Create an assistive device for yourself. Observe various problems that plague you in your everyday life and brainstorm a device, using an Arduino, that would be able to solve that problem. 


Physical Prototying

Laser Cutter

Soldering Iron


LED RGB Strips

LCD Display


Mirrored Acrylic

Mason Jar

Mylar Film

Copper Tape



Of the numerous problems I tackled and solutions that I brainstormed, the one that I was the most enthusiastic about was stagnation from change. As a human being, I love change. One of the things I love the most about college is the change in activities and schedules between the days of the week and complete schedule refreshes every semester. I'm very aware of the fact that once college ends, my life will most likely become one of routine and stagnation from change. The purpose of this assistive device is to prompt me out of my comfort zone. It also serves as a version of a journal where memories are stored which I'm usually terrible at remembering to keep up to date. 


Similar to the jar full of memories that some people choose to keep and read at the end of a year, I've decided to create a jar of change. The concept is simple: the LED strip lights up the jar, which will be placed somewhere visible inside the user's bedroom. Every time the jar has been opened, that will have meant a note/picture/drawing/anything will have been placed in the jar as evidence of my "act of change". This can be in terms of learning a new skill, tackling a new self-assigned project, trying a new activity, meeting new strangers, putting yourself out there more, etc. What ultimately matters is that it will prompt the user to try new things that make their life more exciting. After a set period of time, the LEDs will flash through sequences of patterns to notify the user of the passage of time while still being visually interesting.


The current settings are rainbow for the first month, sequencing with orange the second month, sequencing through red the third month, and flashing red the fourth month. The LED sequences and timing can be augmented in the Arduino IDE which uses C/C++ code. In reality, the durations should be tested to optimize the impact of the stages in influencing the user and the number of stages can be altered to create visible correlations between the lighting patterns and sense of urgency to change. Opening the jar causes the magnet on the lid to trigger the hall sensor, setting the timer back to zero.

Default closed state

Hall sensor (right) hiding behind the mylar film, magnet (above) attached to lid

LCD Display with encouraging messages and after enough time, suggesting new activities to try out

Mylar film hides LED wiring from the user

Jar of Change schematic




One problem I ran into was the implementation of the counter. The Arduino records time in milliseconds which adds up fast. Even the largest value of storage, unsigned long, only counts up to 4.2 billion. One day alone contains 86,400,000 milliseconds. A real time clock connected to the Arduino would be able to record the last time that the jar had been opened and determine the state of the jar depending on how long ago that was. The real time clock also has the advantage of not losing count if the device is unplugged or a power outage occurs.


The current container design plays with reflection and refraction of light from the LEDs/LCD screen to the user. Given more time, I would have liked to prototype some other designs, especially exploring more organic forms to compliment the curved sides of the jar. One aspect to experiment with is if there's a method that will increase legibility of the message, even when the user is across the room


Optimally I would enjoy if the LCD screen could be connected to some version of an online bucket list on Google Docs/Pinterest or could peruse the internet for seasonal activity suggestions specific to my city. Though in reality my phone could easily fulfill those purposes, it would be very convenient if personalized suggestions could appear on the display, tempting me to venture out of my comfort zone while being realistic and taking into account what I've already accomplished.

© 2019 by Lexi Yan. All Rights Reserved.