Visual Physics
  • The Arduino Micro, accelerometer LSM303DLHC, and the Neopixel LEDs attached to a breadboard.
The Visual Physics team (Seyda Kilic, London L’hoste-Larson, and Pamela Vargas) created a working prototype of a free-fall light ball that incorporated 3-D printing, the open-source electronics platform Arduino, an accelerometer, an LED ring, and more.
Affiliated faculty: 
What's special, unique, or fun about it?

It incorporates many different disciplines, for example: computer programming, knowledge of physical concepts, etc.    

Why did you make it?

We decided to make this because it was a cool project that focused on the understanding of free-fall, and reacting to its environment.

What were your inspirations/precedents?

We started out wanting to make something related to assistive technology. Our first idea was to improve, a previously made window, that will autonomously when open so it will be accessible to people with disabilities. 

Our design journey

Over the course of the workshop, our design evolved from multiple interactive balls to two balls that do not interact.   

One of the first roadblocks we faced was choosing an outer ball. Should we use a hard plastic ball and cover it with some type of material? If we got a plastic ball, would it be sturdy enough to hold its shape after being cut open? We decided on a transparent rubber ball for our final product. It also has small nubs on it that help with shock absorbing. Another one of our challenges was with the 3D printer. We quickly realized that 3D printing would not give us as precise models as we were hoping for. However, with some dremmeling and chiseling, everything worked out fine.  

If you had more time/money/expertise, how would you improve the design?

We would most likely work on our code and adding different features to our ball. We were thinking about the possibility of bluetooth in the beginning of our brainstorming process, but ruled it out later on because of time restrictions. We may also test different materials for the interior electronics casing in the ball, as our 3D printed prototypes and final turned out to have a lot of errors and took a large amount of time to complete.  

What are some skills you would like to learn more about? 

Some skills we would like to learn about are more in-depth coding and more about bluetooth technology.  

Did your understanding of what it is like to do engineering change over the course of the workshop?

Definitely! Coming into the workshop, we thought of engineering as math and measurements. After and during the workshop, we learned that there is so much else involved. What we are creating is an actual physical product; one that can be used to demonstrate and teach others about technology. In engineering, the limit is your imagination not what people around and above you tell you it is.

Project Steps

- Plug LEDs, accelerometer, and Arduino into the bread board
- Plug breadboard into computer and put code into arduino program
- Upload the code and read the accelerometer readings
- Unplug breadboard from computer and attach battery
- Cut outer ball open halfway
- 3-D print electronics casing according to the measurements of the breadboard and battery case
- Place electronics into casing and string LEDs through the hole in the inner casing  
- Tape LEDs to outside of inner casing
- Tape thin bubble wrap (or other padding material) around LEDs on the outside of the inner ball
- Tape the sides of the outer ball together from the inside

2016-07-05 to 2016-07-29
Project type: 
Engineering Design Workshop