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$24,272
pledged of $17,233 goal
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All or nothing. This project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by .

By Northern Circuits Inc.
$24,272
pledged of $17,233 goal
backers

All or nothing. This project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by .

About

A Fountain of Art & Science!

Aquarius is a fountain lamp that can manipulate water in ways that are seemingly impossible.

Users can become mesmerized by watching a stream of water bend, change colors, freeze in place, rise upwards, split off into multiple streams, and even display effects such as volcanic lightning or the Northern Lights!

Gravity defying streams of water
Gravity defying streams of water

Due to its slim profile, Aquarius can fit within a variety of settings and capture audiences with its visually impossible displays of water manipulation.

A slim profile to fit almost everywhere
A slim profile to fit almost everywhere

Aquarius can also be placed into a water-less standby mode which activates its ambient mood/accent/night light.

Aquarius can function as an ambient/mood light
Aquarius can function as an ambient/mood light

  

...or even a night light
...or even a night light

 

Accent lighting our work area
Accent lighting our work area

 

Accent lighting a bedrest
Accent lighting a bedrest

Created for all those who appreciate the beauty of the union of art & science, Aquarius seeks to create a new visual sensory experience and eventual scientific curiosity for all users.

 

 

The Science Behind It All

Aquarius is built with 60 individually addressable LED lights.  By varying a portion (or all) of these LEDs at a frequency range of 75-100 Hz against a stream of water, we can create "snapshots" or "frames" of the water at various places in time.  A set of these "frames" can form an illusion of an animation.  The animated water appears to bend, freeze, slow down, rise upwards, or even split into multiple streams.