Winter Show 2015- post reflection

The Winter Show was an amazing success for us. It was the first time our microcontroller was consistently working, not to mention the longest we have ever used it.

Days leading up to the show I never thought I’d finished the final product of the gloves. I was still very nervous for the day of the Winter Show if they would last the two days. We had a variety of users from tall men to very young children, all fit their hands nicely in the gloves.

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Right before the show began I add two more pieces of non-conductive velcro, which was helpful to wear the cape without using the battery. Although I was super pleased with the final iteration of the cape, it didn’t have the best functionality with the game. Once a user began moving their arms to fly, the cape more often than not, slipped off.

When we discovered that the cape was hindering users to play the game with a lot of movement, I began having the cape act as a reward. Once someone, usually a child finished the game, they were rewarded with the cape as a symbol of being a superhero.

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I learned an incredible amount from this project. Eve and I were super proud with the result. I know truly understand why everyone says to start early. That’s a lesson best learned with experience, especially with the fabrication aspects of the project. I am excited to continue learning about wearables, coding, and fabricating more in the upcoming semester.

Leading up to final presentation

After last week’s playtesting, my main goal for the next week was to more accurately map the raw data coming in from Arduino to p5, finalize the cape fabrication, and solder all the hardware to fit inside the glove. Eve and I also discussed making the narrative more clear in the game.

We received feedback that the user was confused if they were still flying around the planet and wanted to see that feedback shown in the final flying scene. We decided that we would keep the same narrative but move the mission scene to before “Flight School”. That way the user would be clear on why they were learning to fly. We also discussed having the user flying through different levels of space; the higher you would fly, the weirder the images would be that you fly through.

As you can see from the video below, the speed in the game isn’t as accurate to the movement of the accelerometer. The good parts are that the BLE is functioning great! The data is coming in through the terminal. I spent Saturday working on the math in p5 to better map the data coming in. What I was noticing is that in the Serial monitor, data for the button and z-axis of the accelerometer was coming in perfectly. However, when I ran it through the terminal, the data seemed to dump out, which meant that the Feather BLE must be collecting data as it’s running and then once the terminal opens, the data would just pour out.

I reached out to Jingwen, the second year, who has a lot of experience and interest in wearables. She helped me understand how to run the BLE through the terminal using Node.js and mostly helped me understand the code Tom had helped us with in office hours. She recommended talking to Abishek, who she worked with in a wearable project last year, and feels very comfortable with Node. I then reached out to him to explain the issue we were having with the data streaming in too quickly. He was very generous with his time and helped tweak the node code a bit. We added this if-statement–since the data was streaming in the serial monitor fine with the button and z-axis, we wanted to make a line that said that only if the data is 5 characters, then send the data through the terminal. This ended up helping a lot and also slowed down the data coming into p5.

Below are two videos that showing the Feather BLE working fairly well with the p5 sketch.

On Monday, I finally received the Adafruit order I was waiting for: 10mm white diffused LEDs, conductive velcro, and a strand of EL wire. I spent the rest of the day constructing the cape.

The first thing I did was draw out the circuit with the LEDs. I knew I wanted them in parallel and to have them all connected to one battery.

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So, then I got to work. I cut small pieces of stranded wire and stripped each end. Then I rolled the legs of the LEDs and soldered the stranded wire to the positive and negative sides. Once I had 2 strands of 4 lights, I wanted to see if I can add one more to each, but was nervous about using a 3V battery. I spoke to Dhruv, who was working in the soft lab and he said that using a higher voltage battery (like a 9V) would work, but should be tested for resistance. We connected everything to a potentiometer and moved it until it reached the brightness that I liked. Then we measured that with a multimeter, and it came out to 220 ohms. Then I soldered a resistor on the strand coming from the positive wire of the battery that would go up to the conductive velcro.

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I was still connecting the two LED strands with alligator clips. I was ready to solder a positive and ground wire to each LED strand to connect the entire circuit.

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The next thing I had to do was make space for each LED. Since I had already sewed the gold and blue materials together, I lined the LED strands on the edge and marked where each LED would be. Then I used the seam ripper from the soft lab and pulled out the thread where the LED would go. After it was time to test that the LEDs would fit. I was so surprised that this actually worked! It was time to check that the circuit still worked. I flipped the cape from inside out and pinned it to the mannequin. I used the alligator clips I borrowed from Zoe to connect the stranded wire to the conductive velcro. And yay, the circuit still worked! At this point, it was about midnight on Monday and I was deliriously tired, so I decided to head home.

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On Tuesday when I returned, I thought I would take a break from the cape and work on the glove. I have been keeping the accelerometer and Feather microcontroller connected to the breadboard. My first, but painful next step was to downsize everything, as it would need to fit inside the glove. I had purchased quarter-sized proto-boards from Adafruit. I took the accelerometer and Feather off the breadboard just to test the size on the protoboard before soldering. I went to talk with Justine Peake, who I also had made glove in his pcomp final last year. He helped me to figure out the most effective placement for the parts. Since we were using a button to test what would eventually be a soft switch inside the glove, I thought that I should test the button with wires first. I also knew that I would need to solder a wire or headers to the Feather. I went back to test the button with the same set up on the breadboard. When I went to run the data in the serial monitor, something very strange happened and the numbers coming in were completely different than the had been for the past 3 weeks. I was really worried about this, as we had mapped all of the raw data to p5 in order to create the speed simulation. I knew that we shouldn’t expect the same results always to come in on an accelerometer, but I thought it was strange that the resting number had been around 610 and then suddenly it was 47. I thought maybe I just need to restart Arduino, my computer, etc, so I did, but the same results came in. I ran it in the terminal and the BLE turned on (blinking blue light) and would say that it was connected, but data would not stream in. I knew that I was beginning to panic, so I decided that I would just test the button. I ended up sewing stranded wire into the conductive fabric inside of the soft switch in the glove using conductive thread. If anything for the final presentation, I could just put the entire breadboard inside of the glove.

