Week 1. Principles and practices

Feb 1, 2020


Plan and sketch a potential final project

Potential ideas

My potential ideas are as below.

  • 1. Electronic chess board

  • 2. Shoelace tying machine

  • 3. Smart miniature house

  • 4. Dog collar with a distance detector or more features

My decision and the reasons

At first I wanted to make an electronic chess board, but it looks too complicated to make in 6 months. Also, I don't even know how to play chess, so let's move on to the next idea.

I really wanted to make a machine that could tie my shoes for me, but I couldn't really get my head around how to build it. I saw a video showing robot arms trying to tie shoelaces. It looked like it's a bit out of my technical ability because I didn't know if my math is good enough to make it.

Next, I came up with the dog collar idea after I saw many people walking around with their dogs unleashed. The device would alert the owner if their dog was farther away than a configurable threshold. This could be a fun project to work on since I am adopting a dog soon.

However, I eventually chose the smart miniature house idea. The main reason was I thought I could have a lot of fun building it. I once made a miniature house with wood pieces from scratch. From designing the house to cutting wood pieces to putting them together, I enjoyed doing every single step. I thought it would be amazing if I could combine everything I will learn during the course with the miniature house.

The first house I built


After I made a decision for the final project, I started thinking about what kind of features the miniature house should have.

  • 1. Voice commands for controlling lights, doors and speakers

  • 2. Motion detect sensors

  • 3. Motorized door or lift

  • 4. Controllable with a mobile app

  • 5. Whatever I wish I had in my future house!

These are the things I can think of now. I'm sure I will come up with more ideas as I learn new things in the course.


Before working on the sketches, I googled "miniature house" to get some design inspiration. I found a lot of beautiful miniature houses, and that made me think about how much detail I'd have time for with regards to the design. I would like to make it as pretty as possible, but at the same time, I don't want to spend too much time on making it pretty. The key here will be time management between working on house details and technical implementation.

This looks very nice, but this might take too long to build all those details.

Second, I had to think about how big the house should be. It might be too hard to install all the electronics and wires if the house is too tiny. The houses in the images below would be the perfect size for the miniature house (around 100cm × 100cm).

And this is the first sketch I drew. I also added a garden and a garage. If time permits, I want to make an app that can control the house as well.