I wasn’t able to start installing my marble run properly until Tuesday 3rd when the positioning of my piece was decided for certain. This left me with only a small amount of time to correct / fix any parts that weren’t working. Everything had been tested individually, but I had never been able to test every part together – this needed to be done in the exhibition space. This was very nerve-racking, as I desperately wanted to make the run as fool-proof as I could before assessment. Between Tuesday and Friday, I had to work quickly to correct parts on the spot, using DIY materials. Luckily, I had already planned for this, and came prepared with a tool box packed full of all the tools I could think I might need, and all the DIY materials (string, cable ties, glue etc), which I wanted on the top layer of my run.
On Thursday, my marble run was fully functional – everything was in place and connected, but I still needed to make lots of adjustments. The balls were still getting stuck / falling off in places, and the hooks were sometimes still getting stuck. Thursday I had a very late night in the studio, which ended with the overheating of my power supply.
On Friday, I continued to make more adjustments up until the last second. By the deadline, my marble run was working the best it had been, and the marbles were running the full course without any problems.
I am very pleased with the final outcome. This project has been an ongoing challenge the whole year, and taken me through the wringer, but through trial and error, pushing myself and being determined to make it work, I have learned a whole bunch of new skills and knowledge. These are all skills I would not have learned had I not challenged myself and sought to explore and discover many new things this year.
Today was our last day of setting up for our exhibition.
By this point, I had put everything in its place and made sure it all worked. I had a bit of a scare the night before when the power supply overheated, but it didn’t do any damage. My plan for the last day was to run the mechanisms, and keep tweaking everything to try and make the run as fool proof as I could. Every now and again, a marble would stop somewhere on the run (in the end piece before the tube, or after the tube before the stairs, or before the chain), fall off the run (by overshooting the corners, falling off the stairs, or getting stuck in the hooks and missing the start of the run). The hooks would also move and sometimes get caught on the plaster piece below it, stopping the chain.
I tried to solve all of these problems.
When the marbles:
- Stopped in the end piece before the tube, I modelled the inside of the piece with more plasticine to make it more sloped.
- Stopped after the tube before the stairs, I reduced the weight of the ‘curtain’ until it no longer stopped them.
- Stopped before the chain, I sanded the corners so they would not get stuck.
- Overshot the corners, I put up little guards to deflect the marbles.
- Fell off the stairs, I put a ‘Severn bridge’ style threading of string down the sides.
- Got stuck in the hooks and missed the start of the run, I took away the big marbles!
- To stop the hooks from moving I added more glue, hopefully this will hold.
However, not once has a day ever gone to plan. When I came in, I saw that the plaster feet had all but one cracked -badly. I think this is just down to the nature of the materials. When the plaster is wet, the wood absorbs the water. When the plaster dries, it shrinks.
During the day I also filled in the cracks with more plaster and sanded it back down. If they continue to crack, I can do more work to them before the show.
I also finished sorting out my power supply, plastic cable mats and I tidied the wires.
Now I just hope it all goes okay on the day.
One of the last jobs, was to add on the plaster feet.
I was undecided as to whether I should make the feet in similar proportion to the other plaster blocks (which would be 10cm cubed), or whether to make them slightly bigger (12cm cubed).
I went with 12 cm cubed, because I felt 10 would look too small from standing height. Larger would appear to have more weight / give the run more stability, and would make the balance of the whole piece feel better.
Today I had the dilemma about whether or not to use the wooden stairs I made (the ones which follow on from the plastic tubing.
The marbles picked up too much speed going down the plastic tubing, and often fell off the stairs at various angles. I bought some thin wood to attach to the sides of the stairs and act as walls, but I felt these hid the stairs too much and took away from the simplistic aesthetic.
It was suggested to me that I might be able to find a way to slow the speed of the marbles when they exit the tubing, perhaps by hanging something inside the end of the tube which the marbles hit slightly and which takes away some of the momentum.
I am going to try a bit of thin fabric and see if this could work (I feel like it will). If it doesn’t however, I will just swap the stairs for a straight bit of cornering which I know for definite works. – no biggie.
Today, the first action I made involved the earth shattering drop of one of my plaster pieces. Unfortunately – not one I had a mold for.
I managed to break the piece for the end of the run – the piece that holds the plastic tubing etc.
I have tried to put it back together again – It broke off into three odd pieces. I soaked i in water for ten minutes or so, then used a two part Jesmonite mix to ‘glue’ the pieces back together. I then dug slight crevices where the joins were, filled them with fresh plaster, and sanded it back. Hopefully the cracks will not be very noticeable once it is all dry again.
I also cast another piece (which will hopefully work the same), which will need sanding down / tidying up, but then will work as a back up in case I drop the other one again!
The light sensor triggers the linear actuator (trap door). Below is the linear actuator. To make this work, I needed to learn some Arduino.. something I have never done before.
Below is a drawing I have done of all the components involved in the electronic / arduino setup:
I learned about the function of Arduino boards and coding, bread boards, resistors and the motor controllor. This was all quite new to me, the last I had done anything electronic was in secondary school. It has been good fun though – I have refreshed my soldering skills, and my knowledge of power and currents. I have also learned about and played with the arduino coding that I need to get the sensor and actuator working in the way I need them to. Having downloaded the software on my own computer, I plan to carry on having a play with Arduino at home. I still find the wiring / bread board area difficult and confusing, but with practise I hope I will become more confident with it and enjoy using it.
I am very glad I have discovered this before leaving uni – I only wish I’d have tried it sooner! I never thought I would be doing electronics for my final piece – but then I didn’t think I’d be using / learning a lot of the skills which I have been! They are all valuable skills which I am sure I will end up using again.
For the end of slide, I gave been casting and carving in plaster to make a crevice from which the marbles will be ‘scooped up’ from. It was important to get the curve right, so that the hair clip hooks fit in snugly and run close enough to the plaster to make sure no marbles escape (or get flung out).
I had been wondering about what I would need to attach to the bike chain, which would successfully pick up my cermaic balls and drop them off at the top. I had considered many different options: bending spoons, cups /pots or spoons, small brackets, wire, wooden ledges etc. Whilst walking around poundland, I saw hair clips / bobby pins which are essentially just manipulated, coated bits of strong wire. I tried curling one side of the bobby pin upwards and placing one either side of the bike chain, wrapped around a bolt. These work very well at carrying the marbles up the chain, and dropping the marbles off onto the run at the top. The only thing I have yet to test, is how efficiant the bobby pins are at scooping up the marbles from the bottom of the slide (which I have not yet finished making).