In room 4110 CSE, there’s a black, 3D-printed hand, with bright red nail polish on its fingers, white strings placed throughout the hand, and wires connected to a pile of multicolored circuits. Where did this come from? Who made this? Both of these questions are answered by looking into two students in Advanced Projects: CSCI and Engineering, seniors Ruth Mellin and Alexander Moore.
“Going into this class, we didn’t really have a project plan. We just kind of worked together, and then from there we just started brainstorming different ideas. And we wanted to do a project that would somehow relate to health or medicine or have more of a direct impact on a person.” Mellin said.
Mellin was in charge of designing the model of the hand itself. To do so, she used resources online to print the hand, then used glue and wires to fasten all the components together. She then experimented with wires in order to allow the movement of the fingers, beginning with clear fishing wire, before replacing it with wire from Dr. Hovan’s physics demonstrations. She connected these wires to the motors, which in turn are connected to the electronics. The red nail polish and glitter were put on after Mellin realized how the 3D-printed fingers had fingernail-like indents on them.
“I did most of the electronics,” Moore said. “Basically, the circuit revolves around an Arduino, which is more or less just a small computer. And the Arduino is talking to a servo controller, which powers the motors that control all the fingers. And it also talks to this Bluetooth module, which talks to a smartphone.”
Yet the experiences building the arm don’t tell the full story about the duo’s experiences in class.
“I think one of the biggest things we’ve learned throughout this class is how much we overestimated what we could do in the beginning. We had this whole idea of a camera that could record and translate ASL into text, and Alex spent quite a bit of time on that just for nothing to come out of it.” Mellin said.
Moore agrees. “I think a big thing was how we kept facing a lot of challenges in areas we knew nothing about, and we just had to spend time learning a bunch of new stuff in order to solve each of these problems. So it’s a lot of pushing through failure.”
Despite any further hiccups the two may encounter, it appears that this part of Advanced Projects will be a helping hand to something greater.