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Thinking with Portals

I've been going through some of my old projects and I can't believe I never uploaded this one! I did this project back in 2019 in Martzi Campos' class. For this assignment, my goal was to learn a new skill so I decided to combine something new with something I already love: Arduinos.



Portal is absolutely one of my favorite games, in part because I love droids and robots so much. After scrolling Instructables for inspiration, I saw amazing projects like this life size Portal turret with motion controlled audio and lighting, I started thinking about how to build a more cost effective version. I didn't have easy access to the tools I have now, so I wasn't able to follow the same steps this tutorial has.


This got me thinking about cosplay. I hadn't done much cosplay on my own but I knew that cosplayers like to use EVA foam to make armor pieces. Since this is something I wanted to do in the future, I decided to craft my turret out of EVA foam!

Before I did anything, I looked at cosplay tutorials to figure out what exactly I needed to make this happen. For this project, I bought an N95 mask, paint brushes, x-acto knife, spray paint, the EVA itself (not pictured), and a heat gun (not pictured). Before I officially started working, I looked at a bunch of resources online to figure out how big the turrets actually are. Turns out, they're really freaking tall, like 5 or 6 feet! I didn't have enough EVA foam to make a 6 foot tall turret so I scaled down a bit and made mine 4 feet tall instead.





Since I was scaling my turret down, I wanted to make sure I got my measurements and proportions the way I liked them. Luckily, my roommate and I saved all of the cardboard we had from moving and from ordering packages online because she knew I liked to use cardboard to prototype. I grabbed a few of these boxes and I cut out the silhouette of one side of the turret. I then used this as my main template for the EVA turret.


I would use the cardboard turret to trace the same shape into my EVA with a pencil. Then, I traced the pencil with my x-acto knife to get the shape I wanted. I got really thick EVA so this took a few passes to get the properly proportioned piece out. Then it was warping time! Warping the EVA turned out to be a lot of fun. It was a little difficult at first but as I kept going, I found a groove.

After cutting out my shape, I mod podged it to make painting it much easier. While waiting for that to dry, I moved onto the second piece and mod podged that one too. For the other two pieces, I decided to use flat pieces of EVA because it was beyond my know-how to get 4 curved pieces to fit together and stay in their proper shape.


To paint the pieces, I used white spray paint, which was a really fun part of the process. Once the spray paint dried, I used acrylic paint to go over certain lines and little touches.


Once I had the turret together, I used the excess EVA to create a little shelf for my electronics and started working on the Arduino side of things. Initially, I felt like this would be easy because all I needed to do was to detect if there was any motion, then turn on a red LED and play a sound. The first part was definitely easy! I was able to detect motion with a PIR sensor and I was able to turn on an LED for the eye. Playing a sound though was really difficult. I tried many different methods, including playing a sound through an SD card. Even with my professor's help, I wasn't able to get it working in time so I didn't end up having sound in my final project. This is something I plan on revisiting with projects in the future though and once I figure that out, I'll have a talking turret! But for now, I'm really happy with Betsy (that's what I named the turret).


Here's a short clip of Betsy in all her glory:

Somehow when I presented her live in class, she turned the LED on right away! So I didn't have to wave my foot in front of her face for this long when it came down to the presentation.

For my final presentation, I brought Betsy to class to demonstrate how she worked, and I gave a small slide presentation about my progress. I also had recently gotten into embroidery at that time so I bought a cheap lab coat online and embroidered the Aperture Labs logo onto it. My class seemed to really enjoy my project and I'm really happy with how Betsy turned out!

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