Week One: Project Brainstorming and Management

brainstorm your way through many install wizards...


Download drawing, modeling, video, and audio editing programs. Learn to use them and model one idea for a final project. Set up project management tools.




Mercurial and Cygwin

Setting up Mercurial on Windows was not the cleanest process. See the Trials and Tribulations section for more details. I followed the general structure of Natalie's and Kenny's tutorials which are included in the links section.

Project Idea #1: Footstep Follower

The teacher's shoes would have a bunch of sensors (pressure, accelerometer, tilt...) and the student's shoes would have feedback mechanisms (preferably touch based--buzzers, motors? visual and sound aren't good options--you don't want to be looking at your feet and sound competes with the music). The signal is transfered from teacher through student through XBee or some other wireless communication. Will it be fast enough? Possible expand to clothing as well--especially hands (bracelet/rings or gloves) or maybe a shirt.

Things you might want to be able to detect:

Project Idea #2: Disco Igloo

The physical characteristics of Jell-o might become problematic here. As I've learned from first hand experience, Jell-o passes through a leathery phase and eventually dries out to an opaque hard surface (somewhat frosted glass like). It also shrinks in the process, though it will stay attached to hard edges, at least under some conditions. It's unclear how or if Jell-o blocks could be assembled into an igloo in any of their physical phases--they probably have different properties than tightly packed snow. Pressure sensing with Jello-o seems plausible, though again the different phases would require at least a calibration step, or maybe a set of unique approaches. Light detection might be another one to look into. A Disco Igloo would be an ideal location for eating melon and grapes.

Project Idea #3: Marching Band Literal

Should the sound output be mechanical or electric? Mechanical alone might not give the desire range of sound outputs. Would buzzers plus Arduino sort of set up work? There are limitations on playing multiple tones at the same time and sound characteristics seem somewhat fixed. Perhaps there are work arounds (modify board?). Or maybe the tone is produce electronically but then altered mechanically by its environment.

Trials and Tribulations

The Mercurial set up in Windows with Cygwin was finicky. Make sure to include openssh during the Cygwin install process. Using full paths seemed more reliable that relative paths, as Cygwin/Windows seemed to be not entirely honest about where files lived. Because the keys folder leads with a dot (".ssh") it must be created through command line; I also had to change the permissions on the keys. Thanks to Dan Sawada for help troubleshooting this process!

As a class, we encountered a few multiple heads/merge issues using Mercurial. I ended up delete and re-cloning everything to get rid of a file name problem that kept lingering--Windows definitely does not like capitalization changes or file paths including certain punctuation (? and : and likely others). Thanks to the class mailing list, especially Matt Edwards, for cleaning non-Windows friendly file names and merging.

Gimp doesn't always behave as I'd expect. Adding and changing layers through the right-hand panel works better than other methods of pasting and resizing. When moving text or an object, make sure to click exactly on the object, not just the box that contains it! I ran into this often when trying to move text.