Maquette: Vincent Miller

My maquette consists of three elements. I’m still going with the concept of visualizing neurons using LEDs, and I’ve decided that using El Wire to show the connections electronically would be too much wiring for this project. Therefore, I’ve decided to continue with my initial plan to use one LED for each neuron. However, based on feedback in class and ideas that came up talking to Professor Rosenstock, I’ve decided to build my project in a semi-transparent sphere, rather than a flat plane. The LEDs will sit just below the surface, so that they illuminate a larger part of the sphere. It will be made out of thin plastic so as to diffuse a larger amount of light.

In this first video, you can see a simple version of this using just a milk carton and three LEDs. Hopefully, I can do a live demo of this model, but there is always the chance that it won’t work in class for whatever reason.

This model shows the desired aesthetics of my project, but doesn’t capture the actual interaction that I want to show. This would require many more LEDs, meaning I would have to build the whole project. However, it was important that I create some sort of mockup showing the desired functionality of the project. Therefore, I created this simulation in Unity. It randomly generates a potential layout of LED neurons and connections, then simulates them the same way that the final physical project will. In this example, there are 40 neurons (slightly more than I’m planning to incorporate, but not by a lot) and 138 synapses. This shows that it would be too complex to represent each connection electronically, but I can achieve interesting behavior with a fairly small number of LEDs.

Finally, I wanted to come up with a concept for what the physical form will actually look like. This is a model I created in blender that conveys the shape and some of the details:

The bottom of the design has a house for the Arduino controller. All wires will feed down from the sphere through the pyramid shape and into the bottom chamber.

The top of the sphere will be removable in order to access the wiring inside. Ideally it would be glued on at the end, but for this project I will likely not want to give up access to the wiring in case anything goes wrong. The top half will have holes for LEDs as well, but those aren’t included in this model.

The LED holes protrude into the sphere to allow the LEDs to be inset, rather than on the surface. This will allow some of their light to be focused outwards, while some is diffused over a greater area.

While this model shows the general concept, it is not ready to be 3D printed. Due to the fairly complex nature of the shape, I will be using a CAD program, Fusion 360, to create the final model that I will 3D print. One issue I can see with this is that the LED holes may be too small for the printer to handle. If this is the case, I may have to drill them myself OR use larger holes with a kind of “plug” made out of another material to hold them in place.

Finally, here is my shopping list so far:

Additional materials

  • Arduino (already have)
  • Wires (already have plenty, and LEDs are prewired)
  • 9V battery holder (already have)
  • Plastic sphere (3d print)


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