Light Up Pearl: Final Design Report Part 2

I believe I accomplished the main intent I was going for with this project, but it didn’t turn out aesthetically exactly how I had envisioned it to. This was due to a combination of lack of skills and money. I had very ambitious goals for this project and wanted to create/design something I had never done before. With that in mind, I did have to be mindful of the skills I already possessed versus learning new skills.

I had originally wanted my design to have more of a Boulder aesthetic, being a map of Pearl St, and to be made with materials that were familiar to Boulder as well as take a form that integrates the beautiful blend Boulder is of nature and city. I had envisioned using wood as the main material, but the cost of wood and my lack of working with wood prevented me from going this route. I had also envisioned the design with buttons similar to arcade buttons rather than switches, but many buttons are momentary buttons, meaning that the light would only remain on so long as someone was pushing the button, thus sending a current to the LED’s. Another alteration I had to make was switching from 3D printing the buildings out of glow-in-the-dark filament to laser cutting clear acrylic. The last bit of the aesthetic I had to change came in the overall form of the design. I had envisioned 3 different scenarios. The first one was a vertical map that stood up much like how a mall directory would be, the other was a horizontal version of this same design. The last form was to have the map at a slant, mimicking the Flatirons and creating an experience that was most easy for people to clearly read, being neither vertical or horizontal, but somewhere in between. Many of these ideals changed drastically over the course of designing my project. Using all acrylic as the material was not what I had intended, but I did learn how acrylic works as a material for projects and how the laser cutter responds to this material. This material usage gave my design its modern, futuristic aesthetic. Not having the map be angled at a slant was a disappointment I could overcome. I knew from the get go that the particular form would be a challenge for me and was fine when it ended up in the horizontal form it is currently. I was more disappointed over the changing effects from buttons to switches mainly because switches didn’t seem to fit the simplicity and familiarity I wanted with my project. Switches seemed so mechanical and a design element that is more primitive than elegant. The other setback to having switches meant that I would have to label them to be identifiable to people, rather than connecting viewers eyes by color. The final form of the map was largely decided by the function and I wasn’t able to make it the exact way I wanted to, but was pleased with the result regardless.

I think the public was intrigued by my project. Many people seemed to think it was a unique and creative idea and liked the idea of reinterpreting a map and making it for the present day. I think it helped when I explained to them what I envisioned the later project to be. I also think they were surprised by my mode of thinking and that I was really trying to understand the relationships between the different uses of the buildings and their locations. Some people also had fun trying to guess where certain restaurants and shops were. I had many people mention that I should take it to Boulder County and show them my project to inspire them to install something similar on Pearl St.

The largest thing I learned from my project was how to solder and understand more about circuits. I also learned how to work more in SketchUp which is a skill I have been longing to improve on. I got more experience in Rhino and AutoCad as well and learned different materials I could work with. I also appreciated learning ways to get around material that isn’t available or is too expensive. The frosted glass spray really helped make my project and I’m grateful to Katie Hortik for introducing it to me. It is such an easy way to turn completely clear acrylic into one that is more translucent. As for the class I learned much more about different design movements and how they affect how we design today. I have taken multiple architecture and landscape history classes where we talked through a lot of the same movements. It was interesting to learn about them at a new angle and to further my understanding of how the movements affected design all around and not just through architecture. I also learned how to best problem solve and think more creatively. Given such an open design requirement allowed me to stretch my creativity. I think one of the major things I learned was how an engineer’s mind works differently than an ENVD major’s mind. It was interesting gaining new perspective and learning how other design majors go about designing. There are slight differences for sure and it was really cool to learn about how other people think.

I think I am going to use my project as a cool nightlight or as something I can display in my house when I get a good table to put it on. I think it would be a neat piece to allow guests to view and play with as well as get them talking about Pearl St. and my classes at CU Boulder. I am quite proud of my accomplishments so my project will not be something that sits in a room and is forgotten about.

Some of the major things I would have done differently with my project would be to change the form. I have grown to like it’s rectangular box-like form, but would like to not have the planes sticking out off the sides. I would make it a more solid box. I think I would also use a solid, more opaque acrylic on the sides of the model so the wires don’t show through as much. I would also color code or label the switches better so people can see what they lighting up when they flick a switch. Lastly, I would be more careful when I was laser cutting. Since it was my first time laser cutting acrylic, I didn’t know how much it would burn. I was very disappointed that the edges burned giving it a less clean look than I was going for. I should have kept the paper on that it came with and peeled it off after, but I didn’t know how it would turn out.

Overall I am very pleased with my project and proud of the skills I learned and challenges I had to overcome to finish this project. I feel like I learned a great deal through this class and my own design. I am pleased to add this piece to my growing portfolio of design work as well. It is so different than any of my other projects and show a bit more of my personality and passion in design.

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2 Comments. Leave new

Thomas Brunsgaard
April 29, 2016 12:17 pm

I really like the way that the LEDs light up the ceiling. This could also double as a mood-lamp! If you revisit this project in the future, you could use addressable LED strings to simplify the wiring, and give you complete control over all the colors. You could then also have a mode that changes the lighting depending on when certain businesses are open or closed: https://www.sparkfun.com/products/11020 Nice job with this project!

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Peter Brunsgaard
April 27, 2016 5:08 pm

Elyse, you did an exceptional job with this project. Unfortunately, the nature of design when it comes to fabrication and material choice is finicky at best. It’s sometimes hard to know what the right approach to a project is until you’ve committed a decent amount of time into it. The skills that you learned with this project will serve you well over the course of your career. Really good work!

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