Class hobby motor projects

This project was a good learning opportunity for my class where we explored the use of hobby motors (dc motors, stepper motors, servo motors) as part of artworks. The brief for the project stated that it had to use at least two different kinds of motors, programmed with the Arduino microcontroller, be portable and have an art (and preferably fun) context.

I thought my class did pretty well for this project. This was an individual project and there were six of us, hence six different outcomes. They are all interesting in their own ways.

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1) “21st Century Flower” only ‘blooms’ in the presence of light, using a servo motor to open up the miura ori folding pattern for the flower. It symbolises hope and optimism in life.

2) “Mini-Mith” is named after its creator, Mithru, who designed the robot as a reflection of the social awkwardness as a result of technology which dehumanises real-life communication. The robot can only respond to text messages on the computers and moves back and forth excitedly when it receives positive words like “cute”. It tilts its head when it does not understand the message and moves away when someone comes near (ultrasonic ping sensor). Processing was used to code its behaviour.

3) I really like the context of “Confine” which symbolises the controlled environment that Singaporean males live in. I empathize with the idea being communicated, having gone through the stifling and conformist system myself. One army man represents the student having to take the O-levels and the other an army boy. The two figurines are placed in a cage-like structure and their movements can be controlled by a knob and a proximity sensor.

4) “Cipher” is the only project that uses a stepper motor to control the step movement of the writing arm. You can input your message and get the machine to translate it into morse code for you.

5) “Repel” is the most elaborate work in terms of effort and crafting elements. It reflects the lack of personal space we have as a result of a crowded environment. This wearable art takes the form of a belt which is “hostile” to those near it. When the ultrasonic proximity sensor detects someone near, it causes the buttons to turn quickly, the laser pointer at the shoulder to turn quickly and the “heartbeat” light to pulsate faster, thus “repelling” the person away.

6) Then there is my project which I call “Household Beat Machine” which allows you to create your own experimental sounds using everyday objects found in the household. More details on my own project page.

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