ITP Blog

Intro to Physical Computing - Week 2

September 12, 2018

We covered basic electronic circuits during the second week of Introduction to Physical Computing. I appreciated learning a bit more about the components I used last week to build my flashlight fabrication project.

For one of the components we covered in class, Danny asked us to get creative and build a circuit “switch.” So I went back to the ITP junk shelf for inspiration.

Inspiring Junk

I combed through the junk shelf’s bits and pieces and I found this “switch” material:

junk items

I immediately thought the finger skateboard could act as a type of SPDT switch by allowing a user to toggle two different LEDs through nose or tail grinding the circuit’s wires.

junk switch

But before getting ahead of myself, I prototyped a simple one LED circuit using the skateboard switch first.

Prototype Uno

Below is the a sketch of the prototype single LED circuit (which besides the skateboard, is almost identical to the circuit I used in the flashlight fabrication project:

prototype circuit

I then built a working prototype using circuit components from my Introduction to Modern Electronics kit, an Arduino as a power supply, and a bit of copper tape on the skateboard’s underside.

working prototype

Switchin’ It Up

My next step was to figure out how to create a circuit that uses a switch to toggle between two LEDs and shared a common ground. I drew a circuit that could only connect to one of two parallel LEDs that both led back to the power supply’s ground.

switch circuit drawing

I decided to build a wooden baseplate for my Arduino and breadboard to help organize the various components and wires of this circuit.


board in progress

component board

After finishing the baseplate, I tested one LED circuit path as if it was the only circuit to ensure there were no issues with the components.

working board

The Finished Product

I then add the second parallel LED circuit once I ensured the components worked and none of my LEDs were burned out. Here is a video of the finished product: video.

Future Thoughts

Some thoughts I had if I were to redo this project or continue to build on it:

  • Don’t spend so much time building a “prototype” wooden baseplate—what I thought would be a quick 20 minute side project ended up taking at least 90 minutes to iterate on and complete
  • Instead of a baseplate, putting this switch circuit on a halfpipe to continue the skateboard theme
  • Enclose the wires in plastic tubes to keep the circuit conductor’s more organized
  • Add a counterweight that would allow the skateboard to toggle back and forth between the LEDs using its own momentum

Adrian Bautista

NYU ITP documentation blog.
Words are my own.