Friday, January 27, 2012


I was having a bit of trouble designing the pieces of my lightbox in my head and on paper, so I decided to make a quick paper model of what I wanted it to do. Next step: CADing it all in Solidworks so I can laser cut the frame!

Above: Lightbox paper model demo (sideways for some reason),
with Charles ([etotheipiplusone]) and Bailey ([ISOPACK]) discussing laser cutters.

...I need to cut my nails, haha. The lightbox will be able to prop open in both portrait and landscape mode, as well as have some room to fit sheets of paper and pens in between the layers.

Above: Initial thought process with the paper model lightbox.

Above: Paper model lightbox unfolded!

There's still a lot of soldering I need to do! >o<;

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


Back in Fall 2011, I decided to build a RGB variable color lightbox for a Power Electronics class (6.131). Since the existing [sleek] LED lightboxes on the market were about $50+, emitted white light, and didn't do much else, I wanted to make something that could do more. I wanted to be able to adjust the light color, the slope of the lightbox screen, be able to make and attach custom widgets (like my sliding T-square, or a future eraser-crumb gutter / pen holder, hidden shelves), etc - almost like a portable desk. For the class, I had to satisfy the power electronics part, so in hindsight, maybe I should have actually just made a motor controller. But afterwards, I still really wanted to make the actual lightbox product, so I started over, this time using an ARDUINO! For the first time! :D

Here's what I've got so far - a mess of wires (soon to be sorted), and 3 sliding 10K potentiometers on the left  that control the red, green, and blue color values. For the background soundtrack, you can listen to the two Jordan's at MITERS (the female of whom has an awesome blog: [T3CHNOLOCHIC]) discuss 'hella Bohemian (?)' for some reason:

(Apologies for shaky one-handed iPhone recording!)
Above: Video of RGBeta testing.

Thanks to Charles ([ETOTHEIPIPLUSONE]) for supplying me with the Arduino Nano and LED strips!

Arduino's are awesome (haha)! I write a bit of code, upload it to the Arduino, connect it to some LEDs and potentiometers... and things magically work! Plus, what's cool is that this little Arduino can do all the PWM magic digitally that I had to do analog-ly before for my class. Here was the first thing I made using it:

Above: Yay single RGB LED! Making it fade using an Arduino Nano.

In the above photo, I'm actually using a leftover Piranha LED that I bought for class, shipped from the UK. These little RGB LEDs gave me more trouble than expected, as the supplier website didn't have a datasheet, and after testing them I found that the LEDs were common ANODE [+] (whereas my design was tailored to common CATHODE [-]). Here are some surviving photos of my RGB lightbox, ALPHA version:

Above: It uses 3 buck converters, and (in this photo) is missing
2 power resistors and 2 potentiometers. The lightboard stacks on top.

Above: RGB lightbox Alpha testing. Sadly doesn't work quite as well,
and (in this photo) I've already blown a piranha LED just testing the first row, haha.

Comparing with what I have now, RGBeta is not as impressive looking as RGB Alpha, which had 3 legit-looking inductors and power resistors, as well as a separate board complete with 3 H-bridges (only lowsides used). But RGBeta is definitely cleaner and lighter, as well as less painful to make and debug. In fact, the only major debugging issue I ran into was because I forgot to make a common ground (my most common mistake), which ended up creating a flickering unstable light that semi-responded to the potentiometer slides. Grounding issues aside, RGBeta was definitely much easier to create.

Above: RGBeta is definitely more boss that RGB Alpha.

Side note: I've been unknowingly shortening my current 'RGB lightbox' to 'RGBeta' (pronounced R - G - Beta), since I consider this version the Beta version (the Alpha one being the one I made for class). Though, 'Beta' is probably not the right term to use, since this isn't a software release. What's more, every time I say it, it reminds me of RGVeda, the debut manga of CLAMP, and RigVeda [wiki], a sacred text of Hinduism - even though my lightbox is completely unrelated, haha. :)

Why do I want a lightbox? I confess, I'm biased as an artist and I'll mainly be using it to ink over sketches and learn animation. However, because it'll be a portable desk, the uses for it are limitless. (If I add a detachable cushion-y underside to the lightbox, I could set my laptop on top and have a comfy laptop lap desk, too! :D ). I discovered another use when Bailey ([ISOPACK]) was using a light to match up 2 printed circuit designs (for the top and bottom layer of the double-sided copper clad), in preparation for etching.

Above: Bailey's printed designs, in prep for DIY etching a printed circuit board.

I just need to solder on some more LED strips, provide a portable power supply, transfer circuit from breadboard to PCB (or other), design the frame and then build it!

In other news, I'm assistant choreographer to the 'Hack, Punt, Tool' original MIT screenplay put on by the MIT Musical Theater Guild, and hectic production week starts next week! It's my first time helping them out, and they're a cool bunch - lots of creative set/prop/costume builders! I was talking with the Head Choreographer TaunTaun, and we were lamenting how there wasn't a program that could help choreographers and directors do blocking and formations. As a dancer who has choreographed for several people, I also find it sad that the best of us resort to drawings and powerpoint slides to convey position. But usually in the end, all of us resort to pointing and physically moving people to where they're supposed to be. But that approach is time-consuming and often confusing for the dancers. If there was a program that could allow the choreographer to create and edit formations of people, atop a background of their choice (stage or theater set), synced with a soundtrack of music or lines (basically like a UI to making a simple animation), we wouldn't have to resort to doing something like this:

Above: An approach we used to block out a scene in Killian Court,
using spools as cast members. Later, one of the directors even made a
mini model of the set so we could visualize the space.

It sounds like this program could help anyone that just needs a quick way to explain a series of positions - dance formations, chess/checkers/go/board game strategies, WWII troop movements for history presentations, sports play strategies, film/book/comic storyboarding, re-creation of events, etc. This idea already ended up on the list of things I wanted to make, so let's hope I get to it soon!

Monday, January 16, 2012


On 1/15/2012, holding the hands of my two awesome friends Vivian and Jocelyn, I got my ears pierced.

Above: Before and after shots of my earlobes! >o<;

Yes, needles make me nervous! And seeing the piercing gun, with the giant needle fitted and menacingly exposed at the tip... definitely didn't help. The conversation went a little like this:

Store Lady (L): "Are you ready?"
Me (C): ".........Uhhh, no, sorry. Can you give me a few seconds?"
[A few seconds pass, as C attempts to mentally prepare herself]
L: "Are you ready?"
C: "....Yes, I think. No! Wait! Give me a few more seconds."
[A few more seconds pass, as C clenches the hands of her supportive friends]
L: "Just let me know when you're ready."
C: "OK...."
[....even more seconds pass, as C looks desperately for an emergency exit route]
L: "....Are you ready?"
C: "....No, but you should do it anyways."

The very patient and understanding Store Lady pierced each of my ears on a count of three, and a few sharp twinges later followed by an hour or so of shock at what had happened, I pretty earrings made me feel. And despite my previous protests, I found myself really looking forward to getting new earrings.

In hindsight, the entire episode was pretty laughable, but I really did feel a pinch of fear when I saw the piercing gun about to be aimed so close to my head. I didn't imagine it quite so...big, and gunlike. Thank you, Vivian and Jocelyn, for your moral support - I wouldn't have done it without you! :D

On a side note, I was in the mood for curry yesterday, and decided to make a dish with my remaining fruits, vegetables and meat. Meaning tuna, carrots, onions, and a single apple (at the time). Here's what I ended up cooking:

Above: While the onions and tuna were sautéing, the carrots and apples were cut.

Above: After the apples and carrots were fried a bit with the onions and tuna,
they were left to simmer with added water.

Above: Vermont curry powder added!

Above: Cutting the apple bunny while waiting!

Above: Finished dish!

I call it, 'Rabbit on the Moon' apple-tuna curry! If you ever get the chance to make something similar to this, let me know!

Saturday, January 14, 2012


Miku Hatsune! McMaster-Carr! Combined, you get....

Above: Miku-Master-Carr!
(explanation below)

One of my favorite fandoms revolve around Vocaloids - I even did a doujin last year in part with some friends for Anime Boston! ([CLICK HERE] for a preview of my story.) Vocaloid is the general term for a singing synthesizer software developed by Yamaha, but what most fans refer to when they say 'Vocaloid' are the characters Crypton Future Media created as the faces for their Vocaloid2 software. These anime-styled vocal avatars, most of whom are girls, created a more marketable and approachable product, and in the span of a few short years became an international fan-sensation. Millions of fans around the world have used the program to create vocals for their bands, or used the characters for fanart, fan-animations, fan-comics, cosplay, and more. An entire open-source fan-system was even derived from all the cross-sharing! For example - music fans create the music, inspired fans make music videos (2D and 3D), inspired artists create fanart for the music or music videos, another fan likes the fanart and creates a 3D figure.

Even Crypton acknowledges the open-source nature of Vocaloid and its Vocaloid Characters - take a look at the screenshot of one of their slides in a Vocaloid panel I attended at Anime Expo 2011!

Above: Infrastructure of the Miku phenomenon?

Miku Hatsune, the first Crypton Vocaloid2 character, is particularly prone to fan-crossovers. There's a Miku Mona Lisa, a Miku-Donalds (McDonalds), a Miku Sailor Moon, etc. I think someone even found a way to import a Miku model in the newest Skyrim (Elder Scrolls V). xD

At the other end, there's McMaster-Carr, a private hardware supplier company that has awesome next-day delivery for all your nuts, bolts, and other mechanical/electrical/utility parts. Their website is super clean and user-intuitive - check it out! [Link to McMaster-Carr Website]

So when you combine my fan favorite Vocaloid Miku Hatsune and the awesome McMaster-Carr company, you get MIKU-MASTER-CARR! :D

To end this post, I just want to share some sketches I did for the MIT MTG (Musical Theater Guild). For this 2012 IAP period (independent activities period during the month of January), MTG's putting on an original MIT screenplay called "Hack, Punt, Tool". I wasn't involved with MTG until this show, when the Choreographer (and my Asian Dance Team friend) asked me to be her assistant. Interested, I'm now helping out with the show! And when we were blocking out some of the scenes, all of us were getting stumped on movements in one of the sections because it called for working with a lot of things that needed to get built on stage. (Or look like they were being built on stage)

So I drew up some sketches for the 3 groups (one working mainly with wood and pipes, one working with mainly ropes, and one working with anything electrical) to help us out. I focused on (1) things that could attach without drills and hammers, (2) things that could be assembled quickly offstage and brought back onstage, and (3) things that didn't really make sense what the final product would look like.

Above: MTG random building prop ideas

We're going to have a meeting with the Set and Prop Directors soon to discuss the particulars, and the Directors want to bring the sketches along so we can mix and match parts and props. It'll be interesting to see how this show will turn out - it'll be exciting, I'm sure!

Thursday, January 12, 2012


I've always been big into the whole Japanese anime and manga scene, and there was a period that I drew almost consistently. In the past few years however, I haven't drawn much in relation, but I'm going to try and keep improving! Expect more sketches in the future, but in the meantime, here's a bit of what I've drawn and doodled in the past few days. I'm currently working on a commission I can't reveal yet, and I've plans for a doujinshi if not a webcomic as well. But time will tell, I'll post more of my ideas as they come!

That last one, the super-sketchy one with Miku on some sort of bipedal machine, is still a work in progress! You'll definitely see more of her in various other getups. :) (You can also see a little of where I possibly could have gotten influenced, haha)

Back to my building things, I had this flimsy $1 T-square that I wanted to mount onto my (wip) lightbox as a detachable widget. Most T-squares are standalone, cheap and really good tools, but I personally found them unstable if I wasn't drawing on the edge of a table or a raised surface. So I thought it'd be a nifty add-on for my (future) lightbox - the added track on the side would make the T-square stable, always aligned, and if I wanted it for something else, detachable!

Above: Finished Sliding T-Square.

It was made using a cheap curtain track (wall mounts included), a set of small shower rollers, and some screws and rubber stoppers.  The shower rollers actually fitted very snugly inside the railing, which was a pleasant surprise since I had eye-estimated it at the store. Here's a closeup:

Above: Small shower rollers, screws included.

Above: Attached to the curtain wall mounts like so.

The rubber stoppers I had were easily stripped inside using the screw, so I cut the outside of the hole out to make way for a metal washer that would hopefully catch the screw and not damage the stopper. The last stopper still kept slipping off, and since I had scrounged up the stoppers in MITERS and couldn't find any more, I just superglued that stopper. xD

Above: The operation.

Above: Front and back views of the completed widget.

I originally had wanted to use each of the wall mounts separately, and place them at the opposite ends of the T-square head. But that was too unstable, so I tried to fit both rollers and stoppers on the same wall mount, like so:

Above: A failed attempt at being thrifty.

But that turned out to clash with the shape of the T-square, which had a square depression on the back that was smaller than the length of the stoppers surface. Thus! I opted for connecting the two wall mounts instead of buying more rollers. All that was left was to glue the T-square on the rubber stoppers (using GOOP), and voila! A completed widget:

Above: Ready to roll! (hehe)

Next up on my agenda: 1) redesign my lightbox schematics, and 2) work on comic. I wonder when I'll actually start my scooter, hmm...

Sunday, January 1, 2012


I celebrated New Year's at MITERS, the MIT Electronics Research Society. And though I really should have been working on finishing a past project and my [currently non-existent] electric scooter, I decided to instead do a bit of arts and crafts before the Times Square ball dropped. Here's what I ended up with:

Above: White flower and yellow tiny butterflies made of ZIP-TIES!

Above: Close up of the yellow butterflies - they're detachable!

Above: Wiggle stereoscopy!

The flower part was made from winding these large, 3-ft long white zip-ties found in the back of MITERS. The tiny butterflies used 3 zip ties as well, though much smaller in size - 2 for the wings and 1 for the body. After adding a hair clip when I got home, the hairpiece was complete! Here's a pic of me wearing it:

Above: Wearing the hairpiece, and looking asian.

The more I think about my new (and first!) blog, the more excited I get! Here, I'll be blogging about all the things I build and create - from drawings to dances to my EE projects to the random things I'll make at MITERS.

Here's to you, 2012!