Final Project: Light installation

Concept: 

There were two parts to my project. One was a controller, which can literally controlled by your own hand and the other was a mini box installation with lights. My project represented pollutions and trash we create in space. I will further explain the details with the pictures. But basically, I want to create a space where lights will change the perspective of how my art will be viewed. I’ve used flex sensors to construct a controller, which was attached to a glove and neopixels to shine different lights into the box. 

Pictures: 

As shown by these pictures, I wanted to create a feeling of destruction but at the same time change that feeling of destruction to something more beautiful. Therefore, the light changing light is supposed to symbolize the light pollution we create in space. Shown through different satellite pictures, Earth sparking with like may seem very pretty. However, in reality, it causes destruction. Therefore, the “star-shaped” structure hanging above is suppose to represent Earth. Scraps of paper and wires on the bottom are trash that we leave to the space. 

Physical Construction of the project:  

  1. Building of the controller: Challenging yet really fun. It required lots of soldering (I honestly feel like I’ve mastered it at this point). In the beginning before soldering, I did make a prototype with a breadboard and tried on the sensors to check if they were all functioning properly. However, what I had not realized was how sensitive the flex sensors were, meaning after a while the plastic that is coated on the sensor gets blent, giving different results. After the prototype, I soldered the wired into the metal breadboard. I really enjoyed this process because the end result looked very professional. Afterwards, I sewed the flex sensor into a glove so that “interactors” will actually be able to control something with their own hands. 
  2. Building of the Box: This part was extremely difficult for me because I need to think of a most convenient, neat and easy way to display my installation. First, I did not know that neopixels could not be controlled with separate pins. Although it is possible, the software part of it would be way too complicated for my skills. Therefore, Michael suggested me ways to separate the pixels, yet have them controlled by different fingers. Honestly, this was so much easier and a lot simplier. What I realized while using neopixels was that they may seem complicated, but they are actually very simple. Therefore, I divided into strips then cut them but connected them back with wires so that they could be controlled through on pin. Moreover, because neopixels are sensitive, to make sure they aren’t bent or broken, I cut out some acrylics to protect the pixels that would be randomly placed inside the box. 

As shown by the schematic, my inputs were the flex sensors that will command the output, the neopixel to shine lights. 

Software: 

  • The software part was easier than expected. I used AnalogRead due to the A0-4 pins that I’ve used for flex sensor. James helped me write the codes from scratch. I also referred back to simple analog_read test that we’ve done with buttons and LED lights to understand the basics. I’ve used “if statements” to command neopixels to be controlled by the flex sensors. I mapped the scale of colors and the flex so that I would be able to create different shades of colors and to control the colors more effectively with my controller. By using the else statement, I’ve turned off the lights when the flex sensors were not bent. 

Reflection: 

I wish I had learned more about the materials I’ve used beforehand. Although I’ve read about the neopixels and flex sensors because I had no chance in actually using them myself, I still felt like a beginner (which I was). Had I known more about them, I feel like I could have done something cooler. I think I would still use the same materials if I were to recreate it. Except, I would like to replace my box to a transparent plastic box so it would be more sustainable and it could also be used as a lamp, not only just an installation. I liked to keep the mechanics outside because I really enjoy looking at them. Moreover, during the exhibition, a lot of people were actually very interested in looking at the mechanics and asked a lot of questions about it. I really enjoyed having people from all discipline come and ask me questions about how I designed and created the project, whether it be from an engineer perspective or an artistic point of view. 

Three difficulties: 

  1. Soldering the wires into a permanent breadboard: The process was a little confusing. Not only I was using a used breadboard that already had some compartments including on the board, it was confusing to know what went where in order to make it most convenient for users, location wise while putting it on a display. 
  2. Building the installation: I wasn’t too sure what I would be the best way to place neopixels and wires inside the box so that when people would look into the box, the lights will create the effect that I wanted it to create. I carefully placed the wires intentionally in the places that I’ve put it so that when the light shines, you could see the shadows of the wire reflecting against the wall. 
  3. Exhibition: Because the flex sensors were bent a lot as more people were trying them on, it was difficult to have each sensor control on neopixel strip. They were still creating cool effects but it wasn’t exactly what I commanded it to do through software. I wished there were strong flex sensors that were less sensitive. 

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