Videos of SMAKS in action

The Sequential Magnetically Accelerated Kinetic Sculpture, or SMAKS, is a kinetic sculpture that uses solenoids to accelerate a magnet back and forth inside a curved acrylic tube. I worked on the SMAKS as part of a group for our final project in the Principles of Integrated Engineering (PIE) course at Olin, where students work in groups to create an integrated system of mechanical, electrical, and firmware/software components. We wanted to create a small kinetic sculpture somehow involving electromagnetism, so we decided to build a desktop unit that uses solenoids to accelerate a magnetic projectile through a clear acrylic tube. The final unit, which we call the ‘rainbow,’ has six solenoids placed along a curved tube, with the tube supported by flexible plywood ‘spokes’ mounted to the electronics housing. Inside the housing, an Arduino UNO controls six MOSFETs across two MOSFET boards to toggle the solenoids on and off. We are currently using manual timing to determine the duration of each solenoid firing, as well as the delay between the firing, in order to attract the magnet and cut power as is passes through so it does not get caught in the center of the wire coil. The magnet does not always make it all the way across the tube on the first attempt, so the Arduino monitors two IR sensors, one on each side of the tube, to determine whether the magnet passes over the midpoint of the tube, and if it does not, the solenoids continuously fire again in the same order until the magnet makes it to the other end of the tube.

If you would like to learn more about SMAKS and the iterative process of creating it, check out our project website.