Energy Final – 3/3

Things left to do today:

  1. program board with Timer
  2. buy Rockite, Epoxy
  3. epoxy solar panel and other electronics to interior of acrylic enclosure
  4. make wooden 3.5″x3.5″x3.5″ box, and smaller box inside from cardboard to prototype how the pouring around the acrylic enclosure will be like
  5. make several test concrete boxes before doing it for real
  6. Do it for real

Programming Board w/ Timer

The key thing for me to find out today is how using the Low Power library messes with the timing of the MCU. I know that the low power works by shutting the MCU off for several seconds. From this site, I learned about Rocketscream Electronic’s LowPower library.

I started by using the blink sketch, but using:

LowPower.powerDown(SLEEP_8S, ADC_OFF, BOD_OFF);

instead of the “delay(1000);” of the traditional blink sketch. Using my phone timer, I see that it does indeed cause a delay of approx 8-8.5 seconds. (Probably in imperfect reflexes for timing it o my phone).

I also confirmed that:

LowPower.powerDown(SLEEP_8S, ADC_OFF, BOD_OFF);

LowPower.powerDown(SLEEP_8S, ADC_OFF, BOD_OFF);

leads to a delay of approx 16.5-17 seconds.

This means I will need to build in this 8 second delay into my sketch.


  • 60 seconds / 8 seconds = 7.5 increments of 8S per minute
  • 7.5 x 60 minutes = 450 increments of 8S per hour
  • 450 x 12 hours = 5400 increments of 8S per 12 hours

which means a delay of 12 hours can be written as:

for (int x=0; x<5400; x++) {

LowPower.powerDown(SLEEP_8S, ADC_OFF, BOD_OFF);


To test this I will delay for one minute, which by my calculations, should be a loop of 7.5 so that:

for (int x=0; x<7; x++) {

      LowPower.powerDown(SLEEP_8S, ADC_OFF, BOD_OFF);


is about 59 seconds. (I couldn’t put 7.5 on a loop).

Using the Low Power library also means I cannot rely on the WDT (Watchdog Timer) for tracking time. Which means, I’ll have to do this purely using the 8S delay.

LED Light Plan for Dark Hours

Using the following graphic from TimeandDate, there are three phases of “getting dark” before it’s considered night: civil twilight, nautical twilight and astronomical twilight. Astronomical Twilight (AT) occurs when the Sun is between 12 degrees and 18 degrees below the horizon, when the sky is still dark but a faint change in light colour can be seen.

The LED will start it’s journey toward brightness after Dusk Astronomical Twilight and begin it’s journey toward darkness after Dawn Astronomical Twilight.

However, AT occurs at different times at different months, and also depending on Daylight Savings.

Dusk AT:

  • Jan: 5:44pm – 6:17pm
  • July: 9:45pm – 10:37pm

Dawn AT:

  • Jan: 4:11pm – 4:50pm
  • July: 3:19am – 4:10am

Since I plan to have everything encased in concrete so as to be unable to access the components, I can only set the timing once, and it has to work with the day/night cycles of all seasons.

I will start the light at 8 pm and end it at 5am – that’s 9 hours. The lighting plan for the single Neopixel shall be as follows:

8pm-9pm: 0,0,0 – 10,10,10
9pm-10pm: 11,11,11 – 20,20,20
10pm-11pm: 21,21,21 – 30,30,30
11pm-12am: 31,31,31 – 40,40,40
12am-1am: 41,41,41 – 50,50,50
1am-2am: 50,50,50 – 41,41,41
2am-3am: 40,40,40 – 25,25,25
3am-4am: 24,24,24 – 10,10,10
4am-5am: 10,10,10 – 0,0,0

Referencing my earlier calculation of: 450 increments of 8S LowPower MCU shut-down per hour, the code shall be:









Energy / Final – Day 1


The battery and Solar Li-Po Charger

With three days to the Energy final my project has hit a major snag: the Li-Po is not supplying power to the arduino. The assumption was that when not recieving solar, the load would be powered by battery… assumption wrong.

After thinking that the Adafruit Solar Li-Po charger was not meant to be used from battery to load without the presence of solar, Roland helped me out by showing me that when connected to this massive 6000 mAh battery, current does indeed flow into the load even when a solar input is not included. He offered to let me use his battery for the final, but I declined since it was too big for my purposes. I would continue the original plan and go small. However, I did learn that a 1200 mAh Li-Po was too small to be used with the Adafruit charging board.

I went to Tinkersphere to buy a new 2400 mAh Li-Po, hoping that doubling the capacity would allow the charger to be used properly. This was a hypothesis that I hope would work. The 2400 mAh Li-Po was also too big for my design (it was very thin but too large in terms of surface area) so I had the idea of buying another 1200 mAh Li-Po and wiring it in parallel with my current Li-Po. I had no idea if it would work but it did… thank God!

Reducing the current draw to a bare minimum

Because I am designing this thing with the purpose of lasting forever, and because the board needed to be ON forever, I wanted the board and LED to draw the bare minimum amount of current.

The batteries (now 2400 mAh, instead of 1200 mAh) would start fully charged and be drained most at night and hopefully be recharged during the day.

Evolving Concept & Structure

My design was heavily influenced by Amitabh’s workshop on concrete, in which he showed how to encase acrylic and LEDs in a small concrete object. The combination of light and concrete: the juxtaposition of something soft and ephemeral with something very gritty and hard was a very esthetically pleasing mix.

My design originally was for a buddha, type statue, but I designed to scale down my ambition given the complexity of the project and time constrains. The complexity of the project is from the need to encase all those electronics: a solar panel, a Li-Po charging board, 2 Li-Po batteries, a Arduino Pro Mini, a Neopixel LED and a piece of acrylic for light form — that’s a lot of stuff.

I decided upon a simple concrete cube that collect solar during the day on one end and emits light at night on the other. The cube size would only be slightly bigger than the small Adafruit solar panel, which is just over 2 inches in length. The cube would then be 3″x3″x3″.

Safety of Encasing Batteries in Concrete

I was warned by Amitahb that it was potentially dangerous to enclose batteries in concrete, since the heating of the concrete while it was hardening could cause the batteries to explode. He also warned me there is also danger that the microscopic crystal needles poking out of concrete could puncture the battery itself and cause an explosion.

Further, I am told concrete expands

I no nothing of these matters so decided to take precautions by ensuring the concrete itself does not come into contact

PDS / lead or lead-free solder?

Soldering the led matrix together.

Suddenly, soldering iron tip stops getting hot. Uh-oh… tips oxidized

Progress halted till new tips

Googled “how to prevent soldering iron tips oxidation”

Found the lead vs lead-free solder

Energy Final / Chakra Lights

For my energy final, I will build a little buddha statue out of concrete with acrylic rods and LEDS embedded in it. The statue will have a flexible solar panel embedded in its back and will have 7 lights (corresponding to the 7 chakras) inside it. It will gather light during the day (from its backside) and project them through its chakra lights on its front by night. This design was inspired by the concrete & light work of Amitabh Shrivastava.
The sculpture will be an energy sufficient art object meant to be placed with its backside toward the sunlight. It is designed for the top floor of my house, which receives a good amount of indirect sunlight during the daytime. I will house it at ITP’s east window, where our group housed our midterm solar project.
7 neopixel LED pixels
1 Arducam PRO Mini Atmega328 Development Board
  • For 7 neopixel, estimated at 20mA/pixel at normal usage x 7 pixels = 150mA. At full brightness this is 60mA x 7 pixels = 420mA
    • Watts = Amps x Volts
      • at 60mA estimated draw: 0.43A x 5v = 2.15W for the lights
      • at 20mA estimated draw: 0.15A x 5v = 0.75W
  • For Pro Mini: 4mA minimum requirement (from
    • Watts = 0.004A x 5V = .02W
  • TOTAL POWER BUDGET: For 20mA calculation per LED, total is 0.02W (for pro mini) + 0.75W (for 7 neopixels) = 0.77W
  • TOTAL POWER BUDGET: For 60mA calculation per LED, total is 0.02W + 2.15W = 2.17W total load
6V 1W Panel (to order)
3.7 W 1200mAh Battery (I already have this):
5V Charging battery board (to order)

Future Scenarios / Concept Maps

Concept Map showing flow of action of Steve Bannon’s “Culture War”. Here, “Radical Political Actors” can be defined as elements grouped under the “Alt-Right”. The arrow direction shows the manner in which effectation was enacted.

Concept map of how the role social media played in the Egyptian Revolution (2011):

By contrast, here is the concept map of the dynamic of political repression vis-a-vis democracy activists in the pre-social media Mubarak era:

Concept map of Russian interference in the US Political System 2014-present:


XYZ / April 4 Update

On March 31, the team met, and we experimented with the XY plotter.

