The Giving House Plant – project overview
In collaboration with Jacky Chen and Timothy Lobiak
- Creating an interactive Physical object that would demonstrate the fundamental ideas covered in the class.
- experimenting with different components and materials that were of interest to the team members;
- Working with scent as an output
- Exploring the affordances and challenges of working with SMA(shape memory alloys)
- Fiber optics
- Achieving a ‘Plug&Play’ object while dealing with three different power input needs
- Achieving an object that had a narrative, esthetic justification and would stand as a finished product
To achieve these goals our group spent quite some time revising our design as you can read in previous posts documenting this process. Ultimately we decided to go with a Bird of Paradise plant yet creating an illustrated version of one. That choice was made in order to emphasize that this is not a real plant but rather a designed object of desire. Quoting ‘The Giving Tree’ by Shel Silverstein on the narrative side and Trompe L’oeil on the esthetic side.We chose Tyvek, a hybrid between fabric and paper, for the outer fabrication of the stems and leaves because it is extremely easy to work with as it possess the best qualities of both.
Building The Project
The project consists of two main part:
1. Two watering cans are made of :
- 1 Arduino Nano microcontroller
- 1 9-DOF Absolute orientation IMU (reading only one excess)
- 1 voltage adapters
- 1 IRF 520 Transistore
- 1 9v battery with on/off toggle switch (power source)
- 3 bright white LED’s
- 0.03 fiber optic wires
- 1 Mini PCB
//This is the code for the watering can
2. The plant which is made of:
3 leaves each containing:
- 3 12v white LED’s
- 1 5v Neopixels LED strip
- 20M of 0.03 fiber optic wires
1 Planter housing:
- 4 LDR sensors
- 4 10KΩ resistors
- 1 Arduino Mega
- 2 Mini PCB
- 1 12V pump
- 9 IRF – 520 MOSFET transistor
- 1 Mist maker
- 1 12V power supply
- 1 5V power supply
//This is the code for plant
* Both codes were written by the group and incorporate libraries by Adafruit for LED strips, LDR sensors and orientation IMU.
Conclusions, Road blocks and Lessons learned
Summarizing the experience of working on this final project is difficult as it consists of many different aspects, but I will try by dividing it to what I perceive as the hits and misses of this project.
Looking back at the list of objectives we had starting this project, we managed to achieve many of our goals. The circuits and codes we designed work and the project fabrication has an aesthetic justification that is based in design research. We managed to overcome power supply issues we had that were probably routed in the fact that it was very important to us to be able to plug the plant into the wall without clunky power supplies. We didn’t give up on questions we were curious about even if at the end of the day we didn’t get to include in this project. We ended up with an object we like to look at and have gotten great responses from our peers as well as people that are outside of the ITP community.
With that said this project was no walk in the park. Our group came together because we had different thing we wanted to explore and each member of the group brought a different skill set to the table. We made some time management mistakes that stemmed from the fact that working with mist omitted on electronics is tricky and figuring out SMA is an even bigger challenge. ultimately we were able to incorporate only the mist maker into the project. Since personally that was my main objective in making a flower in the first place, this was a big disappointment.This time drainage also resulted in each of us having to do mostly what we already know, this is not to say that I haven’t learned a tremendous amount from this project but I feel that I could have learned even more.
The process of working with SMA was long, costly and frustrating. There is little documentation and each manufacturer supplies different and incomplete instructions. We did manage to “train” the wires with the help of Urban Glass in Brooklyn but hit a wall with power supplies we were running out of time and sadly went to plan be which was to make a fiber optic flower.We do however believe that the trials and tribulations we had with the Shape Memory wires is worth passing on and that will soon get it’s own in depth blog post.
On a personal note (mainly to myself) after viewing many of the projects at the winter show I am coming to the realization that my definition of the process of design is very different than it’s meaning in the context that I am in now. I have to somewhat let go of the way I do things, the way I expect my students to present projects. I feel that some of the complex and hard work that we put in to this object was not evident because I “finished” it visually.