By Karo Castro-Wunsch, Tommy Ting and Feng Yuan

John is a squishable stress relief toy to help people who have trouble focusing by relieving nervous energy or stress.

Circuit Layout


Code iS HERE

Supporting Visuals

img_5382 img_5383-2


Process Journal

Day 01 [2017.09.22]: Madlibs

We selected the words Squishy, Plastic, Vibration and Slider.


Day 02 [2017.09.29]: Mindmapping & Sketching

Idea 1: Facial Massager


This is an idea for a plastic vibrating facial roller massager. The idea is that you could adjust the the temperature as well as the vibration to massage your face. Many facial rollers exist on the Asian beauty market and they claim to help stimulation and production of collagen, release lymph nodes and brighten skin among other benefits.

Idea 2: Inflatable


We had an idea of a vibrating inflatable toy but it didn’t go anywhere beyond its conception.

Idea 3:  Stress Relief Ball


Our final idea is adding the vibration motor into a stress relief ball. Using the slider to adjust the intense of the vibration. Squishable toys are already available on the market and we wanted to enhance its stress relief properties by adding vibration.

We decided to explore the idea of a squishable stress relief toy further…


Day 03 [2017.10.01]: Material Research in dollar store, prototype build-up and user testing

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We did some research and visited different dollar stores in Chinatown. We found a squishable toy at Dollarama and decided to purchase a few to play around and alter with. After passing around the toy among the group and playing with it during our brainstorming session, we decided to call it John.

After placing the vibration motor inside John, we were still faced with the challenge of where to place the slider. We tried different options such as attaching it to another squishable toy external to John or on a box.

img_5371 img_5373

We did some user testings and found that if the slider was external to John it made the interaction with John awkward so we decided to attach the slider in John. After another round of user testing, we found that the slider worked much more intuitively when placed inside John.

Day 04[2017.10.03]: Polish Code

The initial code we were using with didn’t turn the vibration off completely when slid to one side of the slider. We figured it would be a good idea to be able to turn off john when the user gets too satisfied or relaxed. We added a bit of logic to turn off the vibrator when the slider is completely to one side. 

Day 05[2017.10.05]: Creating a carrier pouch for John and research.

We wanted a elegant and sophisticated way to conceal all the wires and housing unit for John. We visited Raza in the Makerlab and he suggested creating a wooden box. We didn’t think wood was a suitable material for John since it is a squishy toy and the contrast would be too stark. The idea of fabric came about and we decided to design a pouch for John instead. We went shopping for fabric and decided to go with felt since it is soft but has structure and is kind of squishy. Initially this pouch would hang off your desk with a hook that restaurants use for diners to hang their hand bags. This would work well as we situate John in an office environment. After some testing and prototyping we came up with a standing frame instead so it sits on your desk. We believe that by placing John on the desk with the human instead of concealing it under the table can normalize mental issues instead of shaming it.

Project Context & Bibliography

John is made out of a squishy plastic casing with a spongy filling, this material goes back to its original shape after human manipulation. Inside John is a vibration motor, the intensity of the vibration is adjusted with a slider that is located at the back of the toy. Initially, we saw John as a parody of pseudoscience products that claims to cure all kinds of health ailments. We immediately referenced Dr. Ho’s products, which is a regular on As Seen on TV commercials. Dr. Ho’s vibrating gadgets that resemble medical devices claim to “reduce pain, muscle spasm and more.” We wanted to make fun of how easy it is to insert a vibration motor into anything and bestow it healing properties.

Immediately, we thought of the recent popularity of fidget spinners. We discovered that the widespread popularity of such toys shows that there is a strong demand for products to help and assist humans with stress. Charles Huhigg, a writer for the New York Times concluded that there is no hard scientific research that backs the claims of fidget spinners and their abilities to calm stress. We bought a fidget spinner and compared it with John and after playing with both, we found the fidget spinner to be rather distracting as it is a visually captivating toy whereas playing with John was a more tactile. This allows for the human to take pleasure from a haptic experience rather than a visual experience. Huhigg also concluded that companies are now doing research into squishable toys as an alternative to the fidget spinner.

We wanted to dive deeper into why John’s squishiness created a soothing and comforting sensation. We also passed it around to our classmates and we found that people naturally gravitated towards its squishy properties and wanted to touch it and play with it. We looked into “why do people love to squish squishy things?” and found a interesting research related to this topic. Rebecca Dyer and Oriana Aragon conducted a study in 2012 where they gave bubble wrap to people and showed them pictures of cute animals. They found that people reacted to cute animals by squeezing the bubble wrap. In a Vice article about the study, they concluded that “the science behind cute aggression is still reasonably murky, but Brooks explains that the typical theory comes down to cross-wiring in the brain. ” The brain’s mesocorticolimbic system mediates the response to cuteness,” she says. “Dopamine is released, and that makes us feel good. But interestingly, this process also is involved when we act out on aggressive tendencies. It’s possible that there’s some cross-wiring of the response to cuteness and aggression being mediated by dopamine release.” Although we were not able to conduct a more in depth research into this area of study, we believe that John’s squishiness combined with its vibration haptic technology is a prototype for a new kind of stress relief toy that has real potential market value.