This is what we discovered:

  • the XY area covered by the XY plotter is sufficient for our purposes. What is more critical is the size of the foam noodle we will be using. The XY plotter is 2 ft the foam noodle is 2ft – already that’s 4 feet radius of movement which exceeds our play area of 6ft by 6ft.
  • we hung the Makeblock Plotter with string by the ceiling and this arrangement insufficient because the weight of the plotter changes as the head moves. We will need to attach it directly on to the metal structure on the ceiling. We will email Rob to canvas for the space.
  • We determined the kind of part we will need to connect the Markblock (using the holes in the metal) to the ceiling’s metal hanging system. Tony will make a suitable block that will ensure a strong attachment.
  • We have determined it is important for the purposes of interaction that the robot have a district rotary and level-changing abilities. We flirted with the idea of just having a rotation because it would be easier, but we felt it would be compromising too much. Also, we would exclude children from the interaction if level changes were not possible. Shieya and I are coming up with ideas for a rotary/level-change system.

PDS / April Update


I initially waited to construct the new LED matrix until I had a grip on the power requirements. My old board was 2240 LEDs running from a 5V 70A 350W power supply, although it just good enough (I know this because when I run the whole thing at full white, it flickers). However, even as I type this I become unsure of my knowledge — Eric Rosenthal told me that when white LEDs turn yellow that means too much current. Overall, my deficiencies in understanding electricity is something that I wished to address, and measuring power requirements for the new board was a means of doing so.

I started out by scheduled a meeting with Eric Rosenthal, power guru of ITP. He recommended that I first find the “peak instantaneous  voltage” of my old LED board by connecting a 1 OHM resistor and using Ohm’s Law to calculate exactly what is the amperage that I require. The different patterns that I displayed drew different amounts of current, depending on how many LEDs were on and what colour the LEDS were.

However I didn’t really do a good job at measuring the current this way. The first 1OHM resistor I used was a tiny one, and when I made the circuit in series, nothing happened. I used other resistors and mostly, nothing happened on the board since there was not enough current. One resistor smoked and I suspect I blew other resistors also.

Later, after consulting with Jeff Feddersen, I learned that different resistors had different Wattage. I would need a much heartier resistor to do what I needed. However, even using 5W and 10W 1OHM resistors in the ITP shop, I still could not calculate what I needed. Time kept ticking and I just wanted to start making the damn thing.

So I decided that if my current power supply worked for a 2240-pixel LED matrix, it would definitely be enough to work on a 1850 and 1900-pixel LED matrix, since I decided to do it in two modules.


I put up the metal L brackets according to plan and the paper was not as tight as I wanted. The thin part of the L bracket could be the culprit. Next steps on this will be to use nails with big heads to increase surface area that sandwiches the paper.


From previous experience I know that each LED strip needs its own connection to the power supply, rather than running the power through the entire strip (which does not do the job). However when I was using a stiff piece of plywood to mount the LED strips to, I could just staple the 12 AWG wire to the board and everything wouldn’t move, including the solder points.

But since I am using a flexible piece of vinyl, I face the challenge of needing a stiff 12 AWG wire soldered to each LED strip, however it needs to be attached to the flexible vinyl. Something stiff attached to something flexible. I consulted Ben Light on this. After the consultation and two hours of deep visualization while sitting on a display rack in Home Depot, I decided upon a low tech solution: I would staple a piece of plywood to the back of the vinyl with heavy-duty staples. And I would staple the 12 AWG to it too. Just like on the old board.

Future Scenarios / Executive Summary of Research


“If you want to change politics, you first have to change culture, because politics flows from culture.”

-Christopher Wilke, former data scientist at Cambridge Analytica

Like all things, political systems and ideologies are marked by a constant state of change. The nature of these changes depend upon the variety of factors that come to bear on a specific historical situation: historical events, technological change, philosophical ideas, religious ideas, human migration patterns, diseases, exchanges between different cultures… etc. Each of these factors has a role in shaping peoples’ ideology, which can be defined as “a set of beliefs about the proper order of society and how it can be achieved.” The collective ideology of a given population is known as an ideological landscape.

This executive summary argues that the leap in communication technologies marked by the advent of social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Instagram) represent:  a game-changing shift in how political systems and populations interact with each other, even if the content of that interaction remains based on historical and social factors. This summary argues that the complexity of this shift can be seen in the variety of ways that social media has been used by different political actors from the time period 2011-2017 to directly influence the trajectories of political systems, the ideological landscape they rest upon, as well as the units of that landscape — individual people.

As such, the first two case studies cited by my research present two opposing scenarios: one in which social media is used by a democratic movement to influence an authoritarian political system (2011 Egyptian Revolution); and another where social media is used by an authoritarian political system to influence the population of a democratic country (Russian interference in US politics, 2014 – present). Further improvement in machine learning has aided efforts by political actors to use social media to influence populations. This is seen in our third case study (Cambridge Analytica).

