Urban Hacks

Harpvard Bridge: Final

Sam Daitzman and Cooper Grace

Harpvard Bridge hacks the space on Harvard Bridge, the bridge joining Back Bay and Cambridge. It takes advantage of the number of people who walk across the bridge between Boston and Cambridge while trailing their fingers along the railing by converting a segment of the rail into a digital harp. The harp has six strings, but it can support many more if one were to make a large public instillation of this project. The strings are standard guitar/harp strings and they produce the same sound as a guitar does. Each pair of strings is also fitted with a distance sensor, and they feed all their data back into a locked box holding an Arduino microprocessor board and speaker system. While the traditional strings are twanged, the speaker plays a complementary sound. Each pair of strings has a different sound. The hack turns trailing one's fingers along the rail into a fun, musical experience.


Jen Volcker

The purpose of our hammock was to provide a portable sleeping appartus for pedestrians walking down the street. The main idea of our final project is to have a strong, sturdy hammock that is comfortable and intriguing to sit on. We were thinking about people who need a comfy place to sleep in replacement of something such as a bench.This person may also be walking home from a long day of work and needs to sit down to think for a few minutes, or have just come from an exhausting meeting and want to regain their energy before continuing. 

Benches are not good for someone to sleep on because they are not comfortable. Benches are meant for sitting, not sleeping! When you sit in a hammock, you feel comfortable and even less vulnerable. Hammocks are meant for sleeping on unlike benches.

Our hammock is made of sturdy material. As soon as we began to create the final version of our hammock we knew the material had to be this sturdy if someone wanted to comfortably sit/sleep in it. We got strong fabric (almost a smooth burlapy material) and measured out the dimensions of the hammock we wanted. We cut the fabric to this size and for extra strength, we doubled the fabric. To do this I placed one sheet on top of another, pinned and sewed it.

We decided we wanted this hammock to have a little something extra to it because it seemed extremely mainstream. In our process we talked about adding a pressure or flex sensor so that when someone sits in the hammock an LED strip lights up, causing someone to be more interested in sitting in the hammock. This light will make it more exciting for people to use the hammock outside at night as well. You cannot see the LED strip light up that well during the day, however, it looks really cool at night. This light and sensor involves coding meaning it involves an Arduino board and battery.

We could not just leave these hanging out of the chair so while we sewed the two sheets together, we left a pocket open. When we turned the sheets rightside out (we sewed them inside out so the stitches would be neat on the outside), the pocket was easily hidden so we could put in the board and battery. The hammock easily folds up so one may carry it on their back or even a backpack/tote bag.

Now that the hammcok itself was done, we wanted to include more "pizazz" in addition to our LED strip. Our main word for this hammock was "intriguing", so we thought, "what is intriguing?". When people see text or words, they are more inclined to the object so we decided we wanted our hammock to say, "sit" all over. Using Rhino and the laser cutter, I created a stencil of this word and spray painted it all over the hammock on both sides. This made it look super jazzy. We went out to test our final hammock and were glad to conclude that it filled all our wishes.

The Process

Kristopher Aime and Jen Volcker

Urban Hacks was the idea of hacking the urban environment in a way that would affect everyone that interacts with the environment. After coming up with a bunch of ideas, we decided on making a hammock. We wanted people who walk by on the street to be able to sit down and relax or even take a nap at any time given in a more comfy option than a bench.


Our first brainstorm included all the ideas we originally wanted to put in our hammock. A lot of those extra ideas were cut as the project progressed but some were added. In the sketch, we wanted to add speakers on either side of the persons head. We also wanted to put a cupholder on one of the poles that the hammock would be connected to. Before we made a lifesized model and worried about putting those extras in, we made a smaller scaled model so we could be more comfortable with our concept and see if we wanted to change anything before we got into the lifesized model.


We used a little piece of fabric, laser cut some thin wood and used rope to get our first model up. It was onto the next model from there. The idea had seen a major change though. Instead of being hung on two poles, this hammock would be hung on one pole and be more like a seat. With that design change we decided to take out both the speakers and the cupholders because it seemed like those would just go to waste and add extra complication.


We got cracking on the first lifesized model of ours. We put in a support beam that would be above the hammock and would help connect both sides of the hammock together and have it hang from the pole. There wasn't much to the model originally so we had the idea of making it light up! With the support beam added it would be a good place to put an LED strip on. It makes the hammock seem more intriguing and more interactive. I spent a lot of time working with Arduino and the LED strips. At first, I just tried to get a very small bulb to light up which I was able to figure out. We thought it was too simple for the LED to be on all the time and that would drain the battery quickly so we wanted the LED lights to turn on once someone sat on the hammock. To make that possible I started working with the flex sensor as I still continued to figure out coding in Arduino. I continued to work with the small bulb light and it wasn't until later that I used the LED strip. Since they were both sources of light, it didn't matter much which I used, and the bulb took up less space and just made the process feel cleaner. Only difference would be the code for the lights. I already had a code ready for the LED strips where I would just have to edit it and put the specific amount of lights on the strip which was 25. Now, with everything working with Arduino, if the sensor received any flex, it would activate the LED strip. It was now time to put it in/on the hammock itself. We didn't put in the sensor until we worked on our final hammock.


After testing our first lifesized model, we thought it was good but we should make it a bit bigger and possible more comfortable. With the rope being yellow, we decided to paint all of the hammock yellow so it would look better. Our new fabric was already yellow so it was just a matter of painting the support beam. We also made a pocket in our fabric that we could place the Arduino board along with the battery in, which we needed for the lights to work. Lastly, we decided to update the look due to a small accident. We had a sit stencil we designed and we spraypainted onto the final model. While spraypainting, a breeze came through and spread the paint randomly, so we decided to do that all over the fabric which came out really well.


Nicholas Martin and Samuel Zintl

This projects purpose was to make waiting for public transportation more interesting and engaging while also bringing people together. We sought have people be stimulated and engaged not only by the game itself but also by each other. The project aided the major problem of weariness and boredom in a specific situation while bringing strangers together, who otherwise would never have known each other. The overall problem we attempted to solve was the lack of interest and engagement while waiting for anything, but especially public transport. We tried to solve that problem with a game that anyone could play that retained a balance of stimulation and effortless action. We did not want the public tired after playing our game yet we wanted them to be involved and interested to the perfect point. This project is important because it is the solution to a very common problem that is ignored. It solves a problem while creating social interactions and has no drawbacks or flaws to cause conflict.


Nicholas Martin



Maddie Block

We were asked to use existing infrastructure on the street to create an interesting experience for pedestrians. We chose to focus on the problem of littering, specifically cigarette butts. We started with an idea of an trash disposal that encourages people to throw away trash. Use entertainment and fun to encorage people to dispose of their trash. The original idea was to have a ring of lights around the top of the trash can, so that when somebody threw something out, there would be small light show. This would encourage people to throw things away by adding an aspect of fun to it. While looking for trash cans to use for our project, we noticed that the main problem with littering on the street was not the trash mostly, but cigarette butts. After we made this made this observation we decided mold our idea that it was more important to focus on cigarette butts, since we saw many more of them on the street than trash. Like with our idea for the trash can, we wanted to add something to the cigarette disposal to make it unique. We wanted to keep with the general idea of having something on the top of the disposal to encourage people to use it. Once we looked at a couple cigarette disposals, we morphed our old idea of the jaws and came up with the idea of a monster on the top.

Originally our idea was to use a distance sensor to sense an approaching object, and trigger a motor. This would result in the monster's jaw opening on one side, the gears rotate the other half. We chose our location to be near MIT outside a bar, since generally people smoke more around alcohol. The monster would not be seen at first, so that when someone would put their cigarette in, it would be a surprise. Eventually, we realized that this would not fix our original idea, seeing that people were not throwing away their cigarettes int the disposals in the first place

We then modified out idea to be more stationary. Going more with our original idea, we wanted a reaction when someone activated the monster by throwing something inside. So, now the monster would cough when something was thrown inside. We then designed the monster's face, so that the only hole it had was the mouth, and the single eye was the speaker. This way, we could have complete control over where the cigarette fell. The falling cigarette would break a beam of light shining onto a light sensor, and trigger the coughing. Unfortunately, it is extremely hard to fit a laser pointer into a small space with room for a cigarette to be able to pass through cleanly, so instead, we decided to have the laser pointing into a mirror, and then onto the light sensor.

We ended up finishing the project, and put it to use. Our biggest problem was that the actual monster did not fit inside the disposal how we originally wanted it to, instead it rested on top of the cigarette disposal. 


Maddie Block and Abi Tenenbaum

Our hack is one that goes on top of a cigarette dispenser that without a top. We decided to make this since we noticed many people were smoking, and throwing their cigarettes on the sidewalk rather than disposing them. The goal was to do something benifiting both the enviroment and the smokers health. The top represents the face a of a monster with a speaker for an eye, and an open slot for the mouth. When someone is outside smoking and wants to dispose of their cigarrette, they can drop it in the monster's mouth. Inside the monster, there is a laser pointer that shines onto a mirror and onto a light sensor. Once the cigarette falls it brakes the beam, resulting in the monster making a coughing noise. The decision to have the monster cough was made so that we could portray the message that smoking is unhealthy.