Arduino Craft & Design
Tropism Well: A Tall Drink of Water

By Laura Cochrane

Read MAKE magazine: Volume 32Instead of cricking your neck to drink from a water fountain, what if the fountain cricked its neck for you? This thought occurred to designers Richard Harvey and Keivor John, after seeing a call to rejuvenate public drinking fountains.

Friends since age 10, Harvey, 27, and John, 28, run Poietic Studio, a London design company. (Poietic: productive, formative. From the Greek poiētēs: maker, poet.) Their combined expertise includes audiology, interaction design, and repairing classic porches.

The pair developed their idea into Tropism Well, an interactive sculpture that senses when someone is near and bows to pour water into a glass. The first prototype employed a linear actuator to bend the neck, but the movement was too robotic. Then they realized the weight of the water could be used to achieve a more natural bowing motion.

The final iteration is almost 10 feet tall, with a base of stacked wooden discs, reminiscent of a spine, and a stainless steel neck with a glass carafe on the end. An Arduino Mega and ultrasonic sensor work to detect the user, triggering water to pump up into the carafe. As the weight at the top increases, the Well gracefully bends its neck, pouring water if the sensor installed on the carafe detects a waiting receptacle.

“We see it like a generous mother goose,” Harvey explains. “It’s using the weight to power the movement rather than a motor; that gives it the feel of something more natural and something you can have empathy with. We think this is why people say ‘thank you’ to it.”

Above is an excerpt from the pages of MAKE Volume 32: Design for Makers

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"To oppose something is to maintain it." –Ursula Le Guin

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