Software apps and online services
Hand tools and fabrication machines
When I was young, I loved to play with plants, and one of my favourites is the mimosa plant, which will close when touched. However, in fantasy tales, flowers would open when they are touched, and I wanted to recreate this magical effect in my project.
With the 1 year anniversary of my boyfriend and I nearing, I wanted to dedicate to him a special present that I made myself, hence the birth of this flower. As both of us are forgetful people, I wanted the flower to remind us of special days, with the flower lighting up in a colour for each important day. On each day of the week, one of the petals will light up, reminding you of the day of the week in a unique and fun way. Not only is it a beautiful timepiece, when the flower is touched and "open", it will also tell you the temperature, humidity, date etc., giving it a useful daily function.
Since I had to wait for the materials I ordered to arrive, I first started with something I was familiar with; the basic programming of the electronics of the flower. Using the Grove Beginner Kit, it was very easy to pick up the Grove system as I have previously only used the Arduino Uno, which required a lot of jumper wires, resistors etc., whereas the Seeeduino and Grove modules you can just “plug in and play”, as its motto describes. This also saved a lot of time and effort, and with each module having its own wiki page, coding was a breeze. The only exception was that sometimes the libraries by Seeed were a bit inadequate, and I had to find other better libraries, such as for the OLED module.
In this project, I used an RTC module, a 96x128 OLED module, temperature & humidity sensor, a touch module as well as a servo module.
I designed the mechanics and thought process on paper, drawing templates for which I would be using to help me solder and ensure that the petals of the flowers would be the same shape. I also enlisted the help of my colleague to help me design and 3D print a lotus-like shape which I would use as a template to solder the shape of the petals.
When my brass wires, LEDs and other materials arrived, it was time to start on the physical part of the project: the mechanism.
Here comes the most difficult and tedious part of the entire project. With no prior experience in soldering, it was safe to say that I started off quite lost and confused about the whole process. Many a time have I burnt myself as I forgot that the brass wire was hot due to the solder. I even have a scar on my arm to prove it.
The petals took a long time to do as it was completely made by hand, and each LED was painstakingly soldered on 1 by 1.
I made a hexagonal base to connect all the petals of the flower together. This was especially difficult as it was not easy bending a wire into a heptagonal shape as it is odd sided and not symmetrical. Also, since there were going to be 3 inner petals and outer petals, I found that a regular heptagon could not work, so I had to make a second, irregular one.
It was not easy trying to solder the petals onto the stem since it was floating in mid air and not fixed on a table, and I often found myself bending in weird and awkward positions and angles trying to find the best way to solder. The solder material also could not stick properly, and since all the supporting wires connecting the heptagon base to the stem were connected to the tip of the brass tubing, I often find myself soldering a second one, only to find that another of the support beams would change position or fall off due to the melting of the soldering. It was an extremely frustrating process.
Since there was no template, and the whole flower was 3-dimensional, I had to solder the support wires based on estimation and trial and error, especially since the base was irregular in shape. This was extremely difficult to do, but luckily, I have small hands and I somehow made it work.
I also had to wind the wires of the flower into a spiral down the stem as I felt that it looked more aesthetically pleasing that way. Although it was very tedious and time-consuming, the wires gave the stem a glow and it was all worth it since it looked way more pleasing to the eye than the oxidised blackish-looking brass stem.
I used a retort stand that I found in the storeroom to keep the flower upright and fixed a pushrod that goes in the middle of the stem that would enable the flower to open/close when pulled and released (think of an umbrella-like mechanism). A servo would then be attached to the bottom of the pushrod which will be the opening mechanism for the flower.
I also had to make various adjustments and bend the petals to fit it into the shape of a lily or tulip as some of them looked out of shape. To make the petals close fully, there are 3 inner petals, and 4 outer petals, so that the petals can overlap like in a real flower.
Once the basic mechanics of flower was completed, it was time to find a flower pot for my flower. In our office, we have a few ceramic flower pots that are not in use. I figured that it would look more like a real plant and give it a bit of a rustic feel to use a real flower pot, so I chose one of the prettier pots, emptied the soil and used it as a base for my flower
Since the top of the flower pot was empty, I used a laser cutter to cut a piece of wood into a hexagonal shape, with holes for the flower stem, touch module etc.
After completing the different parts of the flower, it was time to put it all together. I used insulated copper wires to connect each flower petal to a output in the Seeeduino Lotus board. I also created day tags for each day of the week with gold-coloured brass to indicate the petal of the day. I considered soldering the tags on, but I figured that I had enough soldering and that fixing it on like a paper clip worked, so I went with it. Actually I was also running out of time for the exhibition and I decided to do it next time when I would have more time to work on the flower.
I then stuffed all the electronics: the MCU, sensors, wires etc. all into the flowerpot and fixed it in place with masking tape. Then I taped the top with masking tape to prevent everything from fallling out. One last check to make sure that all the electronics are connected securely and working properly and “A Blooming Time” is ready for its showcase!
And... voila! Here’s how the (semi-) finished product looks like!
P.S There are actually quite a few LEDs which broke and fell off, luckily my circuit is not in series and the rest of the LEDs would still light up.
P.P.S I have not added the coloured LEDs portion of the flower yet and hopefully, I will have time to improve this project in future. I also probably need to make a nicer flower pot.
Credits to https://create.arduino.cc/projecthub/jiripraus/ever-blooming-mechanical-tulip-1b0323 for inspiration.