Week 1: Flashlight

This week I designed and built a flashlight using two objects that I found on the ITP “junk” shelf.  First I found a wheel that looks like it might have come from an Ikea product.  Then I found a small bent copper pipe.  I decided to use these two objects to build some sort of rolling headlight.  Figure 1 shows my original design.

Figure 1:  Design Sketch

Figure 1: Design Sketch

The design included a box to house the wheel with a cutout on the bottom to allow the wheel to spin freely.  The copper pipe could attach to the top of the box and house the electrical components.  An LED could shine from the top of the pipe and act as a headlight.  With this general idea in mind, I collected some materials to begin building (Figure 2).  

Figure 2:  Initial Materials

Figure 2: Initial Materials

I began by building the wheel housing out of cardboard.  I cut the cardboard piece based on the drawing shown in Figure 3A.  This shape folded into the box that wrapped around the wheel (Figure 3B,3C).  Hot glue was used on the seams of the box to hold it closed. The height of the box allowed for the wheel to peak out from the bottom and roll between the slit as shown in Figure 3D.  To attach the wheel, four holes were punctured into the cardboard in order to line up with the holes built into the wheel (see Figure 3B).  A paper clip was used on each side of the wheel and bent such that it threaded through the holes of the wheel and cardboard.  A dot of hot glue was used to secure the paperclips in the holes of the cardboard and to avoid ripping the cardboard.  The wheel was properly attached to the cardboard box before the box was glued closed.  Next, hot glue was used to secure the copper pipe to the top of the box.

A coin battery was taped into the free side of the copper pipe so that the positive side of the battery touched the inner surface of the pipe and the negative side faced the center of the pipe.  Two LED’s were attached so that the negative leg touched the negative side of the coin battery (between the tape and the battery) and the positive leg touched the outside of the positively charged copper pipe.  Finally, I covered the front of the pipe with decorative tape in order to hide the electronics inside.  Figure 4 shows the entire assembly and Figure 5 shows how the assembly rolls.  Once this design was complete, I noticed that the LEDs were not giving the bright headlight effect that I initially wanted.  In the future I would like to purchase a small light bulb instead of the LEDs to improve the quality of the light. 

Figure 5: Rolling Final Assembly

Overall, I am happy with how this flashlight turned out.  The initial design is quite cute and resembled a little robot.  A modified design would improved the brightness of the light and make the flashlight more practical.  I envision someone using this light in an instance where they are doing some handy work in a small dark place.  They could easily roll and move the light around to shine more directly on the worksite without having to hold the light in place.  There are many improvements to this design that could further the practicality of the product. First, a switch to turn on and off the light would allow the average user to access this product.  Also, adding remote controls to this headlight could improve the rolling feature.  A motor could control the movement of the entire light and turn the copper pipe.  Adding supports to the box to prevent it from leaning could also improve the design.  Looking back, I wish that I had documented the wheel fastening system that I used with the paperclip to make the description more clear. Lastly, the box could be made out of a stronger material to allow for the wheel to screw into the box instead of fastened with paperclips and hot glue.  

For me, the biggest take away of this project was the power of prototyping fast.  I am glad that I trusted my first design and developed it successfully before thinking of any larger modifications.  I appreciate that my final product very much resembled my initial design while including small improvements that I saw necessary to change right away.  Larger improvements I think should be made on a completely new prototype so that the progress of the idea can be shown and compared.