As we look toward the future, based on evidence from the 2011-2017 time period, it is reasonable to that data collection and analysis capabilities from machine learning will continue to be utilized by political actors. As such, the potential for the Internet of Things (IOT) in the context of the power of mass collection of data, will have further disruptive effects on politics.

Case Study 1: 2011 Egyptian Revolution

Egypt was among the first prominent examples of social media being central to a large-scale political upheaval. Indeed, the 2011 Egyptian Revolution was dubbed the “Facebook Revolution”. The Pew Research Center argues that social media platforms facilitated not just the Egyptian revolution, but the entire Arab Spring. It did so in three main ways:

Networks formed online were crucial in organizing a core group of activists, specifically in Egypt.

Civil society leaders in Arab countries emphasized the role of “the internet, mobile phones, and social media” in the protests.

Additionally, digital media has been used by Arabs to exercise freedom of speech and as a space for civic engagement.”

Indeed, social media shaped the nature of the protests themselves to make them more powerful – yet more unpredictable. Scholar Essam Mansour writes, “What makes social media such a powerful and unpredictable force in global politics is that they replace the need for a charismatic leader. Certainly, there were a number of outstanding and courageous protesters, but there was no single face attached to this revolution; They are impossible to control or shut down.” In a way, social media enabled the protests to behave like a swarm or flock, where all the units behave individually, yet somehow end up acting collectively.

However, Mansour also describes social media as “politically agnostic”, meaning that “there is no overseer that watches over, or brand that is stamped on a grass-roots social network. The best anyone can hope for is a small say in what goes on within it.”

Case Study 2: Russian Interference in US Politics

In May 2017, special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed to investigate possible collusion between Russia and the election campaign of US President Donald Trump. The investigation concluded that there was in a strategic effort made by Russian operatives to sow discord in the U.S. political system through using social media to disseminate fake news from as far back as 2014. Russian agents posed as US citizens, made social media groups, organized protests and created web sites with misinformation designed to exploit and exacerbate polarization amongst US citizens. Over time, these social media accounts reached significant numbers of Americans and helped the Trump Campaign defeat Hillary Clinton.

That said, it is unknown how much the effort helped the Trump campaign when compared to other factors. Some argue that the Russian troll farm wasn’t actually that effective or insidious, and they were doing very standard practices of audience development that any media company would be doing.

Cast Study 3: Steve Bannon, Cambridge Analytica & Culture War

Cambridge Analytica (CA) is the intersection of three things: big data, behavioural psychology and micro-targeting. “Big Data” is “an aggregation of all data points that you can get your hands on.” Micro-targeting refers to individualized messaging. So, instead of classifying a person as belonging to a particular voter class (i.e. latino voters or women voters), as has been done in traditional political analysis, micro-targeting allows for a specific message to be tailored to a specific personality. CA is credited with having assisted the Ted Cruz campaign, and then the Trump campaign in 2016.

In an interview with The Guardian, former CA data scientist Christopher Wilke discussed the core issue on how social media, data, and AI can affect not just political system but the ideological landscape itself. He described how Steve Bannon helped to start CA to be a “psychmetric weapon” to fight a culture war in the United States. Bannon was the former editor of Breitbart News, an organization that holds views associated with the Alt-Right that is highly critical of mainstream media for being unfairly liberally biased.

Wilke stated that Steve Bannon “the reason he was interested in this [psychometric weapon], is he had this idea of the Brietbart doctrine, which is that if you want to change politics, you first have to change culture, because politics flows from culture. And so what i said is that if you want to change culture, you first have to understand the units of culture. People are the units of culture. So if you want to change politics, you first have to change people, to change the culture.” 

Trump’s success in the 2016 election as well as the success of the Breitbart new organization in general, can be seen as evidence of the success of this effort at changing the changing the individual “units of culture” using data, AI and social media.

Thus, the ideological landscape of the US has been, and is currently being, shifted by the interaction of social media (interface to the people), data (gathering of information on the people) and AI (analysis of information about the people).


In reviewing the case studies from above, it appears the description of social media as “politically agnostic” applies to big data and AI as well. The above evidence supports the interpretation of social media, big data and AI as representing game-changing increases in capabilities of political actors. As we have seen, for the political actors who have effectively utilized these technologies — they are given a significant advantage over their competition.

Changing people to change culture is not a new concept. In the 20 century, communist governments sough schemes to re-educate their populace to fit their political system. (China’s Cultural Revolution is one prime example of such efforts). As such, based on the examples above it is difficult to say how these technologies impact “ideology” in any one-sided way. This is contrary to earlier arguments of how new technologies were inherently “democratizing”.

The only thing that can be concluded is that new technology seems to be the primary means of political struggle in the foreseeable future, as in the example cites above, those who are not ahead are left behind.