All posts by tsubasa

The Plantsitter

My final project takes care of plants. It came out a little different from what I imagined when I pitched the idea in class.

First of all, I went to Canal Plastic to buy a half-dome plastic, but they didn’t have it and they were very rude, so I decided to take my business elsewhere. I ended up buying a birdcage from a friendly hardware store near my apartment. 

It’s not exactly how I planned it, but I am happy with this. And I like the idea of plant trapped in a birdcage too.

Second of all, instead of making a gravity water system with a water valve, I decided to use a water pump. It kind of complicated things, but I will talk about it later.

I started with making the soil moisture sensor work. I picked up a moisture sensor from Tinkersphere. I won’t be able to connect the arduino to my desktop all the time, so I used a LCD to show the soil moisture instead of using the serial monitor.

I wanted arduino to water plants only in the evening, but like I said, I won’t be able to connect arduino to the desktop (to get time), so I had to get a RTC (real time clock), so I went back to Tinkersphere again. RTC has its own backup battery and now arduino can track time even after being disconnected from the computer.

Next part was to control the UV light. I ordered Power Switch Tail as it was suggested in the class. The power switch tail came with a manual (unlike other parts you get for arduino) and it was pretty self explanatory.

At 3pm, piezo speaker plays “Twinkle Twinkle” and the light turns on. It turns off at 8pm. Except for Sunday because I like to sleep in. I ended up planting California Bluebells, and they like shades. So, only getting UV light from 3pm to 8pm is good for them.


So far, so good. Now I’m trying to use a water pump and that’s when things got confusing. I know we learned how to use 12V motor in class, but I forgot how and was really scared to fry the USB port. I went to Tinkersphere again (the cashier remembers me by now), to get a transistor and diode to protect arduino from the backlash. I also had to get a relay, and that I didn’t know how to use and couldn’t find a useful information online. So, the cashier at Tinkersphere helped me. Anyways, I tested the water pump and it worked.

At 7:30pm, the plantsitter checks if the soil is dry (soil moisture less than 50%), the plantsitter will play “Twinkle Twinkle” again and water the plant. If not, it doesn’t do anything. I did some testing and leaving the pump on for 20 seconds was the best. It’s enough time for water to travel through the tube, waters the plant, but not too long so it doesn’t overflow the pot.

Here is a video of the plantsitter watering the plant after mounting it to the birdcage. Originally I had the water on the floor, but the pump wasn’t strong enough to push water all the way up, so now it’s on the shelf. The plastic container doesn’t look very nice, so I am planning on getting a nice glass to put water in.

I’ve added some moss for the look.

Now it’s finished!


code can be found here

a small progress

I was planning on building the plant-sitter last week, but I became really busy with my work and didn’t have the time to shop around the parts I needed for the plant-sitter. I ordered some parts, seeds and moss online and going to Canal Plastic tomorrow.

I did some research on the plants. I wanted some kind of a goal for this project, so I thought maybe blooming a flower would be a nice goal.

I am thinking of using Peace Lily for this project. Peace Lily needs medium to low light (trying to save con-ed bill here). Keeping the plant in a low light situation without direct sunlight helps the flower to bloom. So, I think controlled sunlight with the plant-sitter’s UV light is actually perfect for Peace Lily.

Peace Lily needs water when the top of the soil is dry. I couldn’t find an exact number for the soil moisture sensor, so I will look deeper.

Also, this is something I didn’t think of when I pitched the idea, but I have to figure out a way to drain water from the plant-sitter. Otherwise the plant will rot.



Why did computers appear?

Computers appeared because people are imperfect and always wanted something to help us be more efficient. Computers started with helping people calculate faster. Now, not only they help with calculation and processing, but they help people connect and interact.

What is hard about communication? What do computers add?

Communication is hard because everyone has different background and feels differently. Communication is not like math and there is no way to know what one’s really thinking. For example, my color “Red” could be your “Blue”. We all know blood is red and that’s same as apple, male cardinal, strawberry. But, the color I am seeing as red can be someone else’s blue. And, there is no way to know if the color I am seeing as red is same as the color you are seeing as red because communication is imperfect and we will never know what other people are exactly feeling.

Still, computers add things to help us communicate better. Such as: text, skype, snapchat, google drive and etc.

Is Computational Media better at expressing your internal life?

