During my Junior year of High School, I participated in a Trimester Program at NuVu Studios in Cambridge, MA. At NuVu, I learned about engineering, design, and project management through hands-on projects.
The Intimidated Prism
The Intimidated Prism is a robot designed to appear threatened when a human subject approaches it, shrinking and covering itself much as a possum plays dead when it is scared. A robot that tricks a person into believing it has feelings and acts on them could challenge the user to reconsider what it means to be alive and conscious. It might cause the user to think about what makes robots so different from them.
The first few iterations of the project involved simple methods of moving paper panels up and down, but these mechanisms soon proved to be unreliable and didn’t get the emotion across clearly. The last prototype looked much like the final except it was made mainly of cardboard, and there were a few problems with the design. After editing the design and laser-cutting the wooden frame, the final model came together. Made of panels of colored paper supported by wooden poles, the “unthreatened” Prism appears tall, interesting, and lively. When the human subject gets within 25 cm of the robot, an ultrasonic sensor sends this information to an Arduino, which activates internal servos. The paper walls collapse, creating the illusion that the robot is shrinking down in order to hide. Rolls of black fabric are released over the sides covering the robot’s base. The sudden collapse and movement are designed to make the user feel responsible for startling the robot, which now appears lifeless, less exciting, and intimidated.
The Assistive Sculler is a mechanical device designed to help Dick, a rower who suffered a stroke, get back on the water by using bar linkages to translate the limited movement of one of his arms into the more complex elliptical motion needed to control the oar. Before suffering the stroke, Dick was an avid rower and sailor. Since the stroke, the only way he can get back out on the water to row is by relying on another person to help him steer and to guide him. He also has to rely on a mechanism that attaches him to the boat. He has struggled with getting his right arm to extend all the way and to produce strong strokes. What he misses most is the ability to row by himself. The Assistive Sculler has a handle on one side that Dick can pump lever back and forth in a straightforward linear motion, using his right arm. This allows for Dick to focus more on the power of his right arm, making it easier to row. Most importantly, once brought to full scale, this device would attach to one side of a single rowing shell and enable Dick to get back on the water by himself.
At NuVu, space is limited and often becomes crowded and messy as a studio progresses. The purpose of the Storage Chair is to optimize and organize the available space for storing backpacks, laptops, and notebooks. The original design was modified because it was very bulky, awkward to sit in, and not very aesthetically pleasing. The new chair was designed using the idea of functional minimalism. Two sides form a ribbon-like outline that holds together two shelves at the bottom and the seat and backrest at the top. When not in use, the whole chair can be rolled under the table and sit flush with the edge of the table. This way, the Storage Chair provides ample storage while taking up minimal space.