MAS.863 Assignment 1: model your final project
This is a construction toy that allows kids to play with self-assembly at the macro scale. It consists of a set of blocks of different geometric shapes. Each block has electromagnets on each edge, which can be set to each polarity, or off. A few dozen of these blocks can be placed onto an air table so that they can slide around without friction, and then depending on the settings of the magnets they will self assemble into configurations such as clusters, chains, or lattices. A microcontroller on each block controls the magnets. Buttons on the blocks allow you to manually set the magnets' states. A computer wirelessly communicates with all the blocks, allowing you to globally change the settings of the magnets.
While I was working at Concord Consortium, I helped develop an interactive simulation for kids which inspired the idea for this toy. Here are some movies showing the simulation running:
Try the simulation here.
Here is an initial sketch made with google sketchup (the LED, coil, and IC are from google's 3D warehouse):
Next sketch, this time using a wedge shape, and LED colors indicating that the magnets are set to opposite polarities on each side:
Here's the whole device, in a random intial state and then after self-assembly: