The Magic Cubes were the supposed culmination of my undergraduate education. Here is the executive summary from the project’s final report.
Our project, Breathing Space: The Magic Cubes, was defined as the brightening up of a space in the Electrical Engineering building. The area has been completely empty for years, and the Electrical Engineering Department wanted students to create interesting designs to fill it. The project is a fusion of art and electronics design, and involves a fair bit of both for a successful end.
The specifications given to the design team were easy to fulfill, and left much to the imagination. The requirements included the fact that it had to be a piece of interactive furniture; in other words, it had to be some manner of chair and had to respond to the actions of people around it. It was specified that the team must consult with the art department on the design and details of the final product.
The Breathing Space Team opted to use a simple piece of plastic furniture as a base for the project. It was originally selected to be a semi-transparent plastic-mold couch, though this was rejected as being too opaque. Instead, the team purchased a trio of cubes which were designed to be lit from the inside, and thus were guaranteed to allow light to pass through them. The electronic components used for lighting, driving, and sensing are listed below.
- The Arduino Development Platform was selected to be the â€œbrainâ€ of the project. Three of these chips were purchased and one was placed in each cube. The Arduino is a very simple programming interface which allows for communication with sensors and LED drivers. It can be easily programmed via a USB interface with the C programming language.
- The KingBright 3W High-Power LED is the sole LED used in the apparatus. The model purchased by the team is extremely bright and used in industrial lighting, and is thus able to light the cubes with ease.
- The TLC5940 driver chip is used to drive the LEDs via pulse width modulation. It can be sent commands via serial interface â€“ the Arduino works very simply and well in communicating via serial. The chip is a current sink, that is it can be used as a ground when driving the LEDs. Each chip is able to generate sixteen PWM signals.
- To simplify the needs of the project, a generic ATX power supply was selected to power the entirety of the apparatus. This device can supply up to 22A to the circuit. Since fifteen LEDs are being used, this amounts to about 16A of current when all LEDs are displaying white, below the tolerance of the supply.
- Sensors being employed for the system include PIR sensors, Ultrasonic Rangefinders, Microphones, and Phototransistors. These allow the sensing passersby and allow the cubes to respond. The cubes are able to â€œsee,â€ â€œhear,â€ and â€œtouch,â€ and can respond to each stimulus in a different fashion.
The Breathing Space Team considers their solution an elegant and cost-effective solution to fulfill the needs of the electrical engineering department. The cubes will serve as both form and function for the area, and will hopefully stimulate gatherings and the use of the space by the student body.
Gosh, I don’t even know where to start… Here’s some youtube videos. Note: Part 2 is vastly more exciting, so feel free to skip right to that one.