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  • naterudolph 5:58 pm on May 22, 2013 Permalink | Reply  

    TOTA: Final Documentation 

    Toys of the Apocalypse is construction set with an immersive narrative that encourages children and makers to build their own wireless toys with simple components and homemade polymers. The four main steps in creating with TOTA are outlined in the video below.


    To see the bot help our intrepid hero survive in the apocalypse, watch the short promo video posted earlier!

    More information can be found at the official Toys of the Apocalypse website.

  • naterudolph 12:15 am on May 15, 2013 Permalink | Reply  

    TOTA: Final Video 

    Here’s the final video promo for TOTA. The sensor data was faked for the video, but all of the remote control was done by the actor while shooting. The Toys of the Apocalypse website has more details on the project itself, check it out!

  • naterudolph 5:57 pm on April 25, 2013 Permalink | Reply  

    Role Prototype 

    To illustrate a ‘role’ prototype for my thesis (and the project for this class) I’ve been working on a video that shows an intrepid hero using the TOTAbot (Toys of the Apocalypse bot) to scan for motion, scavenge, test for radioactivity, and fend off zombie attacks. I’m still working on the final edit, so here’s a snippet of the beginning.

  • naterudolph 9:59 pm on March 21, 2013 Permalink | Reply  

    Midterm Project 

    I wanted the arm to only wave when it sensed a “wave” back and the code for that was significantly harder than I thought it would be. I needed to first average out the results when the board was turned on to allow for it to work in different environments, then “look” for a wave. That meant that the arm couldn’t move as soon as it sensed the hands shadow, but needed to wait until that hand passed. I also didn’t want the bot to wave back if you just held your hand over its face.

    I like that the movement of the arm is smooth, and the way it can distinguish between a wave and someone just interacting with the photocell.

    Something that’s unique to this project is the custom gear and lever system built by combining K’NEX and Instamorph. Crafting the gear took a good amount of testing to have enough incline to create a wave-like motion, but still function consistently and smoothly. One advantage of Instamorph was that I was able to mold the actual lever directly to the motor so the entire apparatus is significantly more stable than anything else I’ve done for this class.

  • naterudolph 12:11 am on March 19, 2013 Permalink | Reply  


    Just stumbled across this really neat site called Readiymate that totally applies to the stuff we’re doing here in class.

    The kits seem ridiculously overpriced in my opinion, but it’s worth checking out for inspiration.

  • naterudolph 8:01 pm on March 14, 2013 Permalink | Reply  

    Midterm Concepts 

    Here’s a PDF of the concepts.


  • naterudolph 9:14 pm on March 7, 2013 Permalink | Reply  

    Embedded Arduino Paper Automata Project – Free write 

    It’s surprisingly difficult to achieve consistency with the paper. Individual pieces would come unglued under pressure or wear out and start falling apart. Each of the books had a various weights of paper that made it more or less difficult. The thicker paper was easier to use on the large portions, but practically impossible to fold accurately for the smaller pieces. With the lighter paper, the small pieces were easy to fold but the large pieces were considerably less stable.

    The magic of the project was the coming together of the last couple pieces. For each of the paper toys we made I was blindly trusting the instructions and shocked when things actually started moving. Being able to examine the working gears and levers after the fact was fascinating knowing how each of the individual pieces not only interacted with each other, but the means of their construction from 2 dimensional paper.

    I was definitely inspired to start working on more mechanical movements, but extremely frustrated with the fragility of paper. Having made these models is helpful to know some of the routine methods for creating certain behaviors. I almost feel knowing these things now, though, just making detailed sketches and carefully planning everything out would be just as advantageous, and use laser cut or molded plastic pieces so I can trust they will be durable enough to testing by a wider audience.

  • naterudolph 8:28 pm on March 7, 2013 Permalink | Reply  


    I grew up on a farm in the Midwest and studied Film and Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. I freelanced for a year after graduating and did some work at the studio in town. I still love film and writing, but have realized a love for making physical things these past two years at DT. I wanted to take this class to learn more about the mechanics of toys and get more comfortable using wireless.

    My favorite toy growing up was LEGOs. My brother and I rarely did the actual instructions, we just bought the kits to add bits and pieces to the huge castles we would make.

  • naterudolph 11:07 pm on February 28, 2013 Permalink | Reply  

    Grumpus the Goat 

    Grumpus don’t agree with nobody

  • naterudolph 11:31 pm on May 7, 2012 Permalink | Reply  

    Fish Freedom Trailer 

  • naterudolph 5:25 pm on May 3, 2012 Permalink | Reply  

    Rasberry Pi 

    Anyone else on this site would probably also find this really, really interesting. It’s like a miniature computer, or a super powerful Arduino. For 25 bucks! It runs on Linux from what I’ve seen, but I don’t think you can buy one just yet. Looks like the kind of thing we’ll all be using in a couple years though:


  • naterudolph 6:31 am on May 2, 2012 Permalink | Reply  

    Fish Freedom: Car Test 

    It moves!

    • Mike 6:28 pm on May 6, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      Nice! Looks like that fish has things to do somewhere.

  • naterudolph 10:48 pm on April 26, 2012 Permalink | Reply  

    FishFreedom Thesis Draft 

    A few thesis statement drafts:

    FishFreedom is a device that gives pet fish mobility.

    FishFreedom is a device that gives pet fish the ability to move their own environment.

    FishFreedom is a response to the shackled nature of a traditional aquarium, giving pet fish the ability to control the movements of their environment.

    FishFreedom is a device modeled after the “Hampster Ball” that gives fish the ability to traverse across a room.

    FishFreedom is a mobile platform that allows a pet fish to control his movements across a room.

    Using a webcam with color tracking software to provide navigation, two servo motors drive a vehicle that houses the fish tank and power supply. The webcam provides a constant feed of where the fish is located in the tank and drives the fish in the appropriate direction, giving the fish the ability to decide the direction and speed of the vehicle’s movements.


    Big finding 1: Capturing the exact angle and movements of the fish’s position in the tank really isn’t as important as having smooth motion. Just seeing it move back and forward was such a magical kind of movement, enough that I didn’t even remember that I had wanted it to be precisely accurate.
    Big finding 2: Getting the servo motors to work synchronously was much more difficult than I had assumed it would be. Through a series of several rebuilds of the car I’ve tried to realign the wheels and secure them with hot glue, but I still have had trouble getting them to match each others momentum. As far as I can tell it must be a mechanical issue, because I feed both motors the exact same code and yet one wheel always seems to be dominate and cause a turn when I try to do a straight line. Lately I’ve been trying to correct this via the code, and I think I’ve finally found a sweet spot that gives me a moderately straight line over the span of a few feet.


    AirSwimmers: (Similar in that I’m trying to mimic the movements of fish. Different because I’m using an actual fish.) For a future iteration I’d like to build in a system that could actually emulate the swaying motion of fish’s fins.

    HamsterBall: The main precedent because I went into the project wanting to make essentially the same thing only with a fish.

    Project413: A hamster ball with a hacked motor system that allows wireless control of a mobile sphere.

  • naterudolph 8:42 pm on April 18, 2012 Permalink | Reply  

    Fish Freedom – Prototype Video 

    Just posted a couple videos on the car I got per Yury’s suggestion.

    Those who have noticed my penchant for adding inappropriately epic music to silly videos won’t be disappointed:


  • naterudolph 9:02 pm on April 12, 2012 Permalink | Reply  

    Final Project Prototypes 

    • Yury Gitman 6:20 pm on April 13, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      Check this out. It’s is similar to what you drew. Look around on Solarbotics website. Cool stuff there.
      For example, Roomba’s can be controlled by this item they sell. This could make the ultimate “chariot” for say a “Koi fish to move along a hardwood floor”.

      Also see:
      Google “arduino robot cart”

      Also check out:

  • naterudolph 9:07 pm on April 9, 2012 Permalink | Reply  

    Domains and Concepts 

    • naterudolph 10:17 pm on April 9, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      The easiest part of this exercise was curating the ideas. Almost all of the ideas were in some form in a sketchbook or my Evernote account, but it was a little challenging trying to boil down the abstract concepts to a slide’s worth of information. The hardest part was grouping the domain maps. Looking at them now, I’d like to go back and try to collect them into one diagram and see the differences and connections between each of those domains. Right now I don’t think they’re as insightful as they might be if I were to condense them.

      My 2 favorite concepts are the Electromyographic interface and the Play Code idea. The former, because I’m excited to explore the idea of a physical connection manifesting itself on a digital interface, and the latter because I’m interested in teaching younger generations coding principles with games and seeing how that can effect the absorption of knowledge for further skill sets.

      My 2 least favorite concepts are the Cappi-chuino and the Grown-Up Piggy bank. The former because arduino shields already exist, and though I think this would be fun, it’s not necessarily that original, I mostly just like the way Cappi-chuino sounds when you say it. The Grown-Up Piggy bank doesn’t necessarily interest me because I’ve already attempted working with it and APIs for banking information aren’t very accessible.

  • naterudolph 4:19 pm on April 5, 2012 Permalink | Reply  

    Tightrope Trainer Prototype 

    The “Tightrope Trainer” is a toy designed to help novices exercise the muscles involved in balancing, and learn techniques to keep their heart rate low. To play, the user must balance according to a sequence shown by the LEDs. Each step in the sequence must be held for a count of 4 heart beats. This is to help users learn how to keep their heart rate low with breathing techniques while still exerting energy keeping their balance. Once the sequence is finished, it can be repeated, or the user can press the button to start a new level.

  • naterudolph 5:18 pm on March 22, 2012 Permalink | Reply  

    Midterm Project 

    I choose to originally to do some sort of exercise ball that you would have to orient to various LEDs to the beat of your heart. That didn’t really seem to fit with the Pulse Sensor very well so I changed it, but kept the same components.

    I’ve always been awful at anything requiring balance, so I thought I would make some that could help a beginner exercise the muscles involved in balancing. This prototype just shows the LEDs marking your angle relative to the ground. A few of the practices you can do are walking backwards and forwards while trying to keep only one LED lit, or walking backwards and forwards while trying to smoothly go through all of the LEDs. Tightrope walking also needs to have a level of relaxation, so the pulse sensor will be included once I get another board, to help you slow down and practice calmly moving through the exercise.

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