Monday, March 31, 2008

Giant head made of computer parts at the ACCRC

Here's a 20-second video of a 9-foot tall head (skull?) made out of computer parts. It can be found at the Alameda County Computer Resource Center, a non-profit that accepts electronic junk and either refurbishes it, or, like yesterday (when the Makers were there), lets people pick through it.

Video: Me with fiber and green laser pointer


Sunday, March 30, 2008

Friday, March 28, 2008

Coming soon: first video of fiber+panels

The parabolic reflector hasn't arrived in the mail yet, but I did get five feet of fiber from, just to play around with. I got the cheapest kind, ($0.74/foot), but man is it small. It's essentially a bundle of 8 0.75 mm fibers. Check it out. It makes me wonder how many fibers I'll need to get sufficient light into each panel. It gets me thinking about the placement of the fibers on the panel. It makes me think that I'll need to spend more money and get bigger fibers. I'm eyeing another site, called that might have better deals. Hrm, on closer inspection, it looks like it has better deals in some cases but not others.

Okay! This weekend I'll play around to see what works. I'll post video too.

Big Weekend + Collaborators

This weekend is going to be important. First, on Saturday I'll explore TAP Plastics, the place in San Francisco where I hope to get all of my acrylic panel needs (panels, cutting of aforementioned panels, scraps, advice). They also might know a thing or two about optical fibers. We shall see. Second, I'm going to the Maker Meetup at the ACCRC, the computer recycling center in Berkeley run by a Mr. James Burgett. Oh, man, it looks awesome! Maybe I can find some cool stuff. Motors? Check.

From James' blog:

We will provide in varying amounts and conditions. Monitors,flat panels,big led displays,a bart display,a cop light bar,boxes of walkie talkies in various states of repair,notebooks (parts machines, don't ask for working) motors from very small to forklift scale, ac and dc, fans.tripods,big freaking speakers,5 pallets of new music cd's,43 dissasembled electric scooters,wheel chairs,batteries,radio control equipment,electronic doodads,etc (we covet the powered unmentionables.)

I am so bringing a video camera.

And now some truly great news: the people I talk to seem pretty excited about the light pipe, and I now have a few folks who've offered to help. Jill will be with me for both days of the Maker Faire to help me set up and tear down and explain how awesome fiber optics are and how great it will be to finally have sunlight in our dark, dreary living room. What fun!

Also, I met a guy named Dan, from Berkeley, who knows a thing or two about engineering, collecting light, building parabolic reflector stands. That sort of thing. My old pal Todd from grad school is offering advice from a distance, specifically about the sun tracking stuff.

Anyone else who has ideas or wants to help, please let me know! It's totally super fun to do a collaborative project thing, especially when it involves motors and parabolic reflectors and optical fibers and living room illumination!

James Burgett of the ACCRC holding an EPA award in 2006

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Project Description

Submitted to the Maker Faire:

I’m building a modified light pipe using a sun-tracking parabolic reflector and mounted mirror that focuses light into optical fibers. These fibers will be coupled to 1/4”-thick acrylic pane. Light is released from an acrylic pane--effectively a waveguide--via scratches on the surface.

Now, in more than 50 words...

The problem is this: the living room in my San Francisco doesn't get much sunlight due to one window being completely blocked by the neighboring building, and the other window being mostly occluded. At sometime near noon, a shaft of light beams through the partially occluded window, only to vanish 20 minutes later.

My plan is to mount the reflector on the roof of the apartment so that it can track sun all day. It will focus light into about 40 feet of fiber--which actually consists of 8 bundled fibers-- that I will pipe into my living room the same way I do with the cable coax. Once the bundle is in the living room, I'll separate the smaller fiber lines and individually connect them to the acrylic panes, which will mounted on the living room wall. The panes will have scratches on the surface so light scatters out. Hopefully this will brighten the living room during the day!