Not Asleep!


'Not Asleep' tells a story of a grandma with servo motors. The project is for course Creative Technology 1 in fall term, 2019, instructed by Maxim Safioulline and Elise Co.


Create an interactive piece that uses one or more servo motors to create something that feels alive. It must be based on research inspiration, where you find an example of something alive that behaves through movement.
The requirements are: Have more than one type of movement – this creates a much greater sense of life. The servo must be attached to something that it moves. The movement must be altered based on input from a sensor(s). Avoid literal human faces. Use more than one sensor and/or more than one servo.


CircuitPython, Circuit Playground Express, servo motors, cardboards.


Interaction, Behavior, Coding


2019 Fall


The story is from an experience which many people have: For many times, you’ve seen grandma falls asleep when watching TV. You might quietly turn off the TV, thinking she would sleep better without the noices, however she wakes up immediately when you turn it off and insists she is not sleeping.

Turning this observation into code:

The on/off status of LED on the circuit playground express board represents the TV. When the LED is on, the TV is on; when the LED is off, the TV is off.

The rotating movement of the servo motor represents grandma’s falling sleep/being awake. The servo motor rotates, representing grandma nods which means she falls asleep; the servo motor stops rotation and goes to a vertical angle, representing grandma wakes up.  

Grandma falls asleep when it gets late. The servo motor will start to rotate when the light sensor detects the environment getting dim.  

Grandma will wake up when she hears big noises, in this case, the servo motor will stop rotating and goes to a vertical position when the sound sensor detects loud noises.  

When the TV is turned off, grandma will wake up. To imitate this, the servo motor stops rotating and goes to a vertical position when the LED is turned off by the command of pressing the button on the circuit playground express board.

The angle of servo’s rotation is random, which makes it less robotic.

Sketch of the robot structure

Outcome & Reflection

This project starts with tiny details from daily life. It's about exploring human behavior and observing life.

I enjoy incorporating personal experiences into the design, which I believe can arouse the audience's resonance. In the final presentation, I prepared a narrator script and introduced the ‘Grandma’ to everyone as a real human being. Grandma responses to the change of environment and the peers from different cultures laughed when Grandma woke up and said, "I wasn't asleep," and many said they had similar experiences. It was one of the best moments of mine.

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