Stabilizer: Works Like

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For the works-like sketch model of the stabilizer, we wanted to construct a scale model of the stabilizer and explore actual operation with users.

Here we see two astronauts operating the stabilizer. The smiles shown are of actual pure joy. These users performed a demonstration, maneuvering the stabilizer until the guidance system illuminated the target.

How does it work?

The stabilizer is self righting. When users approach the stabilizer, it is in a level state. When one user steps on the stabilizer, it becomes unstable and leans over. To return it to a level state, it requires the partner users to also stand on the stabilizer. By coordinating their weight placement, they can maneuver the stabilizer back to a centered position. Once in a centered position, with all the users on the platform, the guidance beam in the center of the stabilizer illuminates, shining a dot on the ceiling. The users must then maneuver their weight to direct the guidance beam to the necessary target.

The stabilizer model was constructed out of wood. The spherical surface of the base was modeled to have a 4.5 ft radius, allowing the guidance beam to have a 9 foot diameter range of movement on the ceiling of the room. The diameter of the stabilizer was scaled down to 1/2 size, allowing it to be machined out of a 4 ft by 8 ft sheet of plywood. Machining was done with a CNC router. The guidance beam was a laser pointer, and the navigation target was modeled with a blinking light on the end of an extension stick.

Learnings and Moving Forward

The radius of the bottom of the stabilizer influences the stability of the platform. By increasing the radius, the platform becomes more stable. Decreasing the radius has the opposite effect - the platform becomes more difficult to balance. Future user testing with more users will explore whether it is necessary to introduce dampening into the system. The current undampened state appears to be challenging without being too difficult.

The center grab handle was designed such that a user could not get their hand stuck in the case of a fall. The diameter of the handle also influenced the play - a larger diameter effectively moved the users further out on the stabilizer and made it less stable. This required more collaboration of movement on the part of the users and increased the joy in play.

*Thanks to Audrey, Landon, and Josh for the live action photos*