Main Project 2020: Top 5 Constraints on Water Clock

Figure 1: The design aesthetic I am going for

Constraint 1: Design Aesthetic

I have decided that I will be targeting Apple’s minimalist design aesthetic using white colors with sleek transitions and curvy lines. Everything in their products are customized for the specific applications and Apple even designs innovative manufacturing processes to facilitate the fabrication of the design. I am planning on using acrylic for the chassis of the device because I can laser cut it and weld it together. However, it is going to be difficult to achieve the curvy lines with the acrylic sheets (Thank you Fiona for your suggestions). It is possible to break the edges by machining it, but I don’t want to run into my time constraint for this project.


Figure 2: The curvy lines Apple incorporates in their products

Constraint 2: Materials

My next constraint are my materials. I plan to use white or clear acrylic plastic sheets. Again, it is going to be difficult to achieve the curved lines that I want, however, the squared edges may not take away from the aesthetic as much as I think. I also received a great idea to use clear acrylic and use a frosting spray paint to refract the light in an interesting way (Thanks, Isabella). At this point, I am not sure if I will incorporate lights yet or to what degree. If I do incorporate RGB LEDs, it would be awesome to mimic the iMac G3 that was released in 1999. Hopefully by using the frosted paint, the light can refract through similarly to how they do with this frosted plastic. 

Figure 3: iMac G3 colors


Constraint 3: Resetting the Clock

I plan to use a glass cylinder (or another lighter-weight material) to hold the water. A pump will then be used to pump water up into the cylinder. A proximity or pressure sensor will then be used to to measure the height of the water inside the cylinder. The issue with this design is being able to empty the cylinder after it fills up to reset the clock. Something I am considering is minimizing the flow of water into the cylinder so that it takes a decent amount of time to fill up (say an hour); once the cylinder is full, it will just overflow into a reservoir at the bottom of the cylinder and will be up to the user to dump it out. That way, the device can be used more like a timer than a clock (think of an hour glass). Let me know if you have any suggestions.

Another way to get around this would be to get rid of the cylinder and have a reservoir that is mounted in the acrylic chassis. From this reservoir, the water will be pumped up and dripped over a force sensitive resistor like the one below. The sensor will then register when the water drips, ticking the clock on the Arduino. From here, the time can be displayed on an LCD screen. With this design, the overflow of the cylinder won’t be an issue, and the clock can continuously tick.

Figure 4: Force sensitive resistor

Constraint 4: Water Proofing the Electronics

The whole point of this project is to incorporate water and electronics and invoke that sense of uneasiness, yet also provide the calmness of falling water. With that said, I need to make sure the Arduino and other water-sensitive components are water-proofed or isolated from the water because it will wreak havoc if it got onto the controller or into the connectors. Hopefully the water reservoir will keep the water isolated, however, water will be continually dripped on the sensor and could potentially run back into the electrical connectors. 

If I go the route of the dripping water, I plan to mount the force sensitive resistor at an angle to encourage the water to run off. Going with the cylinder concept, I will need to make sure that the water is contained when it overflows from the cylinder as well as control how the water is pumped to prevent it from spraying all over the electronics.

Figure 5: Water and electronics

Constraint 5: Budget and Time

A big constraint for this project is my limited budget. I am trying to find affordable sensors and pumps to incorporate in the project. I will most likely end up renting components from the ITLL, however, I still need to procure the acrylic and other materials. Please let me know if you have any clear or white scrap acrylic laying around (thickness is not crucial). 

I am also working on wrapping up my Grad Design project this semester which is nearly a full-time job. I want to make sure I have enough time to prototype and fabricate my design. So, I am trying to keep the design simple so I can develop something by the end of the semester. I am sure many other students are in my same boat with this time constraint.

Figure 6: Time, Quality, Cost: Pick Two


[1] Pinterest. “What an Aesthetic. | Home Office Setup, Desk Inspiration, Apple Products.” Accessed February 24, 2020.

[2] “Gxtech » The Importance of Aesthetic Design, and Apple.” Accessed February 24, 2020.

[3] 512 Pixels. “IMac G3: The Macintosh That Saved Apple.” Accessed March 2, 2020.

[4] “Force Sensitive Resistor – Small – SEN-09673 – SparkFun Electronics.” Accessed March 2, 2020.

[5] “Time, Complexity, and Cost – but Where Is Risk? – Dale Scott, P.Eng.” Accessed March 2, 2020.

[6] “YouTube.” Accessed March 2, 2020.

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2 Comments. Leave new

  • Danny, this is a very original idea and I like it. Id say for the sensor you can leave it at and angle and then have it go through a piece of acrylic or something where you seal the gap between the wire and wall using a silicone seal or something similar. Definitely make this continues (ie so that you dont have to keep removing the water). I feel that if you have to keep removing water, that you may stop using it. For waterproofing the electronics, you could just put hot glue over everything. I think it is an insulator, but you should check. If you can try to put some curves into it. They dont need to be structural at all, they can just be for looks. You should see if you can melt the acrylic somehow to curve it in way where it still looks good. Sounds hard, but may be possible. You could see about sanding and polishing it.

    • Daniel Straub
      March 7, 2020 1:42 pm

      George, thanks for your input! Yes, I was planning on setting the sensor at an angle to encourage the runoff. Hot glue is an insulator and I was thinking of using it in a couple locations. I will look more into obtaining the curves. Thanks again.


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