Going back to the cape: After the strands were connected, I used conductive ribbon and sewed the stranded wire using conductive thread into the ribbon. Then I sewed the conductive velcro to the conductive ribbon.

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After I wanted to make a small enclosure for the 9V battery. So I made a little sleeping bag using scrap fabric from the soft lab. Then I sewed the entire bed into the top of the cape. This was a last minute decision, and although it worked, I wish I would have included it in the initial design. I think then it would have been more secured inside the lining of the cape.

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Final

For my final fabrication project I finished the superhero cape. For the enclosure assignment, I made a small prototype of a cape with an enclosure.  That helped me understand a lot about the fabric I am using, which is stretchy and shiny. I know that the best way to sew is on the inside of the fabric and how fast I should go on the sewing machine.

Not only would the fabrication of this project be difficult, but creating a strong circuit as well. Thankfully by taking fabrications, I am much more confident in creating things.

The first task was to create the circuit with LEDs. I ordered 10mm white LEDs from Adafruit, and conductive velcro (yes, conductive velcro). To ensure that I would set up my circuit correctly, I went to Kate to ask her for her help. She drew out what my circuit should look like which was super helpful when I needed a reference.

I then went to soldering all of the LEDs together. After getting one string with a 3V coin battery. I decided to rev up the power and use a 9V battery, in order to add more LEDs. I added a 220 ohm resistor that I solder to the wire coming from the positive side of the battery up to one of the pieces of velcro.

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After soldering I test with alligator clips and the lights turned on! I was so excited, as I often don’t feel very strong about my pcomp skills.

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Then I needed to connect the circuit together using longer pieces of stranded wire. This is protected by the two layers of fabric.

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For the straps, I sewed the conductive velcro to the conductive ribbon.

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I then made a pouch for the battery to go in, so it wouldn’t fall inside of the cape.

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This is the prototype before I connected the 10mm LEDs together using stranded wire. As evident in the photo, the LEDs are much smaller and harder to see which is why I bought the large LEDs to see even on the shiny material.

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Here is the cape on and off with the large LEDs. This is before the battery enclosure was made and I am completed this circuit by using alligator clips.

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Final project update: We are flying!

As usual, there were many ups and downs this week and it was pretty challenging catching up after Thanksgiving break. But I am here to report that we have a working microcontroller sending accelerometer data to p5. SAY WHA?!

Our precious Adafruit Feather BLE arrived over the weekend. Silly me thought it would be as simple as pairing the bluetooth to a computer, similar to what we did with the Arduino Mini + BlueFruit. I learned that I needed to run it through the terminal by using node.js. SAY WHA?!

After office hours with Tom Igoe and talking to Jingwen about BLE and node.js we were finally able to get everything up and running. HUGE WIN!

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Next I decided to focus on the actual fabrication of a cape.

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Reflection on microcontrollers:

Why we chose the Feather BLE:

We first had thought of using the Arduino Mini + BlueFruit. Although this worked, we were worried about the unreliability. After it paired, it would almost immediately loses the  Bluetooth connection.

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I went on a bit of an exploration of microcontrollers–I tried out the SensorTag, RFDuino and Monteino.

SensorTag: This was brought up (again) by my boyfriend, Max who is also the Director of Video at the New York Times and a Software Engineer at his core. He brought up a great point that the SensorTag is a great route, as it’s a microcontroller, wireless, and has button options.

Two materials: superhero gloves

I decided to combine my work for my final project again with fabrication. For my final project I am building a superhero cape that lights up when the switch is closed and a gloves, one of which has a switch, accelerometer and the microcontroller. Other than having a two pieces of the same shiny, spandex fabric I previously ordered from Amazon, I also needed to make a soft switch, enclosure and something to make it a bit more durable.

I first made the switch using felt (found in the soft lab) and conductive fabric.

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I decided to cut this in half in order to make the switch roughly the size of a person’s palm.

After I measured and cut out the pattern for the glove itself.

The materials I was using:

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Once I had the outline for the glove, I started to integrate this black material (of which I have no idea what it is, but it’s soft). I decided that I wanted this to be on the bottom size of the glove as the feel is really nice and would hopefully encourage users to feel more inclined to squeeze their fist. Once I figured that out I had to decide how to have the black material exposed inside the glove, but covering the switch and how they would be apart of the enclosure.

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Since I knew I would need to sew on the shiny part of the yellow fabric, I decided to use a less stretchy fabric found in the junk shelf. This would be to attach this black, soft material to and the black canvas fabric would function as the door of the enclosure.

I thought sewing this would be a challenge, but once I switched the stitch to zigzag, it actually wasn’t so bad!

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After trying the glove on with this inside, I decided it was too large and cut it in half then sewed the 4th edge.

 

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After I attached velcro to each part to allow them to all be taken off the outer layer of the shiny, stretchy fabric.

The blue soft switched has velcro on the front and back which is attached to the purple fabric and the black canvas. And the purple and gold spandex fabric is velcrod to each other. This allows me to not only get inside the glove, but also take the switch out at anytime (once it’s wired) if anything comes undone.

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