Unit 5 – Reflective Report

The assignment in the brief was for, in the simplest terms, an end of the pier peepshow box with an animated model representing Heaven and Hell inside. It was difficult to even grasp the concept of what I was to make. Also I have never worked with gears and mechanisms. For these reasons I had to make sure and approach this project with lots of research and planning.

The first step was research. Harriet was there to help and we were expected to bring something to start when we talked to her. I mostly searched classical art and depictions of heaven and hell. Until I talked to Harriet I wasn’t very open minded. She suggested we not only research what comes to mind first but also other religions and abstract images. I took this to mind and tried searching more in Japanese culture. I liked the color in the art but I still preferred the classical art style. After pulling our ideas together I had the brilliant idea of making the animations like a Monty Python cutout cartoon. I thought this would be edgy and work quite well visually.

I had my vision and we had to figure out what animations we wanted so we could start testing gears and mechanisms. With all design by committee projects it was tough just because we took a long time to deliberate what we wanted. It wasn’t awful though; I enjoyed my group and we could come to a decision eventually. The only problem with this didn’t show up until I started building things. I had communication problems. My mind was working so fast I would forget to tell them things I had decided would be good to include. Later I had assigned another in the group to make a technical drawing and I had to keep pointing out things they were missing, most of which I had never told them about. This is probably my biggest failure the whole project. I think part of it was that I was the only one in the group that had researched gears and because of that I didn’t know that they would struggle when I described how the mechanism works. In the future I should probably write down all design bits I would like to add. Also I could frequently update and teach the rest of the group on what I’m doing and how it works.

At this point we had a session with Janey. For the most part this slowed us down. I’m not denying that she was very useful, but it was ill timed. We already had a technical drawing and I was already on my way to making bits for the box. I would prefer to have done this stage earlier on. I still learned things from Janey, but at that point it was mostly useless for my role in the project.

So now I had 4+ animations and lighting to test and make sure were achievable. The most difficult part of this was I could barely just make two gears and move them together to test it out. I had to actually construct a box with axels and perfectly cut gears. The longest one to figure out was to make 90 degree angled gears keep contact and spin. I found some wall plugs that worked well and they were bendy so they allowed some room for error. This was lucky because there was a lot of error. I quickly found a little technique to make my gears. Unfortunately I didn’t have the time to test out each individual gear and had to just construct the whole thing and fix it later. The big problem that appeared was that the wall plugs would eventually bend out of shape if they got caught too often. I solved this with a combination of things but mostly by wrapping each one in electrical tape. If I did this again I would have taken the time to measure it right and use something else that was stronger.

The main problem that kept arising was the lighting in general. I conducted about 4 tests to see how I could get the dynamo to output enough power to light the LEDs I had. Several problems happened. The dynamo was small and the wheels large so it was difficult to fix it in a position that it would stay in contact with the wheel turning it. The wheel also had to be so large that it was very heavy and caused a lot of friction making the rest of the gears stick and the handle difficult to turn. Aside from all that as large as I made the wheel it still wouldn’t turn the dynamo fast enough. My last resort was to use a belt. This solved nearly every problem except it still didn’t turn the dynamo fast enough. At this point I only had about 4 days left so I abandoned the dynamo and just wired my own lights. Here I made a big mistake and just assumed that I knew what I was doing and didn’t look up what I need to do. Instead I ended up wiring it about 5 times before I could complete a circuit with 4 lights a switch and a battery. Really that should have been very simple to do if I had just taken the time to look up circuits. In the future I shouldn’t assume I know what I’m doing with things I’m not very experienced with. Research never hurts.

On top of all this technical stuff it was also up to me to build the box structure. I didn’t have much challenge with this. The main thing was just to make sure that as I worked on it I could take it apart and work on different bits on it. I decided to just build it in two pieces one box for the model and one for the mechanism. This really worked out well. I think if I was hired to do a similar job it would be a good way to approach it.

I did lots of other things on the project but these were the areas I learned the most and ran into the most issues. In general this is definitely the smoothest teamwork project I’ve done yet. I don’t have many things I want to complain about. If there were people in my project not doing things, I didn’t want them to anyway. The major thing I could fix is communication. I lacked a lot on that in this project. The whole experience felt rushed and I wouldn’t update others on my progress which turned out to be really important. I really liked the project (well now that it’s done) and am happy with the final result. Nothing like a rushed team project to end the year.

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