rebecca's WIP

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fabrication

For some pcomp projects, fabrication is a final step in the process — an enclosure, a final polish, a cherry on top. In the case of my physical computing final, fabrication considerations were an instrumental part in conceptualizing the project, thinking about the user interaction and designing the final physical setup.

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For our materials assignment, the rules were straightforward — combine two materials — but difficult — no plywood, no acrylic. I wanted to experiment with metal since it’s something I’ve never worked with before, so I decided to make wind chimes using copper pipe.

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This weekend was a marathon. Nick and I focused primarily on fabricating our planter box and creating our system on one plant in preparation for our final user testing on Monday. Here’s our progress from the past few days —

Fabrication:
We created our planter box out of 3/4 inch birch plywood and in the process came to realize the extent to which wood + water + electronics don’t mix. Or at least present a very tricky combination.

The 2 x 2 foot box needs to be very sturdy, since it will be holding the weight of a lot of soil, but we also want to keep the wood somewhat unmarred on the exterior (ie. no screws). So, we used dowel pins to hold the pieces of the box together. We couldn’t find a doweling jig in the shop so I made my own out of a piece of plywood and it worked fairly well. In the end, we used dowel pins and wood glue, and added just two screws to one of the sides for some extra stability.

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This week’s assignment was to make an enclosure for a physical computing project. Ben showed us some really beautiful, polished examples in class but instead of going that route, I decided to make a prototype of the planter I’m building for my physical computing final project.

And I’m really glad I did. Even though it was not the most beautiful or well-constructed thing, it raised a lot of important questions and design challenges that will inform how my partner Nick and I decide to build the final thing. Our final planter will be bigger (somewhere between 2×2’ and 3×3’), and will contain a number of plants (plus a lot of soil), so it was really useful to play around with the construction on a smaller scale.

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The biggest challenge seems like it will be creating something watertight that can contain the soil and plants and also protect our electronics. For the final, Ben had the idea of using a pre-fab plastic liner inside of the wood (rather than trying to waterproof it ourselves with garbage bags or whatnot), which I think is great.

But if we’re poking holes in that liner to feed wires into the soil, that container is no longer watertight and we run the risk of leakage and ruining our electronics. This gives us a lot to think about, but a lot of this will depend on how we set up our sensors. Do they need to come through the bottom? Do the wires need to be hidden? Can they come from the side or a different way? Hopefully, Nick and I will get closer to some answers over the weekend when we test more sensors and finalize our system.

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My journey with the laser cutter this past week was long and sometimes arduous. I started out with a few different ideas, tried one and failed along the way, then ended up switching directions entirely. In the end, I made a wooden puzzle that I feel rather happy with.

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I decided to make a hanging planter for my multiples project. I love plants and I have a million of them covering most surfaces in my apartment. I’m also doing a plant-related project for my pcomp final, in which data measured from live plants (light, soil moisture, capacitance) forms the basis of an ambient audio installation. So, I felt like this was the perfect project to make.

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I started by sketching out my design and making a plan for order of operations and materials. I mostly stuck to the steps I outlined at the very beginning, with some amendments along the way (mostly because materials were not behaving as planned).

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This week for Intro to Fabrication, we were asked to make a “flashlight” — loosely defined as something that creates light and uses a switch. I knew I wanted to make something soft and tactile, so I adapted this instructable and made my own squeezable pocket flashlight out of felt. My materials were as follows: 10mm white LED, 3V coin battery, craft foam, felt, Scotch tape, hot glue, scissors, needle and thread. The end result reminds me of a miniature turtle or one of those army-style water bottles.


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