Final Project Proposal for Sherry Lassiter

Contact: lass@cba.mit.edu, 617-253-4651

As a final project for the How to Make Almost Anything class, I propose to make a heart. Not, of course the soft, warm, beating, red, moist tissue kind of heart, but a representational heart that senses, moves and makes sounds. This is a bit of an offshoot of the work I do in fab lab, as when I start to teach someone how to use 2D drawing tools and Boolean logic, the heart is my model: two circles, a rotated square, squish together, select all, merge. Voila! A heart. Simple, fast, and the satisfied student can quickly fab it on the laser cutter and take it home as a prize for learning the design tools. The wonderful people who work with me in fab labs; Amy, Manu, Amon ... they roll their eyes when they see another heart come off of the assembly line. But that doesn't stop me. It works. And so I feel it's fitting that during this class I take my lowly heart to a new, more respectable level in fabrication.

Mr. Ben in Ghana Fab Lab with his first heart fabrication.

There are several sources of inspiration for my heart project. For one, I have always loved the work of Jim Dine. If you've seen his work, you've noted that he has a large series of paintings, drawings and sculptures based on the heart symbol. Black hearts, red hearts, steel hearts, cool hearts, hot hearts, soft hearts, hard hearts, hearts, hearts and more hearts. (You'll also note he has a penchant for bathrobes. Go figure.)

Jim Dine, "Two Hearts for Pathways"

Other sources of inspiration come from plays (Shakespeare, "Be still my beating heart!"), poetry (Byron, "Thou'll break my heart, thou warbling bird, that wantons thro' the flow' ring thorn..."), literature (McCullers, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter), films (Coppola, One from the Heart), and of course medicine -- as evidenced by the now ubiquitous heart monitor -- the graph that goes flat and makes an irritating whine whenever someone dies on ER. "Heart" also connotes central content , the core, the soul. We are driven by our hearts. No, we are ruled by our hearts. The mind is but a slave to the heart.

Coming from a non-technical background, I want to use this project to dive into the heart of technology and fabrication; learning sensing, actuation, motion, sound, circuit design, programming and a few more fabrication tools. HEART THROB is my approach to these challenges.

My fabricated heart will throb when someone approaches. As when the heart's pace quickens when one is excited, my HEART will throb when someone comes near. It will sense proximity of a body. HEART will respond to proximity by reaching out to the visitor. It will make the sound of a heart beat as it does so. It will glow red as it beats from within the device -- in reference to the humanity behind the technology. Then it will retract to a resting position. It will cycle through successive heartbeats as long as the visitor is nearby. The whole device will hang around the neck by a leather strap.




The exterior will be constructed of 1/4 or 3/8 inch aluminum parts¡ªor if I find this material too heavy, 1/4 or 3/8 inch acrylic. A square box is the foundation (press fit construction, of course). The perimeter of the foundation will host several speakers, from which the heartbeat can be heard. Above the foundation sits a concentric, nested set of 5 hearts, that rest flush on one plane. On the centermost heart is a sensor for proximity. Each heart will be attached to the adjacent heart by a telescoping spine and by diaphanous red material, like sheer silk. The spine allows the heart to extend and contract neatly and robustly. (Research required for mechanisms to accomplish this. I foresee a weight problem with the telescoping spine at full extension. ) The silk is for effect.


The interior of the foundation will house the motors and mechanisms for extending and retracting the hearts. It will also house the red LED lights that will be activated when the heart throbs, the combination of LED lights and red translucent material will give the heart a red glow from within. I plan to explore India Fab Lab's LED light project to assist with this part of the design. The foundation will also house the circuitry for the heartbeat sound.

Action Sequence

As the sensor is activated, the heart will thrust forward in two motions. Motion 1 will be the hearts at half extension, Motion 2 will be the hearts at full extension, synchronized to the two beat nature of the heartbeat. In synch with the motion, the 2 stroke sound of a heart beat will play. As soon as the sensor is activated, the LED light array will activate as well. Once full extension is achieved, the entire apparatus returns to a resting state, briefly, in preparation for the next cycle. The whole cycle -- motion 1, motion 2 and return to resting state, should last no longer than 2 seconds. (May have to slow this down an awful lot depending on the challenges in construction.)

I know this will be quite a challenge for me, and that it will probably take every TA and graduate student in the Media Lab to help me accomplish it, but I think it will be worth the effort. And I'm looking forward to the challenge. (Even though I'm failing miserably on the first assignment -- modeling and animation!!!Grrrrr...Blender, thy name be "Mud"!)