Creating a Centerpiece for the UMW Foundation Reception

The process of making the centerpieces for the UMW Foundation dinner was challenging yet fun. The first part was coming up with what we wanted the centerpieces to look like and what it would do, from the beginning of the build we had the idea of at least one thing moving on the centerpiece and having many LEDs attached to it.

The logo that would be moving.

The main problem we first ran into was how we were going to make all these interactions happen without building a really complex circuit. This brought up the idea of using an Arduino to power and control everything within the centerpiece, this made it easy to change the way the centerpiece worked. The idea of the program was to get a servo moving and make LEDs light up in an alternating pattern with the simple push of a button. The program was very simple to do for this, however, it was complex on the actual circuit board.

The wiring on the breadboard.

Some problems we ran into with the circuit was the power supply itself, if we didn’t connect a full 9-volt battery to the Arduino then it would power off at random times. Another problem with the circuit was that if the connection to the button wasn’t connected all the way then the servo and LEDs would go off randomly giving it a creepy effect that would probably be annoying to sit near. Finally we got the first prototype of what the centerpiece was going to be when we realized that we did not have enough Arduinos for all the tables and that we were going to use a lot of LEDs.


Prototype of what we thought of.

Two other problems were that we did not have enough of the right kind of batteries and buttons for it to be controlled. We solved the Arduino supply problem by being able to reprogram the HummingBird boards we had to act exactly like an Arduino so we could have enough of the centerpieces. For the batteries and buttons we had to order more off of Amazon. The last thing we had to do was build the same program on each Arduino and the same type of circuit for all the LEDs, buttons, and servos which was easy but time-consuming because we had to test each one and some had problems with the wiring but that was easily solved with a multimeter or even rewiring it entirely.

The final product

UMW Keychains

For UMW’s reunion weekend I was asked by the head of Access Services here at the Simpson Library to come up with something to give to alumni. After playing around with all sorts of different complicated ideas I finally decided on making a simple keychain with the UMW logo on it. Initially I attempted to create my own UMW column logo in SketchUp, but this was my first time designing in the program and I found my progress to be far too slow. In the middle of my poor design I suddenly recalled that there way a way in Tinkercad to take an image and make it in to a 3d(ish) print.

First you’ll need get an image. I’m using the UMW logo for my example:

UMW LogoAfter you’ve downloaded your image you’ll need change it to an .svg (scalable vector graphics) file if it is not already in that file format. There are several websites out there that will do this conversion for you, I used Convertio. You could also build your own svg image in a program like InkScape.

Next you’ll open up Tinkercad and import the .svg file in to the program and choose whatever size and settings you want for the import. Assuming everything is kosher with your file it should create a nice like 3D file that looks something like this (this image already includes a few of my edits):

UMW Logo Keychain in TinkercadSince I was making these in to keychains I added a hole to the design in a corner that had some extra space in it and made the keychain a bit thinner (I was trying to keep print time down so I could print lots of copies). I exported the file out of Tinkercad and used the software that goes with our Dremel 3D20 printers to ready the prints for the build phase. The prints took 21 minutes to print (it feels like a lot of time for not much plastic, but there are a lot of holes and curves the printer has to deal with on this one). In the end I think they came out pretty well:

I think next time I’ll move the hole to the diagonal corner because they hang upside down once they are on the keychain. Also, I might make the print bigger or find smaller keyrings because the print probably weighed less than the keyring itself. Despite the adjustments I’d make in retrospect these were quite popular at our table for reunion weekend.

If you want to print your own here is the stl file: