Physical Computing: Mid Term and Final Project Thoughts.

Mid Term:

Physical Computing has allowed me to explore a new aspect of music, an old fixture in my life, that I have always wanted to explore – instrument creation. Within the first 2 weeks of the semester I had begin construction on my first instrument, a primitive string instrument controlled by a DC motor with the Arduino acting as a battery. It was primitive but satisfying and I was proud that I had used the Arduino within the context of a physical chain of events (Arduino spins a DC motor -> Motor spins a piece of metal -> Metal piece hits strings -> String vibrate). I left this project for a moment to focus on the other realms of physical computing and computational Media, which both seemed to be quickly melding into each other. We started learning about serial communication, data visualization, and APIs amongst other types of information and communication that we can manipulate with our machines.

I knew leading up to our midterm that I would want to focus my attention back to my instrument. The idea of ‘digital wind chime’ or ‘light chime’ or ‘voice chime’ came into the realm of possibility for me after the results of the first DC motor experiment. It seemed that with all these sensors could act just like a natural input coming from the physical world. Reproducing the movement of a wind chime with another physical input became a very interesting notion for me, as this subverts our (or at least my own) notions of the natural world. Art and creative expression often subverts or changes our expectations of our reality, it is a complex idea that often can often lead to simplistic beauty.  I think can’t help but thing about a Venus Flytrap or a lizard with can turn itself into a flower – our ideas of what this already complex organism is changes instantly – its behavior in the world goes beyond how we expect it to act. Making a wind chime that utilizes a data input from the digital world which is representing real world measurements such as light, heat, sound, or any weather data became the focus of my project.

When we began focusing on APIs in ICM my enlightenment moment occurred. I could use actual wind data from new york city to control the motor speed of my wind chime, thus making it a true digital wind chime. The physical world would became the digital world, the digital world would then become my physical world. It was a satisfying notion to see such a large concept become localized to my 6V motor. It spoked to my consciousness immensely.

With the midterm project coming to a close, I began pouring over the many iterations of my code. Some early versions had hard coded “wind” and other versions had my motor mapped to different speeds using the actual wind data from the After looking at these versions I saw that perhaps I was more satisfied my my own inputs that i had hard coded myself – there was something very pleasing about the way they moved (I had mapped them like revving a motor, start off slow, get fast, and reduce speed). Perhaps there will be a happy medium between the two types of data – although realistically I think I am just bored of weather data.

photo 1 (1)photo 2 (2)


On friday I went to Tri-State Lumber in Greenpoint to pick up a few 2x4s to put my final into motion. I know that I want my final project to act as an instillation piece. Something big and tangible and satisfying to interact with. My schematic has my new structure to be around 5 feet tall and using longer piano strings instead of guitar strings. I am trying to determine if I should continue using the spinning motion of the dc motor or us a motor/slide assembly for linear motion (like Franklin’s pixel Mid Term).  Depending on the type of motion, I will have to decide what type of housing/ framework to build. If I use rotary motion I will build what I would describe as a Strung Clock and with linear motion I will build a Strung Frame.

photo 1 (2)  photo 2 (3)

Final Iteration with mounted dc motor and wooden flapper


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