Aragon, Oriana., Clark, Margaret., Dyer, Rebecca. And Bargh, John. “Dimorphous Expressions of Positive Emotion: Displays of Both Care and Aggression in Response to Cute Stimuli.” Association for Psychological Science 26.3 (2015): 259-273. Sagepub. Web. 5 Oct. 2017.

Duhigg, Charles. “The Rise of the Fidget Spinner and the Fall of the Well-Managed Fad.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 15 Aug. 2017, Web. 5 Oct. 2017.

“Science & Research Behind The Pain Therapy System Pro.” Web. 3 Oct. 2017.

Scott, Elfy. “I Asked a Neuroscientist Why I Want to Crush Every Cute Animal I See.” Vice, 30 May 2015, Web. 5 Oct. 2017.

Entitled Arm

Quinn Rockliff and Kristy Boyce 

This device draws attention to the impatient customer and super-fast service they demand in our world. We want instant replies, instant satisfaction and instant thirst quenching beer replenishment in our busy lives. This device is intended to both criticize and draw attention to the demands of customers in the food and beverage industry by physically demonstrating the desire for service instantly without human intervention. As ones beer becomes more empty, the wire hand creeps upwards from below the bar, once the glass is completely empty the hand begins to shake after waiting a short time,  in a way so irritating to the bartender they may ignore you even more.

This device will then reset when the glass is refilled only to creep up again and flail its hand around when the glass is empty. This device eliminates human interaction and communication between server and served to demonstrate and allow for the continuation of the impersonal and disconnected ways of our busy lives.

Circuit Diagram



Here is the circuit diagram. This circuit shows how we took the light sensor off the bread board in order to allow it to be attached to the cup. Please see the note on the diagram as it explains the connection between the legs of the sensor and the other components. One thing we quickly learned was important to our projects success was the correct power output. Using the USB output instead of pulling from the 3V was important for the servo to be able to support the hand made of wire as well as create the most obnoxious and busy vibe for our device.


Here you will find a link to our code used.


When we were initially paired together our first thoughts were – we have no idea what we’re doing. Yet as we toyed around with our four cards (still having no idea what some of them meant) we began to think of ideas that we felt both encapsulated the meaning of the cards and pushed their meaning beyond classical interpretation. We came up with the idea that a flag would raise as a drink emptied but realized this wasn’t challenging the idea of busy as more nor was it drawing on our material enough: Wire. Throughout this process section, you will see the many iterations of how we tried to use wire to convey busy using text, imagery and a little bit of both!

The first thing we had to do was create a code that combined the mapping we had learned in experiment one as well as how to translate that into acknowledging the servo existed. Adding in a definition for the servo we were then able to get the sensorVal to map to the servo (S1) and get some movement happening.

We then had to adjust our thresholds to some different numbers in order to make sure the servo was moving at an appropriate rate in order to wave its hand just in time!

Then we built out the wires in order to allow for the sensor to be attached to the cup…

Then we realized…this just isn’t busy enough..we must make this more busy…so off to office hours we went. We understood that we must add to the code and create an if and else statement so that after a certain amount of time with the light sensor value high (meaning the cup was empty) we can cause the motor to go between 2 random values to create a highly irritating hand shaking movement. mimicking the impatient customer in real life waving their hand around, suffering in every millisecond they continue in life without beer. So we added to code and created a two-part loop. Beer gets empty, hand goes up, beer stays empty, hand shakes until the beer is filled.


sketch1 sensor solder


The second class once we were off the breadboard we worked on adjusting the code and playing with how the entitled arm reacted to light differently. img_3052


Later sketch iterations




Mug mock up


Here is us working on different iterations of the busy signifier, first with wire spelling the word more please, but that wasn’t busy enough


This took away from our material…


A little too simple and tacky, and didn’t use our material enough



This hand started to be more up our alley and wiggled in a particularly irritating and entitled fashion


Then we found this box that we thought was SO great and brought it to the Maker Lab…turns out it is not so great for cutting into and we should probably just make our own box to hide our materials behind and create our faux bar top.







(it was not so great)








We then created our faux counter top…


Measured and installed our servo…img_3080


Then we installed the light sensor into the lid of the cup we purchased and repurposed it to be placed on the bottom of the cup to be able to read the light coming down in to the glass.








