In August, our workshop “Sketching with Hardware” took place for the 6th time. In 7 days, 12 students learnt to use electronic components, to create new creative user interactions and realized their own physical computing projects. The overarching topic for this course was ”Outdoor Electronics”. Again, at the final presentation the crowd had the chance to experience six extraordinary experience prototypes. During the following days, all projects will be presented on this blog. Today: Part 4, Energy Fight! Have fun 🙂
Nowadays fossile energy sources are exploited to the farthest extent and the need for alternative ways of energy production is urgent. The awareness of new and clean forms of energy is an important issue, that already the youngest members of our society should be given an understanding of. This is why we have developed a concept of achieving a higher energy awareness for children in a playful manner.
What is it?
Enery Fight is a game that increases energy awareness. It illustrates different possibilities to produce energy. The produced energy is used to manipulate the game board, which is a circle shaped acrylic glass panel, placed on top of the Engergy Fight box. To start the game you place a small ball in the centre of the board.
The two players battle each other by producing energy on the four sides of the box to get the ball into the hole on their side of the game board. The two ways to produce energy are wind, created by blowing into a wind wheel, and motion energy, by cranking a wooden wheel on the side of the box.
How does it work?
Inside the Energy Fight box there are 4 motors which are used as electricity generators. They are connected to the two wind wheels and the two wooden wheels. The energy production of the motors is each visualised by an LED placed on top of the box.
The game board is manipulated by two servo motors. One servo motor tilts the game board to the left and right and the other one tilts it towards the players. The first servo motor is glued to the second motor and thereby affects the second motor’s tilt by its own motion. The second motor is glued to the game board. This construction allows to move the game board in all directions. All motors are connected to an Arduino Uno, which senses the voltage of the generators and translates it into the movement of the game board.
Values, Potentials and Next Steps
As children are the central target group of our game, it should be located in schools and playgrounds. Therefore, Energy Fight should be improved in several ways: First of all, it has to be waterproof to make the outdoor use possible, independent of the weather situation. Up to now, Energy Fight relies on external power supply. In order to bring the idea of energy awareness to its fullest, Energy Fight should be supplied just by solar power.
A further step could include that the players produce all the power needed to play the game by blowing the wind wheel and cranking the wooden wheels. It might also be interesting for the players to be informed of the actual amount of produced energy, thereby making the player aware of the relation of everyday energy consumption and the effort of producing energy.
It was very helpful to first make a plan and a low fidelity prototype. Therefore, gaffa tape was very useful! We first wrote the code for the Arduino and tested it with our low-fi prototype, as can be seen in the video. Building on this already working version, we were able to add functionality and went over to the high fidelity prototype. A 3D model of the inside of the Energy Fight-box helped us to estimate the proportions of the inner parts of the game. This was a great outline when we designed the laser-cutter files.
We also designed a Fritzing sketch in a quite early state of our game. At that time, the LEDs were powered directly by the motors and not by the Arduino:
Because the cables overlapped each other, the Fritzing sketch did not help us so much so we did not integrate the latest changes. The power coming from the motors in the final game setting was not sufficient to enlighten the LEDs. That is why the LEDs had to be connected to the Arduino which translated the generated power to a larger, proportional amount of power for the LEDs.
An important step that had to be taken before finishing the project was testing our game in realistic settings. Thereby we found out that the energy-production and the movement of the game board had to be balanced in order to make the game enjoyable.
On the final day we presented our result: The Energy Fight Game. After an introduction to the game, Hendrik and Fabius battled against each other. The winner could choose between bubblegums, Maltesers, M&Ms and the First Prize: A „Ranger“. Afterwards, our game was free to be tested by the audience.