhood technology and makerspaces, I had to design and create a solution to a problem for a fairy tale character.  This assignment gave me an opportunity to tackle a project I’ve been thinking about for a while.  Two of my favorite artists are Arthur Ganson and Paul Spooner.  Their work was the inspiration for this design.

Arthur Ganson’s work can be seen at the MIT Museum on Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge and I was lucky enough to see an exhibit of Paul Spooner’s work (as well as other automaton artists) at the Exploratorium in San Francisco this December.  Here are some videos of them talking about their work.  Prepare to smile.

Arthur Ganson  https://www.ted.com/talks/arthur_ganson_makes_moving_sculpture

MIT Museum https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5qeaP6LmS64

Paul Spooner at Exploratorium https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gi1R5qty660

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J3QEY0yW4Fw

Over Christmas break I read a book called Cabaret Mechanical Movement (PDF) by Gary Alexander and Aidan Lawrence Onn.  The book was invaluable in helping me understand how the mechanisms of simple machines work.

My idea is a magical flying bird owned by Rapunzel.  It swoops down to the window of the tower to visit her everyday.  Finally she climbs on its back and carries her away to her true love.  Honestly, I couldn’t care less about Rapunzel, but I really enjoyed this challenge.

I started with an empty Clementine box, three different sized dowel rods, a wooden spool, a few scraps of wood, a few screws, a sheet of Yupo, some thin copper wire, rod couplings, E6000, Tacky Glue, and some white wool fleece.

bird-materials

The tools I used were a framing saw, a hand drill with different bits, hole saw (for drilling doorknob holes), needlenose pliers, scissors, ruler, and a needle-felting tool.  

Before starting out, I drew a sketch of how I thought it would all go together.  This was very helpful, even though I made several changes along the way.

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I cut five little disks of wood off the end of the larger dowel rod and sanded them flat.  Then I drilled off-center holes in four of them.  These are the cams.  I drilled a center hole in the last one to act as a bearing for the axle.  I drilled holes in the sides of the Clementine box and slid the smaller dowel rod through it to create the axle.  The cams went onto the axle before the end of the dowel exited the other side of the box.  

cams

I drilled a tiny hole in one of the axle and threaded a piece of copper wire through it to keep the axle from slipping back through.  I secured this with a ceramic bead.

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I used a hole saw to cut a ¾” thick disk of plywood to support the crank that would turn the axle.  I drilled a hole in the center of this for the end of the axle and an off-center hole for the crank.  I glued a bit of dowel rod into the off-center hole and pull the wooden spool on it for the handle of the crank.

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I spaced out the cams and glued them in place on the axle.  Then I drilled holes down through the top of the Clementine box lined up with where the cams were.  I cut four 3” pieces of the small dowel rod to fit into each of the holes and act as followers (they follow the shape of the cam as it turns).  They slid up and down easily in the holes, but I found that they would slip off one side of a cam and get stuck instead of riding smoothly around the perimeter of the cam.  First I tried sanding the dowel pieces so the ends were rounded instead of cut off bluntly.  This helped a bit, but I found that when I turned the crank, the followers were very wobbly, so I drilled holes in two pieces of scrap wood and glued them to the inside of the Clementine box to act as bearings.  This made the cams move only up and down instead of side-to-side as well.  

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I needle-felted the bird’s body, slit a hole in its belly, and mounted it on a six” piece of dowel rod.  I took a short piece of the larger dowel and drilled a hole in it to support the little dowel.  Then I glued it on top of the box.

I cut the wings out of notebook paper to try to get the size and shape the way I wanted it before cutting the Yupo.  I ended up making several different notebook paper wings before I was satisfied with their size in proportion to the bird’s body. Then I used the notebook paper template to cut the Yupo.

side-bird

I drilled a tiny hole in the top of each of the followers and glued in a piece of thin copper wire. I had to test several different times to get the placement and length of the support wires correct on the wings.  But something was still wrong.  When I turned the crank, the wings would go up on the followers, but they would not come back down.  After contemplating several solutions, I decided that gravity could help with the problem.  I went to Lowes and bought four 1” rod couplings.  I detached the wires from the wings and slid the couplings over them, then reattached the wings.  The couplings added just enough weight to pull the wings down after each turn.  

adding-weight-to-followersThe pictures and video below show the finished project.  My work on this ranged from the kitchen to the garage and back several times.  I had all the materials I needed close at hand, but only after first gathering them.  I didn’t anticipate the problem with the wings so that involved a trip to Lowes for the rod couplings.  

bird-automataWorking through this involved testing and re-adjusting at every stage.  Did the followers align with the cams? Did the axle turn the cams smoothly?   Why didn’t the followers drop after going up?  Were the wings simulating flapping of just moving around randomly?  I had to deal with issues of motion, torque, balance, friction, scale, and gravity as well as a few more I probably can’t even name.  Luckily I did not have to define any of them or solve any equations on paper because I could not do any of that.  I just messed around until it worked.  

Video  https://youtu.be/kshkSg40jfo

 

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Little Bees Automaton

This was my first attempt at making an automaton.  I chose to use wire to create a shaft, handle crank, and driving cranks.  The wire I used is very stiff tie wire used to connect rebar. The stiffness is good because it does not lose its shape, but it makes it hard to bend. I used a little cardboard box as the frame.

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The followers were also made out of the wire.  I realized right away that the followers were slipping on the crank and would need to be stabilized.  I wrapped a thinner copper wire around the crank on each side of the areas where the followers were attached.  Then I tried to solder them to the tie wire, but it would not bond.  However the solder did stick to the copper and created enough of a block to keep the followers from slipping.  

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I added ceramic bearings on each side of the shaft and a ceramic bead to the crank handle.  

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My first figure was a cardboard man with jointed limbs.  When I turned the crank, he jiggled himself apart.  Disappointed, I put the automaton aside and got busy with some other things.  As often happens when I walk away from a project and let my mind rest, I got a new idea – needle felting.  I am much more comfortable with fibers than I am with cardboard.  

Two little needle felted bees would be just perfect for this project.  I needle felted two little yellow oval shapes.  Then I took a few strands of black yarn and added stripes and eyes.  I cut tiny white wings out of white felt and felted them onto the bee bodies.

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I used an awl and a little pair of shears to cut a slit in the bottom of each bee and stuck them on the top of the followers.

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A needle felted flower completed the project.  When the crank is turned the bees flutter over the flower.  Here is a video of the bees in action.

 

 

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LED Painting

This project could be completed with any kind of 2-D (more on that concept later) art work.  The basic idea is a flat piece of art with LEDs behind or on top of the work.

For the first one, I painted a simple watercolor which included white dots and tree trunks.  The white was preserved with masking fluid which was rubbed off after the paint had dried.  

painting

Tracing paper was placed over the painting to mark where the LEDs would go.

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The circuit was drawn on foam core, using the tracing paper as a guide for the placement of the LEDs.  

diagram

A parallel circuit made of copper tape was placed on the foam core the the LEDs were soldered onto the tape.  Note the break in the tape which will form the pressure switch.  

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The tracing paper was used again to mark the placement of the switch on the back of the watercolor painting.

switch

Foam dots with double-sided adhesive were placed around the LEDs and the switch to hold the watercolor painting away from the foam core. The dots were ¼” inch tall.

spacers     circuit-closeup

The original plan was for the battery to be between the two layers, but I realized this would make it difficult to change the battery when the power was depleted.  So I sliced through the foam care and threaded the tape through the slots to the back.

battery-cutthrough     battery

When the pressure is placed on the painting in the location of the switch, the circuit is completed and the LEDs light up.  When the pressure is released the LEDs go out.  The thickness of the watercolor paper and the layers of paint made it difficult to see the light unless the painting was viewed in a dimly lit room.  A friend suggested cutting tiny holes in the paper.  But I started to think about the quality of watercolor paper and how mistakes can be removed by scrubbing, sanding, or scraping.  So this 2D work of art really had a bit of 3D depth to it, which might allow me to remedy the light problem.  I took a little Exacto knife and scraped away layers of paint and paper until I was satisfied with the thickness of the paper over each LED.

scrape-paper     After doing this, the LEDs easily shone through the paper even in a well-lit room.  

finished

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LED Felt Hat

LED Felt Hat

This hat is one of those wandering projects that starts out with one experiment and leads down a meandering lane called “What if I try this?”

After creating an LED eTextile card with one LED on it, I wondered how many LEDs I could actually add on a 2032 coin cell battery.  I texted my awesome colleague, Shane Diller, and asked him because he knows everything about electrical circuits.  He didn’t know.  But he did suggest using a parallel circuit if I was going to experiment.  So I decided I was willing to sacrifice some LEDs and a little time to finding out.  I soldered five white LEDs to some copper tape.  I tested them out with a 2032 battery and they worked just fine.

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Next I taped five more lights to the circuit and tried again.  They all lit.  I found a two coin cell battery holder with an on/off switch and taped it to the end of the circuit.  I put two 2032 batteries in it and all the LEDs lit up very brightly.  

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So I went ahead and soldered the LEDs and the battery holder to the copper tape.  

 

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It looked great.  Now what?  

 

I took a nap, went for a walk, worked on a paper I’m writing for a class.  Then I thought about hats.  

 

I had some multi-colored felt that I had made last summer out of wool bats given to me by my friend Sonja.  I had added bits of turquoise silk that my friend Sidney had given me.  It has a wonderful soft texture but the shape and size had not suggested anything to me.  It would be perfect for a pill box hat.  And I just happened to have a pattern.

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I pieced the top of the hat to take advantage of the embedded silk.  It made a nice contrast to the dull colors of the felt.

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The hat has a stabilizing foundation of heavy weight Pellon interfacing.  This makes the hat keep its shape even when it is not being worn.  My original plan was to line the hat with some royal blue polyester fleece I had on hand.  But that idea changed later.

Constructing the the hat was a pretty quick process.  There are only two pieces and two seams.  I took the soldered circuit and pinned it to the outside of the hat.  

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I decided it would be fun to use turquoise sparkly DMC embroidery floss to sew the copper tape to the hat.  I used a herringbone stitch.

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Next I decided to add ceramic beads in between each LED.  I had made these beads last summer with clay and glaze Sonja gave me.  

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At this point, I decided I didn’t like the royal blue lining idea.  We made a quick trip to JoAnn Fabrics where I found some turquoise satin.  Much better.

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I used a scrap felt to make a pocket on the back for the battery holder.

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And voila!  The finished hat!

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Categories: Art, Circuits, eTextiles, Technology | Leave a comment

eTextile Holiday Card

LED Holiday Card

Here is the process I used to create an e-textile holiday card with LEDs sparkling in the winter sky.  I started with scraps of fabric left over from various projects.  This included several cotton prints, white felt, and some heavy interfacing.  The interfacing acted as a stabilizer for the card.

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I sewed several pieces of fabric onto the interfacing to create a snowy landscape.

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Using a decorative embroidery stitch, I sewed across the top of the white felt hills.

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Then I glued on tiny little fabric triangles to represent evergreen trees.

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To cover the raw edge, I sewed bias tape around the edges.

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Then came my new adventure – soldering.  I didn’t even know we had a soldering iron until my husband brought it in from the garage and showed me how to use it.  To create the circuit for the LEDs, I used size 22 coated wire, solder, flux, a soldering iron, six white LEDs, and a 2032 coin cell battery.  I used a wire cutter/stripper to cut the wire and strip off the plastic coating and needle nose pliers to help bend the wire.

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Here is my first attempt at soldering.  I am embarrassed at how messy it is, but it works.

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Next I sewed the circuit on the back of the fabric card, cutting tiny holes for the LEDs.  I stitched around each one to secure it to the fabric. The little pentagon of white felt is insulating two wires that were crossing and creating a short circuit.  

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I sewed the battery holder to the back of the card and slipped in the coin cell battery.  The battery holder has an on/off switch so that the lights are not always on.  The final card is shown below.  

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LilyPad Arduino Vest – An Electrifying Journey

I am a lifelong fiber artist.  I have fond memories of sewing doll clothes and knitting tiny blankets when I was a small child.  That love for the feel of cloth and yarn in my hands has never left me and has been a source of joy to me over the years.  So it was with great excitement that I discovered the work of  Leah Buechley.  I was lucky enough to visit her space in the MIT Media Lab about six years ago.  She was not there that day, but there were all the familiar tools that had beckoned to me through the years: fabric, yarn, knitting machines, looms, embroidery hoops.  And something else: little circuit boards and wires that, at that time, puzzled me.

Earlier this year  a colleague in the Bryan Innovation Lab at the Steward School handed me a small package and said, “See what you can do with this.”  Inside the package was one of those circuit boards, the latest iteration of Leah’s circuit board, called the LilyPad Arduino, and a cone of conductive thread.

Fellow fiber artists will understand the thrill of that moment: raw fabric or yarn, waiting to be born into a form created by my imagination and skill.

I turned to Leah Buechley’s book, Sew Electric, and to several websites including the LilyPad Arduino website and the Sparkfun site.  Leah’s Turn Signal Biking Jacket also gave me clear instruction on the process I needed to follow to constuct my project.

The materials I used were medium weight linen, medium fusible interfacing, sewing thread, conductive thread, and embroidery thread.

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The tools used were an iron (to fuse interfacing), scissors, sewing needles, a needle threader, and a sewing machine.

The hardware needed for the project included a LilyPad Arduino, a power source (battery holder), LilyPad LED‘s, an on/off switch, and a LilyPad speaker.  You will also need a FTDI board and a USB to mini USB cable (to connect the LilyPad to the FTDI board and  your computer.)  This enables you to upload code to the LilyPad.  Once uploaded, you can detach the FTDI board and your LilyPad will run the code.

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I should mention here that although I love the elegant look of all the LilyPad products, I have started ordering the components for sewable projects from Hong Kong-based companies listed on Ebay.  These parts cost about a fourth of the price and shipping takes about four times as long.  They are not as pretty, but I have found them to be reliable.

This was my first sewable electronics project and it took me on a journey that was both informative and humbling.  Constructing the vest was easy.  Adding the electronic components and making them work, not so much.  I started by machine sewing embellishments that I thought would augment the electronics I attached by hand.  But I soon discovered that things would not work out as I initially planned.

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I sewed on the electronic parts using conductive thread and connecting them with chain stitch.  I stopped after each addition to run a test to make sure everything was working. The plan was all in my head, despite the fact that every resource I had consulted had stressed the importance of sketching out your circuit traces before beginning construction.

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I hit a point where the LED’s were no longer lighting and I hadn’t even gotten to the speaker.  Time to ask for help.  I walked over the Bryan Lab and consulted my colleague, Shane Diller.  He got out a multimeter – oh, yes, that was kind of mentioned in the resources I had consulted.

He patiently explaining Ohm’s law to me and showed me how to test the conductive thread in my project to see how much current was flowing at different points.  We concluded that the chain stitch was creating too much resistance to allow sufficient current to light the LED’s.

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Many picked-out stitches and much simple straight stitching later, everything was back in order.  Time to add the speaker.  Two of the LED’s on the front of the vest were removed and the speaker was put in their place.

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Finished vest with FTDI board uploading code.

Some final hand stitched embroidery was added and it was time for the light and sound show.  See a future blog post to learn about the coding involved in making this vest “perform.”

 

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Crazy Paper Things

I am fascinated by the magical ways paper can be transformed by simply cutting and folding.

Look here for some more ideas.

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Color Picker Pen

I love the idea of this pen by Natalie Lam. It would solve the problem of mixing paints or inks to find just the right hue. Could it really be manufactured? How many times would you have to scan in a new color when drawing? Most things we see have many variations of color due to lit and shadowed areas.

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