Gabriela Gutierrez

Rowing Rats Music Box

Turn the crank of this musical machine to animate the ocean scene and make the rats sing "Row row row your boat" around and around.

Introduction to Computational Media,Introduction to Physical Computing

My most precious possession when I was a child was a music box. I would love turning the handle and watching the mechanisms turn around and around. The Rowing Rats Music Box is an attempt to make a music box of my own.

I knew from the start that execution of the project would be difficult, so I selected a simple concept for the contents of my music box: the song "Row Your Boat". The main character of the music box is a little stuffed animal (Roger the Rat), who will sing "Row Your Boat" while floating on a cardboard boat under the moon and the stars.

I built foam and cardboard waves, a moon and a boat as the main elements of the box. The waves and boat are attached to a crankshaft; when the user turns the handle, the waves and the boat move left and right.

The crankshaft mechanism serves two important functions. The first function is obvious and explicit: it gives the user something simple, straightforward and satisfying to interact with (the handle). The second function is meant to be hidden from the user; the crankshaft has a large gear in the back that presses a hinge switch when the crankshaft is rotated. This switch electronically activates the singing, the moon, the rat, and the waves.

It's important to note that the hinge switch is hidden because I want the user to feel that all the effects are activated mechanically, when in fact the Arduinos in the back are doing most of the work. The project feels very theatrical overall, so keeping the electronic part of hidden from the user is part of the illusion!

Everyone! I hope people will be inspired to play with the machine and achieve the "around" singing effect. Who wouldn't want to make cute stuffed animals sing?

User Scenario
Users stand or front of the box to to turn the crank. Users must coordinate the beginning of their movement to achieve the "around" singing effect.

It's made of masonite, foam board, cardboard, glitter and glue.

Handcrank mechanism designed in Illustrator and cut on masonite with an Epilog 500 laser cutter.

The waves and the moon are made of foam board, cardboard and glitter. The waves were cut in the laser cutter, and the cardboard was cut by hand. All the glitter decorations were done by hand, too!

* So far, I've learned how to design cranks, gears and cams.
* I will find out how hard it is to make sensors that don't break (or how not to build flimsy sensors).
*I will learn how to control music in Processing using the serial port and Arduino.
*I will learn how to disguise the electronic components of my project and give the illusion that all the interactions are mechanical.
*I look forward to making the elements beautiful and detailed with cardboard and glitter!