So sleek, so nice, also a little spooky! In an ideal world and with a little more time to prototype we would explore wireless options for the mug. but for now this solution with a side notch – vs. our original bottom notch we thought of – does not impede beer drinking.

Interaction test 1

Final Video of working arm!


Quinn is a server and knows how much of a pet peeve the waving hand is when it is attached to a human. She also knows that if this was an automatic hand that waved without fail every time a drink became empty she would be very annoyed. Fun fact: Quinn was just fired from her serving job for spending too much time at school. More time to create experiments like this to criticize the industry and demands of customers, perfect.

Another way we knew our device was doing its job was when we told Sean (a server as well)  about it he said “I would tear that thing up into a hundred pieces” SUCCESS!

We also looked to some artists who work with wire and movement in order to get some inspiration for how to use our material in order to create a signifier.



Arthur Ganson

Madeline’s Fragile Machine.44133




We also loved this sculpture that involved hands and movement, not as busy as we would like, more slow and creepy but had some features that we loved

The artist’s name is Tim Lewis and his bio can be found here


Max Dean’s robotic chair informed the way we looked at creating the action for the hand. The chair appears to have its own consciousness and to be self-determining in its actions. We liked that concept and applied it to our hands’ seeming impatience in terms of how few seconds it allows to pass once it senses the glass is empty before it begins to gesture agitatedly.



Our design for the hand came from this inspiration picture pulled from here





Additionally, since our project comes from a place of humour and play, we researched combinative play as a creative technique, which can be found here


Kinetic Art/Sculpture by Tim Lewis. From Alter Image produced by Jane Thorburn

Max Dean – Robotic Chair


Experiment 1: Material Mad Libs – “Small Craft Warning”

Small Craft Warning

by Roxanne Baril-Bedard, Kylie Caraway & Dave Foster

Project Description

From our mad lib cards – proximity (sensor), DC Motor (actuator), paper (material), and angry (adjective) – we created an animated diorama depicting a boat in an angry sea. We used two DC motors: one that makes the cyclone revolve, and the other making a small paper boat with a miniature sailor move up and down. As people get closer to the piece, the motors increase speed, giving the audience the all mighty power to control the elements.

We decided on an agitated sea because we wanted something that expressed anger in a way that’s symbolic, but also playful and relatable in a representational way. As water is capable of taking on many forms, we wanted to experiment with various ways to form paper. The properties of paper we amplify are its lightness and malleability, or how it can be folded and cut to reach its volumetric potential.


Circuit Diagrams


Design Sketches

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Finished Piece

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Process Journal

Sept 29th: After learning how to use the Feather controller with Arduino, we began by testing the proximity sensor with the code provided by Kate and Nick. Once we downloaded the NewPing library, we were able to successfully operate the ultrasonic proximity sensor. Testing the distance numbers in the serial monitor, we changed the maxDistance it could pick up input from 200 cm to various numbers, in order to see how close someone would need to be to our sensor for it to operate. We kept the maxDistance at 200cm so only people in close proximity would be recognized by the sensor.

Next, we tested our DC Motor using the code provided by Kate and Nick. One problem we were unaware of was the need for an additional USB for power as the power output directly provided by the Feather can not provide enough power for the motor to run. We successfully got our DC Motor to run at 0, 128 and 255.

After successfully getting our proximity sensor and DC Motor to work in Arduino, we wanted to combine the two to react to one another. We decided to create a project that increases the motor speed based on proximity to the project. We wanted to create 3 phases: no movement (0), slower movement (128) and faster movement (255) based on a maxDistance of 200 cm. With Nick and Kate’s help, we were able to combine the two codes together and use “if” statements to allow the two pieces to “talk” to one another.


Once we were comfortable with a basic code, we began discussing our ideas for the project. Dave wanted to do straws with flags that said “go away”, Kylie wanted to create a character that spun, and Roxanne wanted to make something more abstract, such as a flower or grass. We broke after class to recollect our thoughts and ideas on where we would go. At that point, we were pretty puzzled by the way we could use the DC motor, how to transform rotating power into a movement that could be interesting to harness.

Oct 3rd: Kylie and Roxanne met to implement a plan and begin working on diagrams, the code, and the blog post. After failing to make grass move (the paper was too flimsy and the movement was not noticeable), we changed our idea to a tropical storm. Kylie was inspired by paper animations, as depicted in the “fourteenballstoy” and “robives” (links below in our project context.) We decided we wanted to create two different types of movement with two separate DC Motors: one would spin an object, extending the reach of the DC motor’s rotational points with a straw, and one would drive a cam system causing vertical motion. We decided to use the cam system to move a small boat up and down, and a simple connection to spin the “cyclone”. Roxanne did a form research for the cyclone cutting different plys of paper, as well as the folding the paper boat, while Kylie began constructing and setting the box up for our scene (cutting holes for plugs and proximity sensor, making shelves to place the motors in, soldering wire to motors, wedging the breadboard in without gluing it down.)



