Students in two sections of CS I collaborated in a design challenge that involved 3D modeling, circuit building, and programming.
Starting with plain boxes of various shapes and sizes as initial building blocks, they ideated possible themes that the group could develop together. A few favorites emerged, and construction of New Chicago – with buildings, a river, a lake, a traffic accident, a park, superheroes and all – was underway.
Each student designed their own 3D model to play a unique role in the city scene. Additive methods were used to build the models from multiple basic shapes. Subtractive techniques were utilized to sculpt and to create housing for LED circuitry. Scale, depth, intersection, grouping, and printing considerations were all fundamental to the modeling process.
The LED lights attached to the 3D printed models are wired to hidden Arduino micro-controllers, where computer programs that control the respective lighting effects are stored. Students programmed loops and variables in a C-type language to include various fades and sequences in their contribution to the city.
Bringing the city to life and assembling a cohesive display required a positive team effort far beyond creating the individual pieces.