Group: Material Madlib 3 – Nadine Lessio & Rana Zandi

Project Title: Panic-Pad

Project Description: Using fabric, a button, and a buzzer to simulate the physiological and psychological feelings of a panic attack for the user who has never experienced the feeling.

Project Context: As a person (Rana) living with panic disorder, not only do I suffer from the illness itself, but I find it very challenging to learn how to cope with the stigma that is connected to having a mental illness. Many people (including loved ones) hold preconceived notions or lack understanding of the illness. It is common for a person who suffers from panic disorder to get comments such as “You have nothing to be nervous about, or it is just your mind..”

However, panic disorder is not just stressful and racing thoughts inside the mind. They have painful and very much so physical symptoms. Panic-pad, is an attempt to remove this stigma by allowing the user to experience a panic episode through the sound of a rhythm of a heart of a person who is suffers from panic disorder.

Panic-Pad was tested on 3 different subjects. Subject A, was a 29 year old female suffering from panic disorder. She went through a panic episode right after trying the experience. Subject B, was another female, 22, who said she feels anxious after trying the experience. Subject C, was a 47 year old male, who was reminded of his childhood nightmares after trying the experience.

Relative articles:

Evolution of Panic-Pad Video Link:

Code Link:

Process Journal:

  • Phase 1: Getting familiar with Arduino tone library, and exploring some native sounds that could be made. Ideation about concept took place while experimenting with the number of inputs and outputs. We ended up having 1 single input that switched between 2 sounds (or songs), while we were thinking about the “Rape culture” or “Sexual Harassment” the binaries of ok and not ok.
  • Phase 2: We explored doing multiple inputs and 1 output, switching between different states, while considering our fabric choices. More conceptual ideation took place, while we explored the texture of the material we had and started using real sounds rather than tone sounds.
  • Phase 3: While exploring different sounds to represent “what is not ok” we started considering various heart beats that could communicate the feelings of anxiety. As a result of such exploration, our concept was re-foremed into the stigma surrounding mental health and panic disorder. Panic-Pad was born at this stage. While aiming to include a resting state we experimented with speed, and volume to see how we can affect the system. At this stage, the longer you hold the Panic-Pad the louder and faster the sound of the heart beat gets.


  • Clarity – Arduino’s sound ability is somewhat limited and it tends to be good for square waves, and 8-bit noises. When you start to get into purposeful distortions it is not as good.
  • Processing Power – There are a couple of libraries that we tried, including TMRpcm for the second prototype, to enable the Arduino to play sound clips of a sound-card. Which yielded some interesting tones to play with but had issues with low growl or gutteral sounds. We also looked at MOZZI which enabled the Arduino to be a full modular synthesizer. It was really strong but it pushed the Arduino to capacity and disabled native arduino functions like millis(), which we needed to provide timing.
  • A general lack of play back options.
  • In the end our explorations lead us to use Processing to manage our sound and speaker output.