Oct 4th: The next day, Dave reconstructed the box using foamcore and white glue. Kylie attempted to connect two DC motors, but after many hours tinkering could never figure out how to get two motors to work at the same time. Nick fixed this in about 30 seconds. Rather than rewiring the second DC Motor on a new circuit, we connected it to the same circuit as the first one. 

We had to wait for the glue to cure before trying the motors moving the different diorama elements, being unwilling to cause an inadvertent self-destruct circuit (as it were). While we waited for the glue to dry, Kylie and Roxanne drew various waves simulating a force 7 gale on the Beaufort scale (hence the project title “Small Craft Warning”) using 2 different shades of blue-gray paper and cut them up to arrange on top of the project in order to make an “angry” sea. We also went and bought a “sea-sick” little miniature person like the ones used in architecture maquettes to put in the boat. Its scale really allowed for a dramatic intensity in the scene.


Oct 5th: Things being glued up and solid, now was the time to test our piece. We didn’t know how strong we wanted the motor so when we tried 10 it wouldn’t spin at all. We were cautious because we did not want to break the fragile paper pieces. After trial and error, we ended up testing 255, the fastest speed for the motor, and it surprisingly was not too strong. We had some problems with the code. It didn’t want to activate from further than 10 cm. The sensor was emitting a high pitched beep that we didn’t really know what to do about. We tinkered with the code, doing A/B testing, and it seemed that the motor wouldn’t start at too low a speed but could continue turning if first turned on at a higher speed. We also modified the tresholds of activation, thinking about the exhibition context and the way we think people will occupy the space and interact with our piece. People facing our piece but who are further away than 80 cm from it don’t activate it, standing between 20 and 80 cm activate the motor at a speed of 160, and standing between 0 and 20 cm from the front of the piece activate the motor at a speed of 255.

Project Context

Reactive artworks are something that always seem to pique the public interest. At UQAM’s Fashion School in Montreal, one of the most famous designers and professors is Ying Gao. She focuses on interactive garments often exploring ideas such as emotions and other intangibles. In that optic, we wanted to capture or question the feeling of power in relation to something that it activated by proximity. Indeed, the viewer becomes the reason the sea is agitated, making them question their agency, literally making waves from their sheer proximity. This reactive agitation looks like a form of agency too, then putting in perspective the concept of agency as a whole. 

Another artist that has inspired us is Zimoun. Located in Bern, Switzerland, he creates installations that evoke emotional, yet effortless soundscapes using raw materials and numerous motors. While we decided to create a visual rather than audible piece, Zimoun’s works depict an effective method of combining minimalism and simple components to create raw emotion.

After pondering the various permutations of the word “angry,” and following our artistic inspirations, we decided that rather than direct “angry” gestures or movements, we should go with a more abstract appela to the idea.  Various natural phenomena produce what are called “angry” scenes or situations.  We decided to fall back on the old sailor’s description of the sea being “angry under stormy conditions (specifically about force 7 on the Beaufort Scale as a gale at this level triggers small craft warnings in most ports worldwide).  This would be achievable with available materials as a diorama with mobile elements that could hopefully capture the intensity of such a scene.

We were intrigued by the idea of creating an automaton using paper. Fourteen Balls Automata provided various pieces we used for both inspiration, as well as a guide to explore various techniques to make an automaton work properly. We also used Design for Paper Animation as a resource for mechanisms in paper animations. We specifically used Rob Ive’s cam system guide to make our boat move up and down in our diorama.


ARCSTREET.COM. “‘FASHIONING THE INTANGIBLE’ : YING GAO CONCEPTUAL CLOTHING / NOV 14 – DEC 15, 2013 / ‘UQAM CENTRE DE DESIGN’ / MONTREAL, QUEBEC – Arc Street Journal / En Mode Art Fashion Design Style Music Architecture News.” Arc Street Journal, 18 Nov. 2013,

Huler, Scott. Defining the Wind the Beaufort Scale, and How a Nineteenth Century Admiral Turned Science into Poetry. Crown Publishers, 2004.

Ives, Rob. “Mechanism.” Designing Paper Animations, edited by Rob Ives, 2017, Accessed 5 Oct. 2017.

Smith, Matt. “Automata.” Fourteen Balls Automata, edited by Matt Smith, Accessed 5 Oct. 2017.

“Zimoun : Compilation Video 3.7 (2017).”, uploaded by Zimoun, Aug. 2017, Accessed 5 Oct. 2017.

