Coding 3: When Objects Respond

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Introduction to Electronics

We were introduced to different electronic components e.g. resistors, jumper wires, crocodile clips, breadboard and how to we can combine these elements to create programs using the Arduino. Dana and I paired up for this exercise. Firstly, we had to download the open-source Arduino Software (IDE). Next, as a starter, we did a simple exercise by learning how to light up a simple bulb using the Arduino. After some exploration, Andreas gave us our task for the week. 

Materials provided for the exercise
Simple light bulb exercise


Brainstorming Process

Schema for button circuit
Connecting the circuit
Codes for button
Testing the circuit

After completing the circuit, we had to think of how we want to operate the button. We had lots of ideas but most of them seem infeasible when we tested them out. The closest we got to success was using a hand air pump blower to “blow” the wires together.  

Sketch of one of our initial ideas
Trying different objects we could use
"What are we doing, Dana?"
Hand Air Pump Button

The button was not working as well as we wanted it to. Dana and I got very confused as we did not know what to do. We showed Andreas what we had but he said it’s not good enough. He gave us some pointers to work on. By 8pm, our brains were not working after the long day so we decided to meet up another time to continue. 

Changing Direction

We knew we wanted to do something with wind. We were inspired by how structures like windmills and weather vanes work, so we worked towards that direction. Things started to look better. 

Materials used to create the spinner
Assembling the spinner
Base of spinner
Testing the spin

After creating the basic structure, we needed to find a way to spin the spinner without using our hands. For this, we tested two methods. We tried using a string (sort of like a yo-yo) and making wind flaps to blow on.  

"String" method
"Wind flaps" method

We liked the idea of the wind flaps better and thought that worked better. Next, we went on to work on connecting the circuit to it. 

Exploration of aluminium foil
Increasing surface area for point of connection
Electricity from the crocodile clip didn't really conduct through
Trying out foldback clips
Friction between foldback clips and the foil affected the spin
Deforming paper clip to form a hook
Connection unstable and friction

Final Outcome

Materials Used:

  • 1 x Arduino
  • 1 x breadboard
  • 6 x jumper wires
  • 1 x resistor
  • 1 x light bulb
  • 2 x crocodile clips
  • 1 x stationery holder
  • 1 x film cartridge holder
  • 1 x plastic gem
  • 2 x foldback clips
  • 1 x paper clip
  • 1 x glue
  • Misc: Aluminium foil, paper, tape, Blu Tack
"On" button
"Off" Button

We presented the project to the class the week after the Chinese New Year holidays. View slides

Learning Points

Although I had used these electronic components during my undergraduate times at NTU, I was always given a a switch component to use for circuit building. This is the first time I had to create a button from scratch. This exercise stretched our thinking by forcing us to be creative and thinking “out of the box”.  At the same time, we also learnt to be resourceful by finding items lying around the workshop and at home to use. 

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