How To Make (Almost) Anything - Final Project: Interactive Garden Bridge

Massachusetts Institute of Technology
MAS 863 How To Make (Almost) Anything | Fall 2011

Vernelle Noel - vernelle@mit.edu  | 



Week 1 - Final Design Proposal

Week 2 - Make Press Fit Kit

Week 3 : Make FabISP in-circuit programmer

Week 4.1 : Make Something BIG

Week 4.2 : Final Project Review

Week 5 : Molding & Casting

Week 6 : Embedded programming

Week 7 : 3D scanning and printing

Week 8 : Input devices

Week 9 : Output devices

Week 10: Machine design & Final Project Revisted

Week 11: Networking and communications

Week 12: Final presentation

Helpful list of programs

Website >>

Blog >>

Flickr >>

Youtube >>


This week was THE BIG ONE... working on our Final Projects.


My project was creating an interactive bridge, that lit up as you walked along it. The bridge was digitally fabricated and put together with no glue or other fasterners, purely friction-fit. I used RGB LED's for lighting, and ModKit for programming.

First of all I would like to thank:
- Ed Baafi (ModKit)

I used my bridge that was designed and assembled for another class as the subject and object of my final project.

Initally my design plan for my bridge was to use 3 RGB Led's and 3 IR Emitter/Detectors per platform.

However, after testing the IR Emitter/ Detectors they were not giving me what I needed... that is, satisfactory detecting and reading of light. An entire day was spent testing and tweaking this, and in the end, it was decided that I should just use phototransistors.

I used the same board design for my phototransistors that I used for input week. I now had to rush deliver components, AGAIN! Time, planning and money adds up!

So, I milled and stuffed all of my 10 Fabduinos, 10 RGB led boards, and 35 phototransistor boards (minus the phototransistors). For a grand total of 55 boards!

After having my boards I measured, cut and created my wire connectors that would be forming connections between the Fabduino, RGB and sensor boards, Bridge, and PC (for programming).

A BIG learning lesson for me in this assignment especially was learning about debugging. My approach was very shot in the dark, until Ed taught me and explained to me that it is step, byt step, by step. This was definitely a learning experience, a new experience for me.

I had to check the following (Debugging):

1. Check light values and know that calibration for the particular environment would need to happen.

2. Ensure RGB LED Board worked by loading programs for testing.

3. Fix traces on phototransistor boards.

4. Replace resistors.

5. Check that both phototransistor boards worked by loading programs for testing.

6. Connect these 3 boards back to the Fabduino using the physical connectors that I made.

7. Load program to run the interaction.

8. Test.

9. If light(s) do not work, try again step by step.

10. Situate sensors on platform

11. Situate RGB Led

My phototransistor boards were damaged in the cutting out process. Mistakenly in cutting them out, I cut off an important trace for all 35 boards... this meant I had to surgically fix each and every tiny board. I also had to replace the resistor from a 100K (which in initial testing worked), back to a 49K. Pressha!

So that was my work plan for each platform.

After getting everything working for ONE platform, I tested them and placed the components on the bridge platform. I also placed tracing paper below the platforms to aid in the diffusing of the light.

I used foil paper to try reflecting the light better below the platform. I was spending a lot of time channeling Mac Gyver.

Installation worked and now I had to test the programming. It also worked... SUCCESS!!! I still had to finalize, confirm and test the powering of my installation.

After many hours, broken finger nails, sore fingers, debugging, sleepless nights, and so much more, I was only able to complete four platforms. But I am happy at being able to do this assignment!

Thanks Neil, and fellow students... I really enjoyed this class, the group emails, and working with you all!!

1. Link to video of testing program

2. Programs I explored during this class

3. Link to Top 10 List

4. Txt file to myself on procedure for uploading material to site

Website: http://www.vernellenoel.com/
Blog: http://thinkinginsomniac.wordpress.com
Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/thinkinginsomniac/


Top 10 List of things to Plan for during your
How To Make Almost Anything final project






Assembly of Garden Bridge

Complete bridge with connecting top plates

Beautiful isn't it!!

Me on the bridge
It's not just a bridge, it's a seesaw too!
Circuit for Phototransistor boards
Circuit for RGB LED boards
Sketch of connection between tiny boards and Fabduino



Mill, mill, mill a million of phototransistors!

Boards Ahoy!!!

Fabduinos locked and BOOTloaded!  
Box of Fabduinos, RGB Leds, and Phototransistors  
Board surgery - fixed tiny boards with tiny soldered copper ties ;-)  
Schematics of the Fabduino  
Program "written" to test RGB Leds  
Blue LED on  
Red and Blue LED on  
Program "written" to test phototransistors  
Program written to run phototransistors and LED's  
Wire bouquet needed to run between phototransistors, sensors, Fabduinos, and power supply  
One platform of bridge used to test logistics, circuits and boards  
LED boards and phototransistor plugged into Fabduino which is then programmed with the FTDI cable from my pc  
I think it looks pretty cool!  
If only Mac Gyver could see me now.....  
Bit by Bit we'll get there...  
Success! First platform lit up when light going into to sensors was reduced/ blocked  
Platform Number two.. DONE!  
Need to work on diffusing light better.. and using more than one LED per platform  
Another shot!  

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