Material MadLibs 1 – Max, Shawn & Chris: Kitty Catwash


Sean Harkin, Chris Luginbuhl, Max Lander


Blue foam, button, servomotor, furry


Kitty Catwash


Everyone loves a clean cat. Everyone loves a carwash. Our project combines these two great things for something even greater.

Remember the first time you were in a carwash? Those soapy rollers like an undersea spectacle, magic fingers washing away the traces of your dusty travels? Now cats can experience the magic of a carwash with Kitty Catwash!


We did some brainstorming and came up with a few ideas:

-Using the servomotor and an attached arm to press the button (referencing Useless Box)

-Hacking the button to use it as a spring-powered fur launcher, which would glue blue foam “fur” to a blue foam model of Chris’s bald head.

Button modified to be a launcher
Button modified to be a launcher

-Taking the spring out of the button, compressing it with the servo and making a furry creature hop or fly (pics below)

Launcher button being operated with servo
Launcher button being operated with servo

-Modifying two buttons to have a longer spring-loaded travel, and put them in the legs of a blue foam sasquatch. Use the servo to compress and release the buttons in alternate legs to create a walking motion.

Servo & spring powered legs make this furry guy lurch around, scaring the children.
Servo & spring powered legs make this furry guy lurch around, scaring the children.

-Making a machine to draw fur patterns with a stylus.

3 servos on an arm draw semi-random dashes that look like fur
3 servos on an arm draw semi-random dashes that look like fur

-Using two servomotors to power large brushes/rollers like a miniature carwash….for cats. This is the concept we developed further


We tried making blue foam furry in a variety of ways

-Drawing fur on it in pen

-Cutting triangles onto it

-Using different sizes of cheese graters

-Using a woodworking rasp

-Using a lathe with a dull toolbit

Large cheese grater vs blue foam
Large cheese grater vs blue foam
Rasp vs. blue foam
Rasp vs. blue foam
Small cheese grater vs blue foam
Small cheese grater vs blue foam

Building the circuit with servomotors and making them run helped give us the idea of a carwash because of the washing machine-like back and forth motion.


Step 1: Initial Sketches

Once the final design had been chosen, the first step were some rudimentary sketches to get an idea of how the product would go together. The sketches, although basic, were the preliminary basis for the rest of build. This process allowed us to establish rough sizes for our components; however we failed to account for the fully assembled height of the button. Thankfully, we were able to correct for this in the digital modeling stage.

Rough sketch
Rough sketch

Step 2: Digital Modeling

The components were then digitally modeled using Autodesk Inventor. The aim was to create and assemble the components digitally to try and predict any issues which may arise in the build. Initially they build went well, until the button component was added. As can be seen below, the casing did not accommodate the full length of the button. The solution was to increase the size of the handle’s lid. By increasing the depth of the lid instead of the base, the button itself would be better supported in the prototype.

3D model in Inventor
3D model in Inventor

Step 3: Build

Building the components was fairly straight-forward since we had both sketches and a digital model to work from. As the brief for the project outlined our material as blue foam, we tried to minimise any additional materials. For the handle and the lid, the blue foam was cut to size using a bandsaw, and any supplementary subtraction was made using a free-hand cutting blade. The only additional material used – outside of our Creatron Kits –  was the hot-glue which was used as an adhesive. For the handle, the material was cut to the correct size and then cut in half. This allowed the excess material to be cut out with ease. The pieces were then glued back together to form the handle. The lid was also cut to size, only requiring a bored hole from a pillar drill for the button.

Soldering and glueing
See the poem “Axe Handles” by Gary Snyder for details on how cool it is to make handles by hand.
Making the kitty brushes on the lathe
Making the kitty brushes on the lathe

Step 4: Assemble

Again, due to our thorough design process and simple design, we were able to assemble the product without much hassle. First we moved our electronics from the breadboard to the protoboard; this was always the plan as the breadboard was thought to be too cumbersome to be included in the final product. We assembled the components on the protoboard and were able to cut it down to size for the handle (Note: Max’s button died at this point making us think the soldering/code was not correct, after a short while we realized it was the button and replaced it).The protoboard was inserted into the handle using a tight-fit. Similarly, the servos used a tight-fit joint into the handle, with the rollers were attached to the base of the servos by a hot-glued washer. The button supplied came with a washer to secure in place inside the lid. The group discussed using more permanent joints, however settles on the idea that this was a prototype of the final product. Although functional, if we were proceed with the product more permanent adhesives and joints would be used.

Circuit transferred to a protoboard
Circuit transferred to a protoboard
Pending UL certification
Pending UL certification
Kitty Carwash assembled
Kitty Carwash assembled


Circuit Layout v.1
Circuit diagram for v.2
Circuit Layout for v.2



The most recent code can be found on our GitHub.

