mechanical subsystem

The subteam's main focus was to complete functional and aesthetic instruments for our project - an archway and flowers.

The Archway was designed to be both the main structural component on which the flowers were mounted as well as a beautiful piece of its own. Styled after garden archways and trellises, the arch should be able to look as such sans the wiring and electrical components.

For the flowers, we really took the "origami" inspiration to reality. The mechanical flowers use large, whimsical design components to bring to life an Alice In Wonderland look.


From the beginning, we had to decide on a couple of key features that were to be integrated in. The average height of Oliners is fairly significantly higher than the rest of the population. We wanted to be able to fit our classmate Colvin under our arch comfortably, meaning that the vertical would measure to be over 7 feet tall. To space our flowers accordingly, we also needed to wire decently large distances. Hiding the wires as to not take away from the aesthetic, we essentially carved out canals into our arch walls to disguise them. Our arduino, boards, and wires fit neatly inside of our arch. You can't even tell that they're there! There is one door on the top of the wall that can be opened slightly when the top pieces are on and fully when they are off. The side doors are affixed by hinges and can open at any time the vines aren't wrapped around them. They are staggered so that you can't see any wires when you look at them. The latches are neodimium magnets, and wow are they strong.

The mechanical flowers are built both to open and close as well as panning as the subject walks through. Two servos built together create a pan/tilt mechanism based on an earlier PoE lab. Instead of tilting, though, we needed to translate a spinning motion into the opening "claw" motion of blooming. We drew inspiration of other mechanical flowers and the mechanisms of items such as metal steamers.

Biggest Challenges

Based on the decision to make the arch Colvin-height, we realized we would be unable to get the fully constructed structure through the doors of the PoE room as well as up or down any levels. Rather than making the tall people crouch, we opted for making the arch modular, with all of the components being able to be pulled from each other any time we wanted.

There were several small hills to deal with, but one of the largest issues was our initially very large flowers. We were aiming for the whimsical, fairytale look and made them larger than would be ultimately practical. The flowers after the first two sprints were scaled down to avoid interference with subjects. This proved to be a bit difficult to properly change dimensions using the same servos and hinges. All of the alterations took a while, but ended up being quite nice.