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Tree Periscope

Devices for Discovery | Projects

  • Our goal was to create a device to let kids see above their normal field of vision into the natural space of treetops, so that their experience of sight is changed and transformed into a personal adventure. We did this by making a looking device that can be used to see above the treetops.

    We made a device that will give children a different experience, inspiring them to think outside of the box, and igniting their imaginations as they see the world from above the trees.  This device can also be rotated and moved up and down with motors to adjust and broaden their field of vision. As a kid I was always shorter than my parents, and up until a about a year ago, that remained true.  I feel that the fact that parents are generally tall gives them a certain sense of authority that kids just can’t seem to muster up.  The day that I became taller than my mom, everything changed.  That day I became a grown up, well not really, but it would have been nice.  Kids associate height with maturity.  They think that people who are really tall, are really grown up. This device that we created evokes that feeling of maturity and equality to adults in children anytime they want.

    Our project brings back your memories of climbing trees and being young/younger again. We wanted to make a periscope that could move. Our periscope is adjustable in height, using a rack and pinion and motor.  The device also swivels at its top most part with two gears and a motor.  The top of the periscope is mounted on a ball bearing, so that it swivels, and can still maintain the shape of a rectangular box.  The two motors are hooked up to an Arduino that we programmed to adjust the direction of the motors based on the turning of potentiometers.  There are also two mirrors mounted at 45-degree angles in either end of the periscope.

    After coming up with the feeling we wanted to convey from using our object, we got to work sketching the designs for our periscope. From our sketches, we decided that we primarily wanted our periscope to move up and down in height, rotate 360 degrees, and to be mounted on a tree. We first began the construction of our periscope using PVC, but soon realized that the shape of the PVC would be hard to mount onto a tree. We then moved on to a more rectangular shaped periscope with two rectangular pieces that made the scope but ran into the problem that rectangular boxes do not swivel very easily within each other. We then came up with our final design for the periscope, in which we now have three rectangular boxes that are all connected. We added the final touches to our periscope by attaching a rack and pinion with a motor; to adjust the height, and adding a motor and ball bearing to the top, which helps the top piece of the scope swivel.

    One of the main design challenges in this project was enabling the periscope to move up and down, but also rotate.  The reason that this proved to be so difficult was because we wanted a rectangular design for the periscope for sturdiness and so that the scope could be easily attached to a tree.  We also are still faced with a challenge regarding the mirrors.  If someone looks into the periscope and the scope rotates without the viewer moving their head, then the image that the viewer is seeing slowly starts to flip upside down.

    For the first iteration of the periscope we decided to make the body of the scope out of PVC Pipe.  The problem with this was that we did not have the correct size PVC pipe to make the scope, so we had to make it very small, which meant that the mirrors would be small.  In the first iteration, we were going to cut circular mirrors, but a coach suggested that we use oval mirrors instead.  This worked a lot better because the viewer could see more through the scope and due to the larger size of the mirror.  We also wanted the periscope to move up and down.  The scope was made using two PVC pipes, with the bottom PVC pipe cut in half.  The reason we did this was because we wanted to make a slot for handles to put on the top piece so that it could be moved up and down.  The problems with this method were: the slots on the side let in too much light, the handles of the scope could be seen when the viewer looked through, and the top part of the scope was unstable due to the diameter of the bottom piece being too large.  The next iteration fixed this issue.

    Our second iteration we decided to laser cut cardboard so that we could have better fitting components. We made two large rectangles, one was smaller than the other so we could fit inside without letting in any light. We also made it a lot bigger so that we could have bigger mirrors. One of the main problems was that it could not turn side to side. Because of the weight of the upper part, it was hard to move up and down.

    For our third iteration we  talked to coaches, and we decided to make a smaller version so that we could focus more on the mechanics. We decided we wanted to move it up and down with a gear, but we were not sure about how to move it side to side. We made this iteration out of laser cut thin wood. We made two rectangles, one smaller than the other. Both rectangles had a side that was cut diagonally for the mirror and a hole to see through. A problem with this iteration was that we didn't account for the width of the wood, and the smaller rectangle did not fit inside the bigger rectangle.

    For our final Iteration we needed some way for the periscope to rotate while keeping the user’s head stationary.  After talking with a coach, he came up with the idea of having a ball bearing at the top of the periscope, on which the top most part of the scope would be mounted.  The reason it would have been so hard to do this with one piece of the scope inside a larger piece is because one cannot rotate a square inside another square with a similar side length.  He also said that we could have a middle part of the periscope that would be smaller that the bottom so that it could travel up and down with a rack and pinion