18: project development

The process of my final project development can be viewed here. My documentation tracks my project and should answer the questions:

  - what tasks have been completed, and what tasks remain? 
  - what's working? what's not?
  - what questions need to be resolved?
  - what will happen when?
  - what have you learned?


I will answer the above questions as of where I am right now.

So far, I have milled my backboard on the Shopbot (computer controlled machining), laser cut my frames to cover the neopixels (computer controlled machining), powered and began streaming on the camera (input devices), and soldered and powered up my neopixels (output devices). The next step is to get the camera and neopixels working together–creating the code to take the camera’s stream of pictures, retrieve the raw bitmap images, turn the images monochrome, and assign those colors to each individual neopixel.

I know that the neopixels are able to display bitmap images, now the challenge will be getting them to rapidly display the images that the camera takes with one color and without too much of a delay so that it displays the mirror effect. One of my instructors, Dr. Harris, found a guy who used the OV2640 camera chip as a timelapse camera and was able to save the BMP files. There are several components of his code that are vital to my own project. Taking apart this code and combining it with the code I used to display the BMP images, along with a bit of hacking, is the next thing I will be working on as the deadline for my final project approaches. I have created a Gantt chart to plan out my project development that you can view here.

In addition, I will be incorporating other pieces into my design that will correspond to previous weeks. To begin, I need to figure out what I want to cover the neopixels with the diffuse each individual LED. My initial plan was to 3D print each individual LED cover, but this would be very time consuming. My current plan is to 3D print a mold and cast it out of Ecoflex. The cast will be slightly translucent and will fit into each laser cut frame. Furthermore, I will vinyl cut a sticker (computer controlled machining)and design and create a PCB board if I decided not to use my modified satshakit from week 14.

Ultimately, I have learned a lot from this course. I have finished all my individual assignments and am focusing on my final project. Before FabAcademy, I knew how to use the 3D printers and laser cutters, and had used the Shopbot once but did not feel comfortable with it. I had never used the Othermills before and was frankly kind of scared of them. I now not only feel very comfortable using these machines and others, but have learned hacks and techniques for how to use them with the utmost efficiency. I also feel adept using CAD software, and know much, much more about electronics than I did before I began FabAcademy. From my final project alone, it was cool being able to break down my design into the different weeks and tackle them one at a time with the knowledge of how everything was going to work. I have loved seeing my initial sketch from week 1, which seems so long ago, come to life. I cannot wait to see how the finished project turns out!

7/8/2020 (Day of Presentation)

After presenting my project to Neil, I am able to once again answer the prompts in accordance to my complete project. As far as what has been completed, I was able to successfully stream pictures through my camera, compress and convert them, and send them over to the neopixels to be displayed. Though there is a slight delay, this can be decreased to the user’s liking. In addition, I can change the brightness of the neopixels. I had initially thought that the display would be monochrome, but the final project actually reflects what the camera sees with full color.

In the future, I want to scale up my project and make a large display for my school. A new, modern building was recently constructed on campus and I think it would be cool to work with the art department to create a huge one.

Over the course of FabAcademy, I have learned so much about engineering, my FabLab, and my ability to create something really cool. As I said previously, I knew how to operate some of the machinery, but I wasn’t completely comfortable with them. Between today and my last entry, I not only finished the cosmetics of my mirror but produced the entirety of my code. Now that I am done with the project, I can look back and identify the parts that I liked and disliked. I enjoyed designing and building everything as I enjoy hands-on work. Creating the modified satshakits and casting the LED covers was also pretty cool. On the other hand, generating the code was the most frustrating thing I have encountered in awhile. I would like to give a special thanks to Dr. Harris, who helped me write the code every step of the way despite the fact that basically everything that could’ve gone wrong did. However, working for a week and a half on the code resulted in me learning a lot about the Arduino IDE, the Arduino language in general, and how to look at other peoples’ work to incorporate what they learned and not repeat their mistakes. Ultimately, I’m very happy with how my final project turned out and I am excited to see what I can create in the future!