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Touchy-Feely Pinwheel Case Study

Spencer Micklo


Overview Experimental Design challenged me to think creatively and to use problem solving skills. My partner and I were inspired by the “Motorized Pinwheel” and the “Touchy-Feely Lamp” exercises. Our project explores the concepts of light, motion, and illustration. Through human interaction, the motor is powered and the lights are powered with a battery. The pinwheel moves tarot cards around the light in a circular motion.

Goals Our goal was to have the pinwheel spin and the Arduino Board would power both the lights and the motor while using touch to activate the motion. We wanted the person interacting with our project to be able to touch the trigger and the motor would spin the illustrations while simultaneously turning on the lights.


Process Sketches We did a rough sketch of what we wanted the project to look like and went on from there.

Code I worked on creating a code that would combine both the pinwheel aspect and the light aspect of our project. Since we wanted the pinwheel to move slow, so it would move more like a mobile, I researched other code that would cause the motor to spin in a looping pattern that gave it the illusion that it is spinning slower.

Illustrations Kelsey drew all of the illustrations for the project. She drew and constructed the tarot cards and designed the base of the pinwheel.


Construction The Arduino board is concealed by a box, originally constructed with Bristol board but was later made with wood cut by the laser cutter. We used the pinwheel motor and attachment that came with the Arduino kit. I purchased the LED lights, bulb (plastic Christmas ornament), and wire. Kelsey provided the artwork and paper.

Lighting The lights I bought originally came with a pack for batteries, but I disconnected the wires and assembled it to the Arduino board. The lights were put inside the bulb and placed on the center of the pinwheel.

Assembly At first the weight of the pinwheel conflicted with the spinning part of the motor. After I superglued the mother to the box, the pinwheel was more stable.


Challenges We had challenges with the code not slowing down the motor, the hole for the motor being too big for the motor to fit securely, cutting and assembling the wood to make the base, and getting the lights to work with the Arduino board without the cord getting twisted from the pinwheel spinning.

Troubleshooting We were able to alter the code so that it spun in a loop and the weight of the pinwheel and the bulb with the lights was able to slow down the spinning even more. We superglued the motor to the edges of the hole so that the motor was more secure. We were able to cut the wood to fit the measurements fo the box and use wood glue to assemble it. We ended up not connecting the lights to the Arduino board and creating a separate simple circuit underneath the pinwheel to light the LEDs.


Disappointments Our biggest disappointment would be that we weren’t able to connect the lights to the Arduino without them interfering with the spinning of the pinwheel.


Feedback Katlyn Katlyn said that putting the lights in the bulb was creative and having them connected underneath the pinwheel was innovative.

Cheyanne Cheyanne was confused about the purpose of the tarot cards and the overall theme and how that related to the project itself.

Hanna Hanna enjoyed the illustrations and thought the spinning and the lights connecting to the overall theme made it feel spooky.


Outcomes Overall, I think the project encouraged out of the box ideas and enhanced our problem solving abilities. By testing and retesting the project throughout, I was able to pin point exact problems in the code and the assemblage of the project. Teamwork and bouncing ideas off of each other were crucial when troubleshooting. It is important to listen to other team members’ suggestions because everyone has a different perspective.

In the Future I believe that the enhanced problem solving skills I have gained by doing this project will follow me into my career. This course allowed me to think outside the box and explore new technology. I was able to work with my hands in assembling something 3 Dimensional instead of working mostly with digital 2D.


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Designed By

Spencer Micklo Experimental Design Millersville University

Touchy-Feely Pinwheel Case Study  
Touchy-Feely Pinwheel Case Study  
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