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Central Square Music Box: Wheels On The Bus

Waiting for the Bus Stop | Projects

  •     In this studio, we were challenged to make an art piece that kept people busy while they waited for the bus. The first solution we came up with, was making a pedal box under the bus stop seats, that would allow commuters to pedal and generate electricity. This could be used for charging electronics or powering a sign that tells you when the bus is coming. We later pivoted because this was kind of a solitary idea. Although it encouraged you to charge and use your phone, it wasn't really a form of art. So, we wanted to make something that was interactive, communal, and is a piece of art. We split up to come up with ideas, and we all decided on a large cylindrical music box that you could spin around a pole making music.

     

  •     In this studio, we were challenged to make an art piece that kept people busy while they waited for the bus. The first solution we came up with, was making a pedal box under the bus stop seats, that would allow commuters to pedal and generate electricity. This could be used for charging electronics or powering a sign that tells you when the bus is coming. We later pivoted because this was kind of a solitary idea. Although it encouraged you to charge and use your phone, it wasn't really a form of art. So we wanted to make something that was interactive, communal, and is a piece of art. We split up to come up with ideas, and we all decided on a large cylindrical music box that you could spin around a pole making music.

        Because our initial idea was a pedal generator, we did some research about them, and how they work. We wanted to incorporate the mechanical aspect of a pedal into our music box. This seemed very complicated at first, because we thought about designing a gear ratio to limit the speed you could spin it. If we used a crank as well, there’d be more rhythmic consistency. But we were challenged to make the design different than a usual one. Rosie and Nathan suggested that we try a spinning mechanism without the gears and handle. This presented a new set of challenges that we worked towards overcoming. Based on our research, this would be one of a kind. We couldn’t find anything that was an inside out music box. Because our project is so unique, it has benefits and drawbacks. It is great because it means we are being original and creative. One drawback is that due to the lack of similar projects, we had to come up with every single detail ourselves, or using regular music boxes. Since there are plenty of regular music boxes out there, research on basic principles wasn't very time consuming. The real amount of work went in to figuring out how we'd take what we learn from these DIY music boxes, and make them our own, all while flipping the music box part inside out. Some other research we did was another quick bit of research that gave a lot in terms of results. We looked in to tuning and how to use rhythms so that our song would sound recognizable and also would be a little different. Ethan did a great job arranging the song, he even made it into a duet.

       Our first idea was to have a few bicycles at the bus stop that would be connected to a generator. The generator could then power something fun like a game or something useful like heated blankets or a fan. But after days of brainstorming, we found out that our idea didn’t fit in to the purpose of the studio. So, we scratched that idea to try to find something more fun. The first thing we did was to separate and just generate ideas. After generating two or three, we would get together and discuss our ideas. During this process, we noticed that most of our ideas were about music. Out of those ideas, the most plausible concept was a music box. We thought, with a music box, we could build multiple music boxes that could be mounted to the bus post. To make the music boxes more user immersive we designed one that could have interchangeable pegs so that the user could create their own songs. Also we could have multiples at a bus stop that are all tuned to the same key so that people could play together. We came up with two ideas of how to mount the music box to the bus pole. Our first idea was to have a regular music box mounted sideways on the pole. Our second idea was to have an inverted music box that fit over the pole. What this means is that the keys would be on the inside of the wheel. We decided to go with the second idea because if incorporated the post more so than the other one.

       Our first iteration was a really basic design just to test out the materials. We made the wheel out of cardboard and wooden pegs. We made the keys out of wood. The wooden pegs did work but the cardboard was too soft to keep the pegs in. The wood worked fairly well for the keys, but they were to stiff and would not be able to bend and vibrate as much as we would need it to be.  In the second iteration we tested different materials. We tried spring steel this time for the keys. The steel was louder than the wood because it was able to vibrate more. Because the steel was separated from the wood that held it in place, we were able to tune the keys to a C major scale. We then tried  to use wood for the wheel because it was sturdier and was readily accessible. Before we started building we ran into a problem. The wheel on a music box had to be a perfect circle and it would take a very long time to even get close to that. So we chose to create a multi sided wheel instead. For this model we wanted to have the music box play “Wheels on the Bus”, So we needed 72 sides to the wheel. We still wanted to show that this could be interchangeable so we put eight holes in each of the sides. On our final iteration, we kept the spring steel keys but we added a resonation chamber on the bottom to allow the sound to become louder. We made the wheel entirely out of wood, but we only cut the holes we needed to play the song “Wheels on the Bus” to save time in the laser cutter. We had also covered the wood pegs in felt to dampen the unwanted noise. On this model we added more of the more technical pieces to make this model work. one of the most essential part of this design was to create something that would allow the wheel to rotate around the pole. We first wanted to 3D print skateboard ball bearings because those bearings are mostly silent, provide little resistance and were already able to do what we needed it to do. But because we needed the bearings to be so large, we were not able to 3D print them. We were then forced to come up with other ideas. The ideas we came up with had less moving parts and were plausible to be able to build. On the top we created an acrylic slider that would attach to the pole and sandwich between two other pieces of acrylic that would be attached to the wheel. This would provide little resistance and easier fabrication. On the bottom we put singular ball bearings that would roll on top of a stationary plate that the wheel would sit on. The plate and bearings were designed to bear the load of the wheel.

        Our project is put together in a seventy-two sided box. The reason it needs all of these sides, is because we need each side to either have a note, or have a rest. The way that the music box is plucked is pegs that were glued into carefully mapped out holes on our sides. The music box itself has two components, the first being a part based on a thumb piano with the tongs that are hit, and the resonation chamber. The thumb piano part required a lot of thought early on in our project. We had to put each tong and make sure that it was tuned correctly on a C major scale. This was challenging for the first tong, but after that, it became easier. For the first one, we had to calibrate its angle and length for it to play a low C. Once this was done, the rest was relatively easy. We were able to build off of this first one, each being pushed in a little further than the last. The resonation chamber was manufactured using a box making website, as well as a hole in one side. The next two parts are the sliders on the top and the ball bearings on the bottom. The ball bearings were pretty simple to attach, however they required precise measurement to find out where we should attach them. The sliders on top were prototyped 3 or 4 times before we cut them out of acrylic. There are three parts to these, the top and bottom pieces which are screwed together, and the middle piece which spins freely in the center. We also made two mounting brackets that were 3D printed three times, the first time, the printer ran out of plastic. The second time, the width measurement was off by less than one millimeter, but we couldn’t fix it unless we re-printed it. These mount to the secure acrylic pieces and to the bus pole. The box with the tongs and resonation chamber is fixed to the pole in the middle of all of this.

        The music box is spun around the pole which strikes the tongs in the middle, and resonating through the music box. Although we didn’t have enough time to finish our prototype, we know that if we were given more time, we would have a working one. Another way we were thinking of rotating the box was with a crank. But we were challenged to make one without a crank. This is how most music boxes function, so we were going to be totally original.

        This music box is a solution to the problem that many people who take the bus daily have. They are more than likely always on their phone, computer, tablet, or reading a book. We were challenged to make an art piece that is interactive and brings people together. We did this by making a music box that is extremely unique. Ours is not only spun without a crank, or a motor, but it is flipped completely inside out! During our research, we didn’t find anything like this out there. We spent a lot of time brainstorming, which meant more fleshed out ideas, but it also lead to less time to build. this wasn’t a huge deal because we are at a point now where we can demonstrate our idea with confidence that it would work if we had a few more days time.