The v1 code can also be found there if you dig. An easier way is to find it in our other repository:


Version 1

Getting the button connected to the servo was easy.  That being said, the button itself is quite finicky/sensitive. It’s very tricky to get a single press out of it and more often than not it reads multiple click (AKA many 1’s). Looking into it further provided us with a number of avenues to compensate for this, but after talking it out we decided to with holding down the button, and avoid the press down noise altogether.

Using the “buttonservo” code (which is a mashup of the default Button and default Servo codes in Arduino), we tried to play with the angles and time between updates to see if we could get a constant increase, but again was confronted with the finicky button. Most of the time, regardless of the settings, the button would interrupt itself and the servo would stop and start again from it’s updated spot, which would have been great if it could process it fast enough to give a constant loop, but we weren’’t able to get that happening.

So, we moved on to the internet to try and find a solution, which led us to this ask for help –, which moves the servo from one end of it’s range to the other on a button click. The problem with this for our purposes was, again, the single click. We tried multiple ways to adapt this to to be constant press friendly – namely trying to make one click result in one degree of movement, mostly to no avail. What this process did make us realize was that the range of movement needed to be much shorter than both of these options were currently operating on, somewhere in the range of 60 degrees. And also back and forth, the back and forth is important (this was forgotten many times and resulted in half successes of it going in one direction and then breaking when trying to add reversal). All this lead to “ButIncr” (see GitHub repository revision with this name).

Unsurprisingly, the code did not work. As we was trying to troubleshoot this and not having much success, we returned to an earlier version that had been close and adjusted the degrees to 60, thinking that worst case scenario it could be multiple fast clicks if not a constant press. Plugged it in and held it down, and it did exactly what we wanted – it moved quickly between two points. Which is great, except that’s not what it’s supposed to do. It works because it is constantly cutting itself off after only a small amount of movement. But also, it functions exactly how we wanted to, so we decided to keep it and move on to putting it altogether.

Version 2

With this first version working, we created a branch of this code on github a fresh developer was brought in to pick up the torch.

One issue with servomotors that we wanted to address is their tendency to “lurch” at full power to a new position when first connected. In our development branch, we made a change to the algorithm: in the arduino’s loop() method, had the arduino read the button state, and if pressed, move from 1 degree to 60 degrees and back to 1, then check the button again and repeat.

Returning to 1 degree ensures the servo is always “parked” in the same position and avoids lurching. We used 1 degree as the start/end point rather than 0 because one of our test servos was straining against the hard stop when set to zero.


As a general rule, animal owners will buy anything for their pets. In the context of the internet and a constant need for entertainment, this is twofold applied when talking about things that make their pets entertaining . Further to that, cleaning cats is often the worst part of having cats, besides finding their fur in everything (An example DIY solution to all of these consideration can be found here, in this video of people vacuuming their cats –

As physical computing technologies because more and more accessible to more and more people (and kids!) we get to see the creation of more and robots, many of which exist primarily as entertainment devices (most notable of these is Simone Giertz’s Shitty Robots). One of the question sometimes being asked by these experimental and DIY robot makers is “Will a robot solve this single unique problem better than a human?”

Kitty Catwash sits firmly in between all these ideas & processes. With the Kitty Catwash, we tried to combine a solution for a real life problem, via the functional reference of the traditional carwash, with a strong sense of whimsy and entertainment value, with the ultimate goal of answering a single and super niche question – Can a robot brush my cat better than a brush?

Simone Giertz’s Shitty Robots –

Weird pet products –

The many reasons why we love useless robots –

Adult Sky Dance Off

Ramona Caprariu

Emma Brito

Finlay Braithwaite



The Adult Sky Dance Off is a series of “sky dancers” which operate at 2 speeds upon the power being turned on by the button sensor. It features figures made from rubber condoms in order to  comply with the requirements, which will be blown up by the a fan motor and the Arduino microcontroller. This is the ultimate product of this assignment which called for 4 main components of: a button as a sensor, a fan motor, rubber as a main material, and needed to be “funny”. The participant stands behind the set of the sky dancers an turns on the program, by pushing the button they are then able to create a dance that others can view for entertainment.


When figuring out how to create our sky dancers we used videos to figure out the best way to mimic the movements







Process Journal

We began this project initially with the idea of creating a whoopee cushion. And then moved to the idea of creating a phone accessory wind-blowing-selfie-effect. Both ideas were discarded for the same reason; the strength and speed of the fan would not be able to power these projects. We readjusted for our limitations and developed this sky dancer idea.

