Switch on that love circuit

This week in Physical Computing, we learned about electricity and the circuits that love them.

The labs and the Friday workshop were really helpful in understanding the different components of a circuit and how they all relate to each other.

Going through the lab, I ended up burning a couple LEDs out, so I quickly began to understand the importance of Ohm’s Law.

Burnt LED

Once I understood the concept of the current, the labs were pretty straightforward to grasp. I’d like to spend more time understanding the underlying physics behind components in series and components in parallel, but I got enough information for now to work with. Components in parallel have the same amperes. Components in series have the same voltage.

Check out the results of my breadboard lab:

For our assignment this week, we were tasked to build a switch of our own. Mulling over what kind of switch I wanted to make, I thought about our readings for this week. Should I use a glove? A video mirror? LED mirrors? All of these physical computing examples looked so cool, and I felt excited about the possibilities that were possible to me. At the same time, I started feeling anxious–anxious that I was probably a long way from mastering any of these physical computing forms.

I knew what my heart wanted to build, but my skills were a long way away from capable of executing my visions. It had to be beautiful. And useful. D.A. Norman had said “attractive things work better. Sexy designs seem to go along more smoothly. But to be truly beautiful the product has to fulfill a useful function, work well, and be usable and understandable.” But what was I going to make? What could I make with the skills I had so far?

After a while though, I reminded myself that I’m only on my second week of this stuff. I’m new at all this, and it will take a bit to learn the fundamentals before I can manipulate them to make something beautiful. In the meantime, I should focus on learning the fundamentals in a way that’s fun for me.

This week, I went to a Mets game to go see my favorite player, Yoenis Cespedes. My girlfriend had bought me a Cespedes jersey for my birthday, and I wanted to wear it to my first Mets game of the season.

Cespedes doing Cespedes things
Cespedes doing Cespedes things

As he walked up to the plate in his first at-bat, The Circle of Life from the Lion King played as his walk-up song. It was amazing. His choice of one of the best songs in one of my favorite childhood movie further cemented his status as my favorite player. This was a feared slugger, an absolute beast of a man, who had fun with his job, and I loved it.

Later that night, I slept over my parents’ house, and I found a small Simba plush on my mom’s shelf. What if I made a switch in which the Circle of Life would play whenever someone lifted Simba?

a la Rafiki
a la Rafiki

So I headed over to Tinkersphere and looked for materials that would help me play music. At the recommendations of the shopkeeper, I bought an Arduino audio shield and a small speaker, but I did not foresee how difficult it would be to set this audio shield up.

Connecting the audio shield

Audio apparently is notoriously difficult to set up with the Arduino, and I was a little over my head. I found some pretty paltry documentation for the audio shield, and I could only get the speaker to beep softly. Plus, the audio shield had its own switches that I did not know how to program. So I scrapped the idea. In the future, I’ll do more research and read any documentation before I purchase parts and start executing on a concept.

I headed over to the junk shelves to find a new inspiration for a switch concept. I was mainly looking for conductive material, and I found this brass-looking piece of metal. I tested the connectivity of the metal with my multimeter, and I was happy to hear my multimeter beep (indicating that the metal was indeed conductive).

Metal piece

I found this pink horse on the ITP table, and as I was fiddling with this switch, I ended up with this:


And I knew what switch I was going to make.


Look at Simba and Pink Horse. They don’t care about their differences. They just feel the utter animalistic attraction between them. Hell, Simba’s heart glows as Pink Horse showers him in affection. We can all learn from Simba and Pink Horse. Love is love ya’ll.

Sewing SimbaSolderingTo complete the switch, I stripped some wires and soldered them to an LED. I took that LED and inserted it into Simba, connecting the ground wire to the breadboard. I then used electrical tape to connect the wire connected to the anode of the LED to a brass piece that I sewed onto Simba.I used electrical tape to connect a wire from the circuit to the pink horse as well.



The final circuit looked like this:


Schematic Drawing of Circuit

This assignment was a fun way to learn about circuits, and I’m glad I got some experience soldering and sewing along the way.