Heartbreak beats

A story:  I remember the first day of 8th grade science.  The teacher handed each student a ditto quiz with a ton of questions/tasks.  Single-spaced.  Two sheets of paper.  Maybe there were 50 questions.  Maybe 100.  There was nothing challenging about any of the questions or challenges.  However, the teacher said with great emphasis, “Make sure you read the directions before you start.”  Somewhere in the directions was a sentence about reading each question before starting the quiz.  I ignored that.  Reading through 50-100 questions eats up a lot of time.  Why not jump right in?

The last question/task on the quiz went something like this, “Don’t answer any of the questions you just read.”

It was an awful trick that I still resent to this day–many, many years later.

I rarely read directions before jumping right in.  If I did, I would’ve rethought my plans for the “Heart on Your Sleeve” Popular Science project back that I found back in February.  I ordered the necessary stuff from SparkFun and finally got around to working on it last weekend.

Bits and bobs from the "Heart on Your Sleeve" kit.  With some additional things.

Bits and bobs from the “Heart on Your Sleeve” kit. With some additional things.

For about a year I’ve been sitting (not literally) on a pair of sweatbands that I figured I would embellish with sewable LEDs and LilyTinies.  Like most projects, I didn’t finish it.  However, the heartbeat project seemed like a good opportunity to use the sweatbands to monitor my pulse while exercising.  For fun!

But look at this from the tutorial:

To contract the heart muscle and pump blood, waves of electricity spread through the organ. Two electrodes on the chest, one on either side of the heart, can pick up these electrical impulses. (A third—often placed on the right leg—increases accuracy.)

Having electrodes strapped to my chest and leg will make exercising difficult.

But no worries.  Surely sewing them into a wristband so that they pick up the pulse from one’s wrist will work.  Right?

I ripped the seam out of the sweatband and sewed on the LEDs.

LEDs lined up in a row

LED soldiers

I then sewed the heart rate monitor into the wristband.  I sewed it in upside down thought I can’t remember my reasoning for doing so.

SparkFun's Heart rate monitor

SparkFun’s Heart rate monitor

There was also the questions of sewing the battery pack in without shorting things out.  I figured sewing it on to a piece of flannel and then sewing it into the sweatband would work, though I haven’t tested that out yet (and probably won’t.  Explanation follows).

heartbeat_battBefore committing more time to sewing, I wanted to see how things actually worked.  I used alligator clips to temporarily connect the positive and negative to power and ground.

We have lights!

We have lights!

Look!  Lights!  Seeing LEDs light up never gets old.  I then connected the sensor pads to my wrist.  It monitored my pulse, but…..

… when moving, the LEDs don’t resemble anything like a beating heart.

So….  I’m thinking I’ll disassemble the project and use the heartbeat monitor for something else.

I’ve been reading The Secret History of Wonder Woman, which discusses William Moulton Marston’s work with the lie detector test.  Perhaps I’ll create my own lie detector test (or Lasso of Truth) for fun.


LEDs, storytelling, and what to do if you can’t draw

One of the good things about closing in on 40 is the self-awareness that comes with experience.  One of the bad things is the worsening eye sight that makes it incredibly frustrating to play with teeny tiny LEDs or solder.  But that’s a story for another time.

I don’t draw well.  I’m ok with that.  I could’ve let that non-skill keep me from paper circuits.  I didn’t.

Instead, I borrowed and remixed the intellectual property of others.  Thanks, Creative Commons!

Richmond is home to many wonderful people, places, and things including the C.F. Sauer Company.  Perhaps you use some of their spices in your Jamaican Jerk Salmon or Sweet Potato casserole.  The Sauer sign is a Richmond landmark and a sight to behold once the sun sets.

Sauer's sign a twilight

Sauer’s sign a twilight

I found Matt Carman’s image of the sign on Photo Pin and decided to have a little LED fun.

First, I placed my Sauer’s picture over the notebook paper and poked tiny holes where I wanted to place my LEDs.  Next, using copper tape, a battery, and a couple of white LEDs, I built this circuit for the Sauer’s sign.

Circuit for the Sauer project

Circuit for the Sauer project

I then placed the Sauer’s sign picture over the circuit, lining up the LEDs with the small holes.

Sauer's sign -- lit

Sauer’s sign — lit

There’s an LED in the upper left hand corner (obviously) and one over the “i” in “Vanilla.”  A red LED would’ve bee nice there, but I didn’t have one on hand.

Also, I’m a terrible smart phone photographer, so the majority of my photos with LEDs are blown out around the light, but you get the picture, right?

After experimenting with the Sauer sign, I decided to try my hand at a bastardized version of 5 Card Flickr.  Rather than relying on random Flickr images (which could be fun), I just went out and found three that somehow related to the apocalypse in my mind.

A photo by Timm Suess

photo credit: Timm Suess via photopin cc

Timm Suess photo

photo credit: Timm Suess via photopin cc


photo credit: ( kurtz ) via photopin cc

I made a few changes in PhotoShop, printed the images, cut them out, and started on my mini, two-page story.

Page one sets the scene.  A apocalyptic wasteland so fashionable in today’s literature.

Here’s the circuit for the first part of the setting: abandoned apartments with a bleak landscape behind.

Wasteland circuit pt. 1

Wasteland circuit pt. 1

And with the image over the circuit.  There’s a light on in the window.

circuit 2I wanted to add a second picture to set the scene.  The old bumper cars.  I worked out a circuit for the two images and two LEDs.

circuit for two LEDs

circuit for two LEDs

And here are the lights (sorry about the bad photo):

Two LEDs in the wasteland

Two LEDs in the wasteland

On page two, I introduce the characters.

Sword circuit

Sword circuit

With a light:

Sword lights up

Sword lights up

And the two-page spread:

Unlit, because I can't hold the paper down and take a pic at the same time.

Unlit, because I can’t hold the paper down and take a pic at the same time.

The text, by the way, is mainly from John Roderick.  The conversation about being good at something can be found in Roderick on the Line, episode 114, “The Gentleman’s B Party.”  Somewhere around the 15 minute mark, I think.

Other thoughts:

The LEDs were often finicky.  I’d like to try soldering them.  I ended up using a knitting needle to really press the tape down around the LED leads.  Illuminate Your Thinking documentation suggests bending the tape rather than cutting it since cutting and placing tape on top of copper tape can sometimes cause a bad connection.

I also used the knitting needle as a bone folder to smooth out the copper tape.  That seemed to help.

I understand that there’s no real narrative in the story above.  I didn’t dedicate that much time to thinking about the story I wanted to tell.  Don’t judge the “story” too harshly.

I want to sit down and look at more of Jie Qi’s work.  Her popables are especially artful and whimsical.  And not at all clunky.

Work by Jie Qi.

That’s what I have for now.  I’m moving back to the Finch and Snap!  I hope to dedicate some time to Python as well.