We began by writing the code to power the 5V fan. We quickly ascertained that the speed would still not be sufficient for our idea. So we bought three 12V fans to replace the ones we were already equipped with in our kits. Along with them we needed a 12V power supply outlet as well. Our prototype ran better with the new equipment, however there was still a bit of difficulty regarding the fact that the condoms weren’t ‘dancing’. So to account for the slow fill-up time, we decided to use the button not just as a power switch, but as a way to adjust the fans at two variant speeds that would simulate a kind of ‘dancing’.

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We then had to find the condoms which would best fit the nature of our project. We sought out both lightweight and colourful options.

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When it came time to construct the project it became clear that the decision to use higher volt fans was the right call. We found that even these fans were not powerful enough at their highest setting to fully inflate the condoms, and this became the largest challenge we faced. We experimented with cutting off the top and poking holes for air to escape and give the dancers more of a dramatic movement. These ideas proved fruitless. Ultimately we decided that cutting them to make them shorter was necessary.

To further air in inflation we discovered that the fans needed access to more air beneath their base. Using screws legs was effective in this regard and led to better results.

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Video and Final Prototype

Design Context

We had to successfully embody our 4 variables and initially the most difficult one to include was “funny.” By the end it was this characteristic that the project was built on. We strove to attain this by the materials we chose and the element of interactivity. It at once references the innocent entertainment of a puppet show while also possessing a level of cheekiness and humour to the final sky dance.



DojoDave> (<2005>) <Arduino/DigitalRead Serial> (<Adafruit>) [<Adafruit>]. Arduino. – modified 30 Aug 2011 by Tom Igoe

Dancing Inflatables. “Smallest Skydancers in the World Dancing Inflatables.” YouTube, YouTube, 4 Nov. 2008,

Greenspan, S. (2014). Inflatable Men. [podcast] 99% Invisible. Available at:

Hartman, Kate> (<Sept. 25, 2017 >) < Analog Input circuit + Analog Output circuit> (<code version>) [<Adafruit>]. Arduino.

skydancereurope. “SkyDancer AirPuppets Dancing for You.” YouTube, YouTube, 11 July 2008,


Madlibs 1


Name of group members:
Jad Rabbaa
Roxanne Henry
Emilia Mason

Project description
Our project is an art installation consisting of a playhouse made for grownups to help them reconnect with their inner child. In this space, they will be able to go on a journey mentally in their childhood and fall asleep just like when they were a kid.

The installation works with a proximity sensor that will sense once a person is asleep inside the playhouse. Once the person is asleep the speakers/speaker will play the song Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.

Circuit diagram
Circuit diagram with a speaker.
Input: Proximity sensor
Output: speaker



Circuit diagram without a speaker
In this diagram, we removed the 1-tone speaker because we will be using a set of 2 big speakers. To do that, we needed to use the USB cable as an output to connect the feather to the speakers through a 3rd party software “Gobetwino” previously installed on the computer.

Schematic diagram



The proximity sensor polls once every 500ms to detect if there is an obstruction between 110 and 85 cm. (Since the proximity sensor is in the roof, this distance is the approximate distance of an obstruction if there is a human lying down on the floor). The goal is that we don’t want the proximity sensor to trigger an event unless the person is lying down (not when they’re entering or positioning themselves in the house).

Once the person is settled, the event Serial.println is triggered, and it prints the instruction “#S|PLAYSONG|[]#

We capture the time at this moment and begin to count down the length of the song.

We also toggle the variable speakerInProgress to true so that we don’t continue to send the instruction to GoBetwino.

GoBetwino picks up the instruction through Serial communication, and executes the program VLC, which plays a mp3 file that contains the song  “twinkle twinkle little star”.

Once the time is up for the song, we toggle speakerInProgress to return to false, so that we can go back to a state where we can send instructions to GoBetwino.

If the person is still sleeping in the cardboard house, the song will repeat.

If the person has meanwhile left the house, the song will not play until someone else settles down to sleep.

Finite State Machine
To formulate timer by plotting out the variable cases.

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Design Files
CRIB MADE FROM CARDBOARD (which we didn’t eventually adopt)




2nd ATTEMPT (final):
Cardboard Playhouse: the design of this installation which we agreed to develop is supposed to give the visitor a feeling of DIY child-like impression, so we built the design by hand on the go.



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Test 1:

Test 2:

Fritzing Circuit:

Prototype Cardboard Crib

Finite State Machine

Sleepy Cardboard Playhouse

It Works!

Process journal
Day 1: September 25th

Madlib materials:

Input: Proximity Sensor
Output: Speaker
Material: Cardboard
Adjective: Sleepy

Day 2: September 29th
Our project will be a cardboard rocking crib for a baby. As the crib moves from one direction to another, the sensor will identify them if the crib is moving or not and that movement will allow the music to play or stop.

During this day we decided to incorporate a mp3 or MIDI file for the music coming out of the speaker (Twinkle Twinkle little star) and Nick suggested that for MP3 we might need an extra hardware or possibly a third party software depending on the code and circuit.

Day 3: October 2nd
To avoid the complication of using MP3, we realized the melody can be a coded version of the notes to play from arduino. We investigated the possibility of using a midi file uploaded to arduino. We tried and we realized the arduino doesn’t play music files and the space available on is certainly not enough.

After we talked to Kate about how our project was going, she suggested we should amplify or extend the properties of our assigned material (cardboard) in a way that references to our assigned adjective (sleepy).

Music melody of Twinkle Twinkle little star in code.
Copied from Github:

The melody code uses the function delay() to give the music a short pause between the notes.
When incorporating the melody code, the input of the proximity sensor is affected by this delay() function which was stopping it from being accurate and triggering the corresponding function of playing music on time.

Day 4: October 3rd
After lots of brainstorming our inner child came to life. We decided to change the idea we had about the baby crib. Our new project consists of a nostalgia cardboard playhouse for adults that will be a safe and comfortable place to sleep. This installation will reminisce old childhood memories for everybody because who hasn’t played cardboard playhouse to sleep in.

Code:  The code was not working this morning, but after some thorough debugging, we made some changes and added a line of code that reads the number of milliseconds.

Research: This day we looked for information on asynchronous timers and since this is a single core processor and there can only be one active task at the same time. Instead of stopping in the middle of a task, we decide to make a sophisticated timer using a finite state machine to plot out the variable cases.

Materials: We looked for large boxes to make our playhouse big enough for a grownup. We built the cardboard playhouse using a glue gun, tape, and plastic but made sure it looks like a cardboard house from childhood made by kids.

We measured the height of the playhouse, which is = 120cm.
We placed the sensor where it should be (the top of the house) and ran the code to make sure of the distance: The sensor reads “proximity = 120”
This information was added to the code being the maxDistance when it is empty. When someone is inside and hasn’t slept yet the proximity reads between 0 and 85. When someone is actually sleeping, the proximity reads between 85 (shoulder) and 110 (head). We thought that the music should only play if, and only if the person is laying down.

Day 5: October 4th
We thought the note melody on the small speaker is, on one hand, inaudible and on the other not very soothing, which calls for the use of a more complex and soothing melody and this is only possible through a mp3 file saved on the computer.
We added a line of code to allow the arduino circuit to communicate with the computer through a 3rd party software (gobetwino) and play the music once the proximity is the right value (between 85 and 110).

Day 6: October 5th
We finalized the construction of the cardboard playhouse while taking into consideration that we should hide the circuit really well.
We made sure the blog is on point and translating the process and the actual installation.

Project Context
Cardboard houses are as old as cardboard boxes. Every child has experimented his construction skills through building houses from cardboard And blankets to sleep in and create a comfort zone.

Emilia, Roxanne, and Jad are interested in refreshing stressed student’s memories and bring back childhood memories. They created the cardboard playhouse which invites every student to reconnect with his inner child and find his inner peace to have a rest after a long week of no sleep.





An interactive music experience, Water Bounce is a device that allows the user to control the pitch of sound through light using three light sensors.

Project members: Sana Shepko, Yiyi Shao, Savaya Shinkaruk


Our Arduino code. 

Circuit Layout:


Supporting Visuals:



Process Journal:


Our blog is here! 

Project Context & Bibliography:

Water Bounce is a project which sits within the music DJ industry. As technology evolves, so does the way that we interact with it, and thus, Water Bounce allows people to engage with sound in an innovative way. Sana, Savaya, and Yiyi are all interested in evolving media as well as creating fun environments for user experience. The research we did was primarily within YouTube.

In our research, we discovered that a lot of the projects involved sound affecting light, as in the many versions of water speakers which can be seen in the YouTube videos we’ve cited. Our Water Bounce differentiates in this way because our project involves light affecting the sound, which is a reversal of the other projects we have found.

Water Bounce is a literal interpretation of our MadLibs words, which included: water as material, light as input, sound as output, and floaty as adjective. In this way, we believe that these constraints led us to create something wholly original and innovative, as we were required to think outside of the box.


ShowtimeSPL. (2013, October 9). Sound,Bass,Water, Sound makes water come alive with cymatics [Video file]. Retrieved from

Al3xxxK. (2013, September 17). Water Speakers With Martin Garrix – Animals. [Video file]. Retrieved from

BSHAB. (2014, May 11). home made water speakers [Video file]. Retrieved from

What’s Inside?. (2016, February 15). What’s inside a Water Fountain Speaker? [Video file]. Retrieved from

All About Circuits. (2016, November 3). Build a Touchless MIDI COntroller with an Arduino [Video file]. Retrieved from

amandaghassaei. “Send and Receive MIDI With Arduino.” Instructables. Web, 2017.