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Fall 2006 Archives

November 18, 2006

Orb: First glimpses

I'm back in St. Louis (Jersevyille actually) and just got to see the frame for the Orb for the first time about an hour ago. It looks fantastic. Here are a couple of photos. I can't wait to start putting the pieces together. The red and amber streaks are just a pair of LEDs rotating on the frame in 3D space. 64 tri-colors addressing somewhere between 16k and 32k points in space should be pretty mindblowing.

P1000312sm.jpg

P1000311sm.jpg

November 12, 2006

OrbPCB

The PCBs for the 3D spherical display are in, and here's a sneak preview of the beginning stages of assembly:

As I get farther into the assembly process (the entire system will use four identical copies of this board) I will attempt to get some action photos detailing my surface mount soldering process. This is my first time soldering a .5mm pitch QFP package (the PIC18LF8722) and I was pleased to find that it wasn't bad at all. The only remaining question mark then is the 8CASON package of the 64Mbit Atmel flash memory (shown at left upside-down next to its final home). It fits an SOIC-8 footprint, but with no width to spare, and it is a leadless package, so there is no pad or lead for me to solder with my iron. I'm optimistic about soldering it with ITP's rumored hot air station, so hopefully tomorrow you will be seeing photos of at least one fully completed board and one smiling student, and maybe a hot-air soldering tutorial from a rookie's perspective.

Otherwise, all is proceeding well. Here's a preview shot of the fantastic frame and support mechanism that my father is currently crafting for the project. This photo is a few days old, and the piece is coming along great. We should be starting to put all the pieces together within the next few weeks. Stay tuned...

Update:

I should also mention that I am trying Kester 331 Water Clean flux and the matching solder for the first time and it is incredible. At the first impression at least, soldering is just as easy as with the standard 44 flux/solder that I have been using for years, but the flux residue comes off the boards with a hot water rinse almost instantly. It's far easier to clean 331 with hot water than it is to clean 44 with acetone and alcohol, and obviously much more appropriate to do so in my apartment. I highly recommend it. Of course it is still leaded solder, so don't forget to wash your hands.

October 29, 2006

NewsViz (v.0.0.1 alpha)

NewsViz is an application I am working on for Mainstreaming Information, a class on information visualization at ITP. This is an early prototype, but the goal is to allow people to easily compare the outputs of various news outlets in order to compare and contrast the "facts" from each.

There are many additions and refinements on the way, including improved navigation, visualization of relationships between keywords, and the ability to easily navigate to the full content of any story, but in the meantime, feel free to take it for a spin and contact me with any comments or suggestions.

NewsViz screenshot (alpha)

Suspension

Last week for my workshop in industrial design, our assignment was to create a puzzle — essentially anything that involved interlocking pieces that were created using NYU's laser cutting service. I decided to explore structure by designing and building a suspension bridge made from KEM playing cards, which are regular, professional-grade playing cards, made of a very flexible yet durable cellulose acetate plastic. I was very happy with the result, shown below. The design easily holds loads like model cars and is a good depiction of the basic principles behind the design and engineering of the structure of suspension bridges.

Suspension bridge made of playing cards.

Next up: a cardboard chair. The experience of designing and building the bridge should definitely be a big help as the problem is much the same, of obtaining structural strength from very flexible material, although I have plans to use a completely different type of structure to obtain the necessary strength and appearance. More to come...

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