Thursday at Critical Northwest


Simon had a great reception at Critical Northwest Thursday night. As soon as I started, a parade of children (literally) swarmed the sculpture. Once they understood that the controller wasn’t a touch surface, they immediately got it.

I did blow through 50 gallons of propane, however. There’s a resupply today and some software tinkering needed.

Thanks, everyone, for the warm debue.

Simon packs

Well, Simon packs down pretty well. Not shown: 200 pounds (50 gallons) of propane.

I’m hitting the road Wednesday, shooting for a noon setup at Critical Northwest. See you there!  Being your game face and beer.


Fanfare Playing!

I’m not sure if I can make the blog show a video from my phone without rigmarole, but here goes. The video shows a “fanfare” sequence. That is, you can see the sculpture playing an 8-bit video game song (ie. “chiptune”) and sequencing the lights on the panels and the fire release to work with the song. We’ve improved that quite a bit since then, but here’s a first look!

Simon controller

Finally settled on the v1 Controller system that we’re taking to Critical Northwest. It turned out to be quite a bit more straightforward than the initial build. In the photo below, you can see the Simon controller printed circuit board. It’s one-sided, so the traces are facing away from us. In the lower right, there’s an Arduino Mega. Why a Mega? Well, the prices on these have come waaay down ($20), and they feature four hardware serial ports. One of those ports is connected to the Xbee Series 1, which you can partially see in the upper left. That hardware serial turns out to be pretty important. While a serial port can be emulated in software, we’re also hooking an interrupt service routine to analyze the frequency being played on the speaker. If we were to try to do both of these things (software serial emulation and frequency analysis), that’d be hard to pull off. The timing falls apart, and the serial link is disrupted. That would lead to the art sculpture and controller coming of of sync, which we don’t want.

I may still add a lithium polymer battery to replace the 2x D cells. I had this set up in in the intial build, so I can probably move that hardware over. I won’t do so for Critical Northwest, however–“one in the hand is worth two in the bush.”


Panels, motion sensing

Great. We have IR motion sensors around the base that throw animations (and fire). I affectionately refer to this as “Hippy-roaster Mode”.



Lights on thr panels look great. I was a little worried that they’d be too dim, but even with the pilot up reasonably high, they’re quite visible.


Hardware (nearly) complete

Fantastic!  I had a lot of help from Richie and Dana this weekend, and the sculpture definitely benefited!  You can seen the screening and (maybe) the LED strips just in front of those screens. We made a couple of test fires just at dusk, and everything checks out.


Software is coming along, but I’ll set up some simple animations this week to get a sense of firing times and sequencing.