#1 Big Button

Due in class on Wednesday 10/02

North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the “Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.” Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!

— Donald J. Trump, January 3, 2018

On January 3, 2018, President Trump tweeted about his button size. A button that would kill innumerable people, and likely set off a cataclysmic chain reaction of political, economic, and environemntal collapse. A button which by some accounts, would end the world, or at the very least, create a considerable catastrophe.

Your assignment is to create a button that causes a catastrophe. Taking Trump's tweet as a starting point, develop a button-like mechanism (remember too that he bragged about its size) that starts some chain reaction of terrible events. You are encouraged to make vivid use of metaphor, hyperbole, and narrative, and to look more deeply into the "Nuclear Football," its reality, and how it is depicted in film and television.

Your project should include drawings, collage, 3D animations, or video simulation of your mechanism along with a clear narrative of how your button came to be, and under what conditions it would be pressed. While the chain of events the button put in place can and quite likely will be fantastical, be specific about how the button sets these events in motion. Simply saying, a "button that reverses gravity" is too vague; add details to how your mechanism works and its intended effect, while taking sufficient artistic license with the laws of physics and economics.

In addition to presenting the project in class, you must upload documentation by midnight on Sunday, October 6th.

#2 Divination

Everyone wants to know the future, or, at least a little bit of the future. From astrology, to casting lots, to reading tea leaves, cultures around the world have developed practices of divination to predict what is to come. The rise in technology hasn’t changed this, it has just produced new takes on old methods: animatronic arcade robots, mass produced fortune cookies, and of course, the magic eight ball to name a few.

For this assignment you will create a divination machine. Given what we have learned so far about using LEDs, sound, switches, knobs, and other inputs with the Arduino, imagine how you can use size, touch, and design to create an interesting and mysterious interactive object. You are encouraged to use narrative to create a world or metaphorize otherwise simple outputs and interactions to tell a story and create a deeper connection to the object.

You can use any enclosure you can come up with, custom laser cut, foamcore, cardboard, or found objects, the only requirement is that your piece consider the enclosure as a key part of the overall interface you are presenting to someone interacting with your object. If part of your narrative is to have the wires and circuits exposed, you need to be prepared to explain how that works with your concept.

There are a few steps necessary to complete the project:

  1. Research divination methods, to get you started i recommend looking at: Cleromancy, I Ching, O-mikuji, and Scrying .
  2. Create 5 sketches of ideas and objects. Make at least one of them as fantastical as you can, even if it is not technically possible.
  3. Narrow down your ideas to a top 2 and flesh out what is required to create them. Include a list of parts and what is necessary to create the enclosure. Bring all sketches and work to class on Monday October, 14th to discuss one-on-one.
  4. Make an outline of how the software component of your project is going to work. Be able to tell the story of how your code runs and responds to the user.
  5. Build your first prototype of the circuit. Planning a project that uses both hardware and software takes time, get started!
  6. Iterate and refine your idea based on your prototype, design your enclosure and make sure everything will fit!
  7. Complete the build!

We will have an in-class critique on October, 28th bring your object and be prepared to present it to the class.

In addition to presenting the project in class, you must upload documentation by midnight on Friday, November 15th.

#3 Final

Our final is a group project of 2 (or more if you talk me into it) people. And, you are given a choice:


Option #1: You + = Many

For this project you will create a wearable device for two or more people that embodies an idea about how people relate to one-another. It can be strapped, zipped, or slung on, something on the neck or wrist or finger, anything that sticks with the everyday definition of “wear.”

Start by talking with your partner about your experiences using single word concepts like: argue, hate, love, command, control, care, deceive, celebrate, protect. Then deepen and expand that one-word idea into something that can be performed or embodied as a device worn by multiple people.

A simple example might be those child-leashes you occasionally see, a perfect embodiment of fear, control, protection, etc.

You should make use of sensors to get input from the world, and sound, light, motion, etc to express a response. And as always, carefully consider the form your device will take. How are you going to fabricate the pieces, and what does it look like? What is it made of? Is it sewn? 3d-printed? carved?


Option #2: Crawling Can be Beautiful

For this project you will create a…contraption? machine? assemblage? THING using the techniques of motors, actuators, and mechanisms learned in class. Your THING doesn’t need to perform a useful task, it just needs to move, focus on its performative qualities, name what it is doing, make it dance, draw, create music, or just entertain. As always, carefully consider the form your THING will take. How are you going to fabricate the pieces, and what does it look like?

Your THING should begin its action in response to some interaction, run for a time, and then quit. For example, if your THING draws on paper with a marker, you should be able to plug it in, press a button, and we will be able to see the process of mark-making. If your THING bangs on a drum, you should be able to press start and have it go to it.

You are free to use sensors to get input from the world to modify the behavior, but the most important element is the motion and performance of the THING itself.

(I'm particularly fond of the work of Lolo Y Sosaku as a place to start)



Due Wednesday November 13th

We will discuss these in class.

Due Monday November 18th

Due December 4th

You must upload documentation by midnight on Sunday, December 22nd.