Storm Bottle

Electronics & Art | Solo | 2018

Storm Bottle started as a tiny weekend project to simply make something with the miscellaneous parts already at my disposal. Along with the standard suite of CAD, 3d-printing, some soldering, and writing a bit of firmware, this project was a first foray into a new finishing technique- spray painting - as well as a chance to learn hookups for the WS2812b IC for controlling RGB led(s) with a single pin.

Born initially out of boredom and a healthy appreciation of puns and idioms, the idea was to create a tiny droid - lightning - to put into a glass bottle I had procured. In designing the functionality of this droid, I had originally considered adding a piezo buzzer and vibration motor to make it more droid-like. In likely part due to a desire to keep the original design simple and manageable (and due to a deficit of available parts), this instead inspired me to opt for a more modular design (I think it's cool, too, that this has really nice conceptual synergy to an Impossible Bottle). Playing off of the storm analogy, it also made sense to group the sonic and kinetic properties into a seperate droid - Thunder - and restrict the functionality of the lightning droid to things of a more optical or electrial nature. Also, everybody knows that thunder comes after lightning 🙃.

The first iteration of the Lightning droid is a toroidal design housing an RGB led. The led has an onboard WS2812b IC embedded, which only needs power and a single input pin, and has support for chaining ICs with a programmable output pin. In a future version, I might add a simple LRC flash circuit using this pin to toggle the gate to give Lightning some electrical features as well.

Lightning droid showing off some colors

To facilitate the modular aspect of this design, I also created an extensible cap system, and a simple power distro board with M3s as screw terminals to allow for easily adaptable interfacing with the Attiny85 that's controlling the system. I decided to wire the modules using some winding wire I had lying around from a previous project, since the head of the M3s didn't have enough purchase to allow me to easily secure standard gauge wires (which I found out when wiring the controller to the board, since my screws and washers are zinc plated and don't take solder). Keeping with the theme, I've decided to dub this power and controls assembly the Storm Cloud.

Now that I made Lightning and the Storm Cloud, I think I'm going to take a break from this project for a bit. Some adjustments that I feel like making in the future would be changing the power source to something with a more discrete profile (fun fact: I actually picked up the original battery holder when visiting Japan!) I'd also like to finish designing and printing the Storm Cloud assembly, and potentially finding a bottle with better optical qualities. I also plan on creating some new modular 'droids' sometime in the future, and eventually making it into a true impossible bottle, so keep on the lookout.