3-inch Cube / by Daniel Buckley

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I'm taking Intro to Industrial Design this semester at MassArt. ID has always been of interest to me. I'm guessing it spawns from my obsession with sneakers. I remember my friends and I having sneaker drawing competitions during breaks at school, loading up our designs with the latest features, most often including at least one or two Pumps. 

For a homework assignment, we were asked to design and build a 3-inch cube that reflected who we are in some way.  I started with a couple of guidelines.

  1. I had to use found materials. This reflects an interest of mine to draw inspiration from the materials and spaces at hand. Also, I am constantly poor and often find myself trying to make something beautiful out whatever is cheap and available. 
  2. I wanted it to combine the physical and the digital. The merging of these worlds is a personal interest of mine, so I wanted to communicate that interest in my cube. 
  3. Although I want the piece to be somewhat dynamic, I also want it to be simple. I need to try to not over-complicate it.

I started by digging through the scrap pile in the industrial design department. There I found some scrap plexi that somebody had laser-cut into. After doing some quick measurements, I realized that there was plenty left for me to work with. Once i had drawn out my 6 identical sides, I went back through my measurements to take out the overlap, to create a snug 3-inch fit. 

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After using some apoxy to adhere the sides of my cube, I set off to solve the dynamic piece of the project. Hopeful to keep things simple, I decided to create a clock that simply kept track of each minute of the day, but without the capacity to remember how many it had tracked. Each minute the LED would start at 0 brightness, and light up more and more until it hit full brightness at 59 seconds. By providing no other information, the box would act as a more meditative clock, reminding the user to exist in the moment, with each minute providing a new opportunity.

To solve this problem, I use Processing and an Arduino micro-controller. I was able to take advantage of the built in timer call, seconds(), in Processing, which automatically resets to 0 after reaching 59. I knew based on its design, I could use seconds() to deliver the data I needed to control the LED. By simply adapting the example Arduino Dimmer code, I switched out the entry for the data being written to the serial port to the int s, which corresponds to the seconds in each minute.

 import processing.serial.*;
 Serial port;
 
 void setup() {
 port = new Serial(this, "/dev/tty.usbmodemfa131", 9600);
 }
 
 void draw() {
 int s = second();
 println(s);

 port.write(s);
 }

On the Arduino side of things, I read what was coming out of the serial port (values from 0-59), and mapped them to values that referred to brightness level on the LED (0-256). That value is then set to the designated ledPin.

const int ledPin = 9;

void setup() { 
Serial.begin(9600);
pinMode(ledPin, OUTPUT);
}

void loop() {
if (Serial.available()) {
byte val = Serial.read();
val = map(val, 0, 59, 0, 128);
analogWrite(ledPin, val);
}
}
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In the end, I think I have a fun simple experiment in bringing a simple physical object to life using the power of data. Hopefully, as my future projects get more complex, I can remember to try to keep things this simple.