Day 2 (part 3): Spray Cans, Ultrasonics, and Mischief

A project log for Cultural Integrity (at the Dethrone Hackathon)

Merging art, crafts, and technology with Art Hack Day

criptastichackerCriptasticHacker 03/06/2024 at 09:160 Comments

Once we got back to my apartment, the fatigue began to set in. It had been a long day already, with nonstop running around.  I asked Julia if she could wait for a few minutes while I rested.  She was totally understanding and didn't give me a hard time about it I all. 

I spent 10 minutes with my head in a pillow, wishing so much for a little nap.  The rest felt nice, but I knew there was no chance for sleep yet.  Boy, would I be right about that. 

After the brief downtime, Julia came into my workbench area so we could decide what to do about the (deliberately annoying) detection white LEDs we wanted to use.  

"Do you think you could get working code tonight using the ultrasonic sensor?"

'Yeah, that won't be a problem,' Julia said.  I cautiously admired her confidence, knowing these can be a pain sometimes.

(The HC-SR05 ultrasonic sensor that we used.  These are extremely popular for distance detection, and are commonly employed in robotics projects).

I dug out my bag of HC-SR05 sensors (I always like to have extras) and began soldering the necessary 2.1mm barrel jacks and other wiring.  I fished out a super long, 10 foot cord with a matching connector from my wire recycling bin.  Being able to find these parts at breakneck speed brought me a special kind of satisfaction.  My tedious labelling labors were finally paying off :)  Anyone who has spent the hours and hours digging in parts bins at local makerspaces knows what I mean!

(This is the messiest "hell wire" box I have - and even it is organized! :)

I chugged a few glasses of my special fresh pressed juice pretending I was a Popeye cartoon, and then collected the few last tools.  I grabbed some 1/4" plywood from my woodshop area for a strudier back support to the throne.  Julia agreed that it was a good call (I loved how she was down for improving the project, keeping our goal in mind while being open to on-the-fly changes).  I picked up my staple gun and zip ties to throw into our collective tool bag. 

Julia also helped by climbing the world's most rickety, janky ladder to take down the security camera I had in my garage.  

"Do you want me to hold the ladder for you?"

'Oh, nah.  I'll be fine.'  

I didn't argue, even though it looked dangerous as heck.  Julia is as independent as they come.  Plus, I thought, she's very tall and doesn't need to climb to the top rung.

We made our way back to Gray Area - this time it was late at night so I could park directly in front, VIP valet style, in the loading space!  This felt incredibly satisfying. 

Once inside, we began cutting up the foam board for the throne frame.  I suggested using my special motorized "zipsnip" cardboard cutter tool, which worked great for the long strips.  But Julia was eager to bust out her pocket blade to stab into the poor foam and dissect it like fresh fish.  She was disturbingly good at this.  She also had a clear carpenters triangle (in metric!!) and breezed through the diagonal cutting angles like a boss.

We took the foam pieces outside to paint.  This was, I think, my favorite part of the entire event :)  Two new friends, hanging out on the sidewalk in front of Gray Area at midnight, imitating graffiti artists for a guerrilla installation project.  It was Mission as heck, and a whole lotta fun as we joked around and struck stylish poses for the camera :)

(Video of me and Julia spray painting together outside Gray Area)

We left the paint outside to dry.  I got a little talking-to for bringing the wet paint fumes in previously, which made Julia slightly nervous.  There was something funny about our "Straight-A-Student" meets "Class Clown" dynamic that made her bouts of disapproval ever so entertaining to me :P  It's good to get in a little trouble once-in-a-while, yknow?

While the foam was drying I grabbed a can of the Canada Dry (no pun intended!) and chowed down on some of the catered food trays.  There was fried rice and a nice mix of eggplant, tofu, and green beans.  The event didn't pay us artists anything or have any prizes, so I tried to get my money's worth eating as much food as I could.  Heck, I was hungry!  It's kind of like that scene from Friends where Joey says:

I would regret this later... :/

Once the paint dried we got to do another fun part of the project: staple gunning.  I don't know what it is about using staple guns, but it's always incredibly satisfying.  I began punching holes in the perimeter of the (now completely finished) pillow case




The staple gun was loud in the space, and it made Julia a little nervous.  "This is what they expect us to do here," I reassured her.

We had agreed to leave an extra margin of fabric for the pillows to mount, and it executed beautifully.  When we got down to the last few staples Julia asled,

"Can I try it?"  I handed the staple gun over to her.



She punched staples into the wood with a look of rebellious satisfaction.  After that we put the sparkled card stock embellishments on the top, having decided not to use sharpie marker.  The result was splendid:

(Julia, standing proud with the new throne :)

I used my drill gun to tap the throne into our acrylic backing piece, and strapped on some handy zip ties. Everything was finally coming together !

Now we had time to explore the "nice to have" of our project: the LED light sensors.  While I was finishing some of the zip tie stuff, Julia was on her computer pulling up the code for the ultrasonic sensor.  She plopped in a large (T1) yellow LED into pins 9 and GND of the arduino.  No sooner had I finished the zip ties, when she calmly proclaimed,

                             (Julia and I's first LED we ever coded on.  Daww...)


'How did you finish that so fast?'

"Chat GPT," she said with a smile.

However, the sensor was configured to detect only from a 10cm distance.  The light was also solid, whereas we were hoping it would blink for extra annoyance.

"Here, lemme see if I can improve the code.  Oh look, there's no defines. And it's using delays instead of millis..." I said.

'Yeah, AI isn't so great for when you need to make edits.' Julia replied.

I began picking away at some improvements, feeling like humans could be useful after all. However, when I tried to upload it, I ran into an unexpected issue...

"The menus are in French?!" I exclaimed.

'Oh, yeah...Here, lemme do it" Julia said.

This was totally annoying but also so utterly cool.  Julia had her desktop files in English, codes in French, listens to German rap, and writes (but 'can't speak very well') Italian.  "Gawd," I thought, "Americans are so dumb." :P

Fortunately, I was able to prove my Yankee worth by providing some solid, edited code.  I added some #Defines as well as improvements to the distance to be more sensitive, with a better naming system. Then I created an inverting boolean to handle the blinking effect.  You can check out this code and download it here [adding Github later].  It's great if you're just starting out with ultrasonic sensors (HC-SR05) on Arduino.

Everything was shaping up nicely for the final show day.

"What about wiring though?"  Julia asked.

'I'll stay up late doing my night owl thing.  Don't worry about it.'

It was 'only' around 1 a.m. at this point, but I had a long night still ahead of me.  Julia wasn't the only perfectionist!

[To be continued...]