My final project will be a construction kit that is embedded in sensors such that a virtual model is constructed in real-time as you are building the physical model.

I have been working torwards this final project for the majority of the class, so many of the pieces are already there. However, there is a good deal of detail work that needs to be completed:

FIGURE 1: A construction kit that generates a 3D model. Plan to make 10!
: Can the size of the pieces be halved?
FIGURE 3: Addition of a new piece that can lead to a more generative construction kit


I already did a pretty thorough summary of prior work during week 4, but I will summarize again here:

There are many examples of smart building blocks, including the following:

  1. Tangible Programming Bricks enable people to create physical computer programs using LEGO bricks:

Tangible Programming Bricks

The Tangible Programming Bricks each contain an 18 pin PIC and creates connections between blocks using a female connector on the top of the brick (metal pads on a PCB) and a male connector on the bottom (a JST-ICC). It has several LEDs embedded in the brick used for debugging.

Hardware used for the Tangible Programming Brick (Tim's thesis)

  1. Triangles are a set of tangible pieces that are connected using magnetic hinges. CAD models of the Triangles' configuration are rendered in real-time. However, the triangle pieces are quite large and require a significant amount of hardware for each piece.


  1. Activecube is a system that uses large bricks that sense their connections using IR sensors. ID numbers are assigned to each face of the cube to identify its connected face. Similar to Triangles, Activecube is limited by its size and limited number of pieces.

  1. Posey is a ball and strut construction kit used to generate 3D virtual models for applications such as chemical modeling and storytelling.

Why my project is different

  • My goal is to create many smaller pieces that are cheap to manufacture (other toolkits use too few pieces, each being very expensive).
  • My focus is on design process, not product. The software will enable users to play back their design and send their design to others.


  • Electronics + Software
    • I2C Communication between pieces
    • Final hardware needed (stereo connectors and jacks, potentiometers / encoders)
    • Interface for recording and saving designs in Processing
  • Tangible Pieces
    • Snap connections between pieces (to hold position)
    • Design of 3D-printable housings for the pieces


Sun Mon Tues Wed Thur Fri Sat

Design I2C Circuit

Mill out prototype boards + test Source final hardware CAD physical snaps 3D print snap prototypes Mill final boards
Debugging boards Design housings 3D print prototype housings Processing playback complete Processing save design complete All shells 3D printed Assembly
Assembly DONE


Part Vendor PN Unit Price Quantity Total
Potentiometer Mouser 688-RK09K113004U 0.53 10 5.30
Stereo Plug CBA shop (Digikey) CP-2501SP-ND 0.64 10 6.40
Stereo Jack CBA Shop (Digikey) CP1-2533SJCT-ND 0.46 10 4.60
Coupling - - ?? 10 ??
Housing - - ?? 10 ??
ATMega168 CBA Shop (Digikey) - 2.28 10 20.28
        TOTAL =36.58 + ??