Our Toy Design assignment for this week was to create our own version of a Jack-in-the-Box, complete with the element of surprise, a repetitive action, a “box” that opens. I wanted to recreate the house from Pixar’s “Up,” one my favorite movies of all time.
I began with a small paper prototype.
//CONSTRUCTION & CODING
The full version was constructed using foam core pieces painted with acrylic paint and pieced together with hot glue.
I tested a water balloon with helium chosen for its smaller size to be able to 1. fit approx. 10-12 inside the house, 2. be of relative size to the house. I attached the balloon to a thin piece of thread (heavier strings seemed to weigh down the balloon too much) and taped it behind the chimney. It floated successfully!
30 minutes later, the balloon was on the ground. Water balloons I discovered are made of a thin latex material (thinner than the standard 12″ latex balloons) which allows for the helium (one of the smallest and lightest of atoms) to leak through quickly. I realized here that I would be unable to present the project in class using water balloons would lose much of the helium by the time the project could be brought to school. Standard-sized balloons would have to be used instead, unfortunately.
With the outward facade completed, I began to code the Arduino microcontroller and design the crank and internal mechanisms of the box that would control the music (via wave shield and speakers) as well as open the roof/release the balloons. The crank was created using a 3/8″ dowel with a pen casing used as the shaft through which the crank could turn. A gear was laser cut from a piece of acrylic plexi, which was then attached to the dowel. The crank was specifically designed to hit a momentary switch when turned, which would then trigger the Arduino to begin the music. A last minute decision to cover the momentary switch with black felt helped mute the loud sound of the plexi hitting the plastic switch button. To open the roof, a piece of string was attached from the base of the roof to the crank shaft using velcro. As the crank turned, the string would wind and eventually become taught, pulling the roof open. The velcro made it easier to unwind the string from the shaft after every run.
//THE FINISHED PRODUCT
If I were to recreate this project in the future, given more time than a week, I would like to use more durable materials, such as wood instead of foam core. I had not anticipated that the foam core would warp when painted over, which made it extremely difficult to attach the pieces together.