Paul said "I really want to build a laminar fountain because they're cool!
And then Jamie said "That's boring though, let's make it interactive!"
What it does
A laminar flow fountain produces a continual stream of water without turbulence. This allows it to do cool things like conduct light very well and continue along the same path when cut with a cutter. A strand of fiber optic cable is run from a high wattage LED to the fountain stream and this allows us to change the fountain color with a raspberry pi. So we hooked up a dance pad to the pi and wrote a simple game of simon as a demo. The fountain itself will change colors to cue the player, who will then play simon with the fountain. Here's a good video of what a well built LED laminar fountain looks like and can do. This is not our fountain, just a random youtube video: laminar fountain with LEDs!
How we built it
1) Construct a laminar flow fountain (easier said than done- we tried this at a previous hackathon and BARELY got it finished in time and our first prototype demoed the concept but wasn't very impressive.) 2) Program a Raspberry Pi (in Ruby) to read a usb dance pad and output a simon game to a high wattage LED. 3) Attach a fiberoptic cable to the LED and feed it into the fountain flow. 4) Bonus attachment not quite done: Laminar flow cutter mechanism built with solenoids driven by an H-bridge, also controlled by the pi. Thanks Bob!
Challenges we ran into
Time is a big challenge for us. Access to outdoor space, though happily accommodated by openworks, nevertheless meant we had to lug a lot of equipment back and forth in and out. The classrooms in Openworks aren't really ideal for this kind of hardware project and working in multiple spaces as needed again ate away at our time. Access to tools and driving distances to our own workshops was a big challenge because none of us are Baltimore local. Additionally, all team members struggle with various levels of developmental disabilities and/or learning disabilities that make us the chaotic but amusing bunch that we always are but make it difficult for us to complete projects on time. I think time will always be a challenge for us at this kind of hackathon because of who we are and the physically large nature of our projects.
A few other challenges: Our software guy, Bradford had to become proficient with several new Ruby libraries and gems in a very short period of time, and hobbling together affordable materials for the fountain itself was a matter of creativity and improvisation that put a heavy burden on our fabricator, Paul. The actual assembly of the fountain is a challenge as we troubleshoot broken seals and broken components.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We fried zero components this year! Nothing caught on fire! The new guy is a great coder and is very proud of his first GPIO project with the pi! The high wattage LED worked on the first try!
What we learned
1) Send someone to wake up Paul every morning. Also, next year consider lojaking Paul. 2) Plumbing is hard. 3) Water is wet. 4) MORE POWER 5) Okay maybe not that much power
What's next for Dance Pad controlled Laminar Fountain
Ideally we will add 3 more fountains so that each color has it's own fountain resulting in an overall much cooler display. We also want to write more games, including a traditional DDR style dancing game that creates a really dope light and water show. We'd like to eventually create a durable and contained semi-permanent installation for something like Artscape or Light City that the public can interact with.