- My Final Project was based on the idea of the Snake Charming. I came up with that idea through research, as I wanted to create an interactive installation, in which humans can directly affect the output of the installation. The idea of snake charming went along that perfectly, as in real-life, a human snake charmer trained the snake for the show where he/ she directs snake how to move. This, in reality, resembles the master-slave relationship.
- As this is a solar-panel based class, another relation that I drew with my idea and usage of solar-panels was directly recreating dependent relationship between the snake and the sun in nature. Through my research, I found out that snakes particularly like to tan in the sun, and when the sun is gone, they hide and patiently wait another day.
- Thus, in my project, solar panels will pay the role of doing exactly that – control the “overall” life of the snake. In the same time, human (snake charmer) is able to control whether there will be solar panel “light” or not, and thus, able to control the direct movement of the snake, as the snake charmer in the real life is able to do.
- I started by simply sketching what the solar snake should look like – it would be created using several linearly aligned paper cups in a row, followed by several motors out of which each one would be attached to each individual paper cup. This is how the sketch looked like (below):
Here is the further description of the sketch above in more detail:
- There would be the total of five paper cups, connected with the fishing wire. Fishing wire in each cup, specifically located around the bottom of the next cup within the current cup, would be mounted using thick cardboard mounts, in order to restrict the movement of the cup it was mounted to. I designed this in a way so no cup would ever fall out from another cup.
- Each servo motor was also connected with the cup using fishing wire. Servo motors would be placed within the laser-cut box, in order to be hidden from anyone who was interacting with the snake. The reason for that was to make it look less messy.
- I started by asking the professor to help me find the mount (picture below) on which I could put the DC motors into, so the motors could be stable at all times. Professor also helped me in teaching me how to 3D print the mount, from the work on Tinkercad to Cura, which was a great learning experience, since it has been over a year and a half since I last 3D printed something.
- I printed together six pieces of the DC motor mount, which took me about 5 days in total (considering the fact that many other students were using 3D printers and that 3D printers kept breaking down).
- During that time, I started working on testing different types of cups (glossy walls paper cups, non-glossy walls paper cups, plastic cups, etc), and I decided to go with the glossy walls paper cups, as those have proven to be the most durable during different types of movement. The tests that I performed on cups was shaking them, throwing them and trying to crack them. These are the type of paper cups I decided to work with:
- After the type of cups has been determined, I connect them by using the fishing wire and create the mounts within each cup. I encountered a bit of a problem when creating the cardboard mounts, as they were supposed to be glued on top of the fishing wire using a hot glue gun, which kept melting the fishing wire. However, by turning the hot glue gun on and off I was able to keep it at a temperature which was appropriate for gluing and not melting it.
- Afterward, the motor mounts were printed, I placed the DC motors into them. This required a little bit of filing inside of the mounts, as at first they were too tight for the motor to stability be inserted.
- Since I have decided to directly connect the solar panels with the DC motors, at first, that was a bit of a challenge, as in class, we always used a breadboard, capacitor, resistor, etc, in the process of doing so. However, after detailed research about it online, I managed to do so.
- I created a spring using a straight metal wire in order to connect the mount with DC motor to the “cup” of the snake. After I did that for the each DC motor and the cup, I realized that by the movement that DC motor was creating, the spring would fall out, so I had to use the hot glue to both secure its position on the paper cup, as well as on with DC motor mount. This also greatly helped with the consistency of the cup movement.
- One major problem that I encountered was that the 5V solar panel capacity was unable to support a single DC motor. What I mean by that is once the solar panel responsible for that specific motor would the covered, and then uncovered again, the motor itself had to be stimulated to move again. However, when I have put two 5V solar panels to a single motor, this would not be the case, but rather, when both solar panels were uncovered, the motor would start again by itself.
- Plan early with things that are popular. Start using 3D printed much more ahead of time for finals, in order to avoid the hurry from other students who are also trying to use the printer as well. Also, this is a good idea, because when many students use 3D printers in a row, 3D printers tend to break down, which slows down everyone’s process, in order to get 3D printers fixed.
- Sometimes, there are minor issues with the 3D print of the design which was initially put to be printed, so it is also important to print early, in order to have enough time to print several more prints in case if any of the prints are flawed (bad plastic, wholes in prints, etc).
- Using the right materials. Use cotton string instead of the fishing wire, which tended to melt when I applied hot glue gun to it, in order to create the mount present within each cup. Going into the project, I haven’t given this too much thought, however, if I was to do it again, I would experiment and try different types of wires (fishing, cotton, flexible metal, etc) in order to find which one would be the most durable, flexible and convenient to work with later on in the process.
- Scale your project right. Try out the solar panels prior to your determining how many paper cups, DC motors, etc, will be used in the project since solar panels themselves are the main source of energy charging the DC motors. Since these exact 5 Volts solar panels were used in class during one of our in-class labs, I remembered some of them not working correctly, however, I did not do a basic test before starting, which could have saved me a lot of time later on and would significantly improve my projects’ scalability calculations to start with.
- Start small, then grow. I started determined to use all five paper cups, but I only ended up using three, because of solar panels out of which two were required to charge each DC motors, which summed down to only using three DC motors, and thus three paper cups.
Here is the link to my Final Presentation presented in class. The presentation contains specifically a more detailed description of materials that I have started with, switched during the process, and eventually ended up using in my final design.