Building Things

We want to build something real. Don’t get me wrong, software’s flippin’ cool man, but too much of one thing is good for nothing. And that’s all we’ve been doing lately; nothing but Unity this and WebSockets that. So we’re setting our digital tools aside, applying a liberal amount of elbow grease, and making a real, physical thing.

But ‘things’ are a far-cry from lines of code and despite being pretty handy with an axe, none of us could be described as the crafty type. Is this going to stop us? Nope. Will we regret it? Maybe.

On the surface the concept seems fairly simple – cut the bottom off a bottle, ‘frost’ it, construct a base to house the Arduino, scaffold an LED matrix within the cavity, and secure the base. Even as I type this out I’m beginning to see where we might run into problems. I mean, how do you even cut glass? Before we get too bogged down in the details we’d best acquire the component parts before deciding how to bodge them together.

A Recipe for Disaster

  • Bottle
  • Cork
  • Base
  • LED matrix
  • Light sensor
  • Battery pack
  • Frosting spray

Even the first item on the list, a bottle, is harder than it sounds; when was the last time you walked past the ‘custom glass bottle shop’ on your local high street? My guess is never. The closest thing we could think of was an artisanal glassblower – should those even exist – but just saying those words made my purse strings tighten and so we opted to find rather than fabricate.

Many “high-street” products come in glass bottles but when you specify down to rounded clear glass bottles the choice is greatly narrowed. Discounting iconically shaped or logo embossed bottles we decided that the classic milk bottle was probably our best bet – we just have to cross our fingers and hope that all the tech will fit.

As it turns out milk bottles aren’t even particularly easy to find either; when was the last time you saw a milkman? The idea of having to order hundreds of bottles from a trade supplier was not a pleasant one. Luckily, local drinking hole “The Dairy” has a cheesy gimmick of serving cocktails in the very same bottles we were after.

We rolled up to The Dairy around closing time, cash in hand, hoping to score a bottle or two. To our delight the bar scrubbing ships captain said we could have a few free of charge. Trying not to milk the situation we asked for six in case of third party, fire or theft.

Slowly but surely we’re making ground. I foresee things getting a little ‘scrapheap challenge’ along the way, but you do what you can with what you have. I guess it’s time to exclaim; let the games begin!