Week 6: Zoetrope

For the last assignment you will be mounting a motor/servo/stepper (one or more) to something as well as mounting something to that motor/servo/stepper.  It can be completely DIY, or off-the-shelf components, or a combination of the two.

Photography history inspired this week's project. DIY zoetropes are all over the internets with the standard galloping horse but I was curious to animate images from Eadweard Muybridge's many other motion studies. I delight in seeing them on gallery walls but also find them tedious and frustrating to read, precisely because they are presented all at once in the same frame. I simultaneously want to study each one in meticulous detail and loop all the actions together. (For a wonderful biography of Muybridge and how he famously engineered his photographic investigation of horse locomotion, see Rebecca Solnit's River of Shadows.) 

Materials & Tools
Round Box 7" Diameter
DC Toy/Hobby Motor 130 Size
1 Robot Wheel DC Motor Compatible 
9 Volt Battery
9 Volt Battery Holder with Wires
1 Panel Mount Toggle Switch
Stranded Core Wire
Soldering Iron
Heat Shrink Tubing
Heat Gun
White Card Stock (for prototyping)
Rubber Band (for prototyping)
Double-Sided Tape (for prototyping)
Black or White Poster Board
Craft Ply "Nominal" 1/8" (3mm) x 12" x 24"
Black Acrylic Paint
Paint Brush
Utility Knife
Digital Caliper
Adobe Illustrator
Adobe Photoshop
Laser Cutter
Liquid Nails
1" x 3" x 3" Wood (from the scrap pile)
Band Saw
1 Two Hole Strap 1/2"
2 Corner Braces 1-1/2"
6 Screws (packaged with corner braces)
4 Machine Screws & Nuts #8-32 x 5/8"
Automatic Spring Loaded Center Punch
5/64" & 7/32" drill bits


Yes, the motor spins way to too fast, and I didn't include a mechanism to control it's rate. But otherwise I'm pleased with the final fabrication, especially because in the end I created a tool to explore my interests in visual perception. I noticed during the filming for the final video (see the beginning of this post) that altering the speed slightly by resting my finger against the zoetrope sometimes reversed the direction of animation. (It reminds me of riding the subway next to another train in a tunnel; if the trains are not in sync it can start to feel as if your train is suddenly moving backwards.) I don't know why that is, but now I have even more questions to chase after. In addition to motor speed, I would also play more with aperture size as well as the size and number of images (especially in relation to the number of aperture openings). Oh, and I found this on Buzzfeed after the fact. Haha!

Thanks for a great class, Ben! I learned so much and am looking forward to improving my new skills in future projects.

Image Credits
Eadweard J. Muybridge
Elephant from Animal Locomotion. An Electro-Photographic Investigation of Consecutive Phases of Animal Movements. Commenced 1872 - Completed 1885. Volume XI, Wild Animals and Birds

Eadweard J. Muybridge
Cockatoo Flying: Plate 762 from Animal Locomotion

Week 5: Light Activated Sculpture

Try experimenting and working with a material that is new to you. 

During last week's in-class demos, I responded to a couple of the materials: brass and cork, both new materials to me. (So far I've worked with fabric, wood, acrylic, paper, and cardboard.) I was intrigued by mixing materials of different colors, textures, and perceived resistance--a seemingly hard metal with a soft wood product. I took a field trip to Metalliferous and was surprised by flexibility of the brass sheets. The possibility of working this material by hand seemed counterintuitive to what I'd normally expect from a metal and was therefore extra appealing.

I arrived at my project in a circuitous way. Similar to Week 3, I actually started in pursuit of a modular sculpture to play with color subtraction, thinking that I might craft brass frames to hold colored plastic sheets. But after working with the brass and creating some unexpected shapes, I decided to follow my original inkling to combine it with cork.

Materials & Tools
Brass Sheets, 28 Gauge (6" x 12" or 12" x12")
Round Cork Coasters (4" diameter)
White Card Stock
Fine Point Sharpie Pen
Tape Measure
Brass Plated Escutcheon Pins (#18 x 1/2")
Word Scraps
1/16" Drill Bit


I usually work with best if I have clear vision of what I want to create.  But this week, since I chose new materials, I knew that would I need to spend some time literally getting the feel of them. I'm glad I started early enough to allow for that time to play and explore. I'm also thankful that I paid attention to my instincts mid-project and switched gears to construct something that I generally enjoyed making and photographing. 

Week 4: Color Sound Pen Prototype

Physical Computing Assignment
Fabrication Assignment

What do paintings sound like? Can I create music with color? Will a photoresistor register different intensities of light when passing over a colorful surface, enough to trigger distinct notes to play? A search result revealed this might be a possibility, but I also envisioned a handheld device to activate artwork in oh so quiet museums and galleries.  This week presented the perfect opportunity to combine assignments: a musical instrument for Physical Computing and the enclosure for Fabrication. In fact, carefully considering the enclosure was crucial to the functioning of my instrument.

Initial needs included: a constant white light source shining in the same direction as the photoresistor, a way to partially enclose the photoresistor to focus the light from one direction, and a way to ensure an equal distance between the photoresistor and the colors. In my preliminary testing with my Arduino, I triggered different notes over black and green construction paper. I tried my best to keep the resistor the same distance from the paper as altering the distance to the surface impacted the resistor's input values. I also needed an elegant and secure way to mount the LEDs and photoresistor. Because I wasn't sure if this idea would actally work, I decided to prototype enclosure iterations in paper. Photoresistors can vary in their sensitivity, so I purchased extras to have on hand. And, we have an extra parameter In our PComp section with Ayo: no boxes for our enclosures! I appreciate this prompt to really consider how form and function coexist to execute an idea.

Materials & Tools
1 8 Ohm Speaker
1 100 Ohm Resistor
1 Photoresistor
1 10K Ohm Pulldown Resistor
2 White LEDs 5mm
2 220 Ohm resistors
3 Metal LED Holders 5mm
Female-to-Male Jumper Wires
Header pins (already soldered to speaker wires)
Arduino Uno
Arduino Web Editor (sketch)
4 AA Batteries
4 AA Battery Holder with Wires
Male DC Plug Adapter with Screw Terminals 5.5 x 2.1mm
Soldering Iron
4" Diameter Mailing Tube
Heavy Weight Paper
Construction Paper in Many Colors
Hobby Knife
Utlility Knife
Adobe Illustrator
Laser Cutter


More than any other project so far I relied on a steady combination of sketching, documenting, reflecting through writing, and iterating throughout the process to identify decisions to make and potential problem to solve. Checking in with Ayo early on pushed me to solidify my proposal, create materials to communicate my idea, and form a plan for my remaining amount of time. We discussed using red, blue, and green gels over photoresistors plus white LEDs or using red, blue, and green LEDs with a photoresistor to distinguish actual colors and not just changes in the intensity of light due to the presence of a color. He also mentioned this RGB light sensor from Sparkfun, which I'm game to experiment with in the future. It made sense to me to start small, though, and see if I could build this version first, especially since I wanted to design and construct the enclosure, too.

Regarding the materials and fabrication, paper and cardboard may not be my standard for final show presentation, but it is certainly an excellent way to work out my ideas quickly by hand and polish them with the laser cutter. While clunky looking, the velcro served its purpose well and gave easy access to the electronics, especially during the many rounds of testing. 

Yes this "pen" is gigantic now, but it provides a place to start and throughout the construction I considered what I would want if I were to continue to develop the idea. Certainly I would aim to scale it down and depending on the electrical components, no doubt I would have another set of issues to address concerning their housing. In addition to learning more about electronics so my projects don't almost melt (and with that, continue to improve my soldering skills), I would nix the default Arduino tone library and either search for alternatives or collaborate with musician to make our own. (I believe an ITP resident suggested I could store hand-picked sounds on an SD card.) Finally, I would attempt to get it in the hands of other people sooner than later to learn from their feedback and ideas.