final prototype!

We’ve got it! The final prototype and on camera! The LEDs work and look great. The skirt is mostly functional, works 1 out of 3 times now! (Vast improvement from the last post, which was 1 out of 5.)

We need to calibrate the skirt strings after ever 3 or 4 pulls and there are some issues with alignment from time to time, I think it has to do with the string being too twisted and thin. But the whole thing works!

A job well done!


finishing touches

Only days until it is time to present our final prototype and we have some bugs to sort out and features to hash out. The skirt is mostly working. We need to workout the right level of taught-ness for the string on the pulley along with the right number of revolutions for the motor to be programmed. In addition, the skirt is a little slouchy. We need to create a better support system for it to look good and hold up.

Finally, we need more pizazz for the final presentation. We got some funky sleeves in the works. We plan on embedding LEDs to it that will light up when the transformation is complete with a switch activated by putting my hands on my hips. We also have a crown that might add to the princess aesthetic. We got the Disney princess feel, why not go the whole 9?

mechanics issue #2

Today we finally got the skirt working with the Lego motors. We found, however, that we need to do something not typical to a hoop skirt. The partial reasoning behind the hoop skirt was to cover the bulk of the motors but it was also to help with the alignment issues we were having with the previous design. The trick is to pull straight up or down. Now we are pulling at an angle because the angle of the skirt grows over time causing it to end up at a slant.

An image of a pulley

As you can see there's the string to pull and a spool type mechanism for the the string to be pulled on.

To solve this, we came up with the idea of making an inner support system. Having an inner loop attached to each hoop attached to the skirt so that the strings can go straight down but still affect the whole skirt. To attach the inner and outer hoops, we have reinforced cardboard “beams” (if you will) that are attached with lots of duct tape to the hoops.

Now we have a smoother pull and nearly no alignment issues!

new materials part 2

After the issues with the skirt and motor, we decided to reconsider the aesthetics as well. Although a great concept to work from fabric that looks like Batman’s cape, not quite the most dramatic look and feel when it’s just a skirt moving up and down a feet or two.

The result was a gorgeous golden fabric that had wonderful shine and was lighter, too!

higher fidelity prototype & mechanics issue #1

We cut the black satiny fabric into a shape that would do away with all the extra fabric to help with the weight of the skirt. The hoops were loosely sewn to the skirt. We fond that the hardest part of the twist ties was to find something strong enough to get rid of the locking part of it. It made a tear drop shape more than a circle. After some digging in the engineering lab we found some sheers and used those.

For the motors, we had to create the means of powering them. They spun insanely fast but they were having a hard time pulling up the lightest loads. What was more disconcerting was the issue of the pulley mechanism. The system we have figured out is one where the skirt hoops are threaded through with string and the string is attached to a a spool which is attached to a motor. Once the motor is started in a direction, the string will wrap around the spool, pulling the hoops and skirt up. If we wanted to drop the skirt, we’d just need to reverse the motor’s direction.

The issue was that the DC motors did not work with the Lego pieces we had so we would need to custom make the spool if we were to use the DC motors. In addition, we would lose the up and down functionality for the most part because we had not figured out how to program the DC motors.

So it was back to the drawing board.

new materials

In the spirit of super hero transformations, we got a shiny black fabric for this prototype, similar to Batman’s cape. That was the most creative material acquired. The rest were purely about logistics. We found extra large twist ties and are going to try those out for the hoop support system. We also have the DC motors to try out for this task. They are surprisingly small! I suppose we shall see how the actual skirt work now. We need to sew the fabric on before we can test the mechanics this time.

post-high fidelity prototype

After the presentation of the mechanical skirt-belt and the pulley mechanisms on actual fabric, the group was a little disheartened when we saw the flashiness of the other groups. We did feel revitalized, however, after speaking with our professor. Our spirits were raised with the reminder of the challenge that we took on with a project based on physical output. Due to the nature of the class and the nature of our project, our professor requested that we focus on the mechanics of the outfit more than the interaction of the user with the outfit. Specifically, that we table the user over-ride controls as well as the sensors.

Our professor also suggested some very reasonable changes in focus and design for the project. Because the outfit is so futuristic and it is aiming towards TEI the super hero contest, it is valid to scrap reality and pragmatism. It was suggested that we consider a bubble skirt as a fix for the current bulk problem.

With this in mind, we ran without creative reigns! We completely revamped our audience and application. The new outfit does not yet have a name but there are strong concepts and features we plan on implementing.

First and foremost, the physical movement, we will implement the skirt with hoops that will have it extend over the motors in a victorian-esque style. The skirt will start out long, at around the ankles. On command, the skirt will be reeled in to knee-length, maybe shorter. Ideally, the skirt will be able to reel in asymmetrically as well as symmetrically; this way we can create a more eccentric party look. Second, we will implement similar sleeves. The sleeves would transform from cap sleeves to a futuristic-take on the spaghetti strap. Though we have been working with Lego Mindstorms, we want to try DC motors, because we are sure this will help with bulk and make the transitions snappier.

Sketch of Lady Gaga's hoop dress

Here is what the asymmetric sketch might look like based on one of Lady Gaga's outfits

puffy sleeves sketch from Lady Gaga

Here is a sketch from one of Lady Gaga's outfits that has puffy sleeves similar to the ones we want

The next priority is LEDs. We want the outfit to look futuristic and lively. The LEDs don’t have a particular purpose other than lighting up in our conceptual design. This ties closely to our complete design revamp. We are aiming at a futuristic look and feel for the outfit with a nod at the past. The outfit will have details from the past, such as the hooped skirt and potentially a raised victorian collar with lace trim, but the whole outfit will shimmer, giving it that futuristic-metallic look. With LEDs, the outfit will look more flashy, the trick is to get the right rhythm and colors for it. In addition, addition to the collar, there are plans for a cape for the outfit as well. The idea is that the cape will go with the initial regal look of the outfit only to transition into a funky hood. Below, you can find some images that relate to the ideas and concepts we have in mind.

dress and bowl hat with embedded LEDs

Possible take on LEDs

funky dress with LEDs

Another take on LEDs

futuristic suit with lasers embedded

An alternative approach to lights

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