HighWire Internship 2015
HighWire Intern, Alex Waugh, describes the projects he worked on during his placement in HighWire.
My name is Alex Waugh, I joined HighWire as an intern over the summer after my first year as a student of BSc Computer Science Innovation at Lancaster Uni. While I had never used an Arduino before I had dabbled in 3D printing and was keen to try my hand at becoming part of the 'maker community'. I worked on a number of projects during my time, which mostly involved fast prototyping of hardware using Arduino. I was thrown in the deep end working independently on creative projects with relatively open briefs, which was both challenging and rewarding. HighWire is such a creative, supportive community, I really enjoyed getting to know everyone and met some amazing characters!
Summary of projects:
Somewhere-Nowhere: Remote Sensing
The brief for this project was to gather and store data from a large number of sensors placed in a tree canopy in a remote environment away from power or communications networks, using just one Arduino Uno as the central controlling unit.
Such extensive data could then be used to both scientific and artistic ends. While the data is stored, to be interpreted post-collection, the data could also be used to produce some ‘live output’ based on some interpretation of the data, in the form of sound, or most likely, LEDs.
This project posed a number of challenges, the main challenge of this project was expanding the 18 i/o ports of the Arduino Uno to read 74 (or more) sensors. The final prototype read data from temperature sensors on a OneWire bus, and accelerometers on an I2C bus, storing the data on a MicroSD card via the SPI protocol (see /Content/upload/417549622trees_prototype1.jpg).
This project was a prototype for HighWire student Claire Dean, who wanted to hack a rustic old bench to read a story when people sat down and held both metal arms of the bench. As the bench was longer than one person's arm span, they would be forced to hold hands with another in order to reach and play the story. While the circuitry itself was fairly simple, having to conduct through two or more people presented challenges. The final prototype consisted of an Arduino Uno with the Sparkfun MP3Shield and two conductive wires to be attached the the bench arms. We hope to see this implemented on old bench in Morcambe in the future (see/Content/upload/320172352Benches.jpg).
When student of HighWire Liz Edwards approached me asking if I could make an old telephone play MP3 files for a National Trust project, I had no idea where to start but naively said that it "shouldn't be too difficult"! How mistaken was I? This one was an interesting challenge. I took it apart, looked at some cringy educational videos from the 90's and worked out what most of the parts did. The buttons work on a grid system, so I attached them to the Arduino and a few resistors, did some testing and managed to work out which button was being pressed. Once that was done attaching the MP3 Shield was easy enough, and I managed to get the sound playing through the handset speaker, but the most difficult part was wiring it all together in a way that it would fit inside an old telephone. I finally got the whole thing working, put it back together and picked up the receiver to the squealing sound of it dying a death. Alas, the trials and tribulations of working with hardware! Following this I designed a custom circuit board so that the system would fit more neatly inside the phone, which we hope to get finished in the near future (see /Content/upload/576884950telephone_parts.jpg , /Content/upload/669335753telephone_keys.jpg , /Content/upload/520716756telephone_pcb.jpg ).
This one was a short project for HighWire student Andy Darby, who wanted to make a metal flower that would open its petals as someone approached it. This involved using an ultrasonic proximity sensor to activate a servo motor. The tricky part was smoothing out the volatile values from the sensor and writing code to determine when someone was walking towards or away from it. After playing with the values I got something that worked nicely. Once Andy has brushed up on his metalworking, the tech can be waterproofed and transformed into a copper flower (see /Content/upload/708145396proximity_servo.jpg).