I am a filmmaker and I am very interested in AR. (I think VR is limited and will die eventually since 40% of Air Force pilots experienced motion sickness from VR and I don’t think VR will be an universal thing if only 60% of people can use it). I have never seen, but I am very excited to see an AR movie one day. I think I will be able to experience something new that regular old movies couldn’t have done. However, platform is just a tool and the quality of art is not evaluated by a tool. For example, 3D Titanic is not a better movie than a 2D Titanic. Just because it’s 3D, it doesn’t mean you will be touched deeper. I don’t think Computational Media is better, or oldschool platform is better at expressing. Computer Media is one of the tools (and very new) to express your internal life, but a tool is just a tool and what’s important is the artist’s voice.  

Does narrative and interactivity go together? Is this good?

I think so. When I play a video game, I would feel much more connected to the game if I could feel like I am in its world and am one of the characters. There is an episode of Netflix show “Black Mirror” where a game company injects a 3D chip and the user plays a horror game. The too realistic hologram the user saw through the 3D chip made the game too intimate and it flied the user’s brain. The game went too far in Black Mirror, but I think narrative and interactivity go together well.

What is so important about Computational Media? How does computational media makes us more or less understanding of people unlike ourselves?

Computational Media is important because it brings us something that no other media could have done before.

Mount Lenses! 2

I added background music and sound effect to the game I made two weeks ago.

I wanted to keep the game simple and retro, so I used 8-bit sound. When I first uploaded it, p5’s sketch file and html file were in a different folder, and somehow the preload function wasn’t working. I uploaded the whole folder (cameraLensGame) and now it’s working.

Let’s mount lenses! 



For the final project, I want to make a plant-sitter. The plant-sitter will water the plant, controls the soil moisture, temperature and amount of UV lights for the plant, and it even plays music for the plant. (Do Plants Like Music?)

The plant-sitter is a sealed dome and it’s completely controlled by a computer. To water the plant, I was thinking of using a servo motor to make a valve. The valve is connected to a water bottle and it will water the plant if it needs to. But I’m not sure if servo motor is strong enough to act as a valve. Also, a human will have to refill the water bottle when it’s empty. There is thermometer and it will tell the fan to control the temperature and also ventilates the dome.

For now, my biggest question is how to turn on the UV light. I don’t think arduino has enough power to turn on the UV light, so I think I have to make some sort of switch to turn the light on and have the light connected to a separate power.

I also want to have an animal’s skull or something that’s not alive in the dome and I want the plant and flower to grow on it.

I got the idea from a movie called “Castle in the Sky”. In the movie, there is an old castle that’s floating in the sky. The castle is like a self contained terrarium and even though the castle is a thousand or hundreds years old, an old robot is still taking care of the place and there are animals and plants living there. (There were no humans left, but I forgot if they died or decided to leave the place. It’s been awhile since I saw the movie)

Whack A Mole II

I added some movements to the whack a mole I made last week.

I used a servo motor to tell the score, so it’s easier to understand what is going on. I also added some drawn moles and a note for the knob.

Here is the video.

The code is not too different from the old one. I changed the part for the red LED lights (the ones that showed the score) to work with the servo motor. I also rewrote the part for the LEDs that’s on the top of the breadboard.

Github Link


Stupid Pet Trick – Whack a Mole

I wanted to make some kind of a game for the stupid pet trick assignment, and I’ve decided to make a whack-a-mole.

The rule is simple.

  1. You whack the LED “mole” with the joy stick. When you miss 5 moles in a row, it’s a game over.
  2. You can see the score on top of the bread board. This will tell you how many moles you have missed. When you whack a mole, it resets after flashing.
  3. You can change the speed (difficulty) of the game by turning the potentiometer. It gets impossibly difficult when you turn it all the way.


Here is a video of the game.

The code looks like this.


here is the soldered potentiometer.

Gas Leak Detector II

I added some function to the switch I made last week.

The code looks like this.

When the sensor is not detecting gas, the blue LED blinks every one second. When the sensor detects gas leak (when the value of the analog in is greater than 250), red and yellow LEDs flash to let you know there is a gas leak.

My apartment doesn’t have a good ventilation. I tested the machine with alcohol instead of gas to be safe since the sensor detects alcohol too.

Here is the test video.

Gas Leak Detector

I realized my apartment doesn’t have a smoke or carbon monoxide detector. So, I decided to make a DIY simple carbon monoxide detector.

The circuit is pretty simple. I connected a cheap gas (and alcohol) sensor to analog in. The LED lights up when the value of the analog in is higher than 400.

It wasn’t working first, but it turned out that the resistor had bad connection or broken. After I replaced the resistor, it started working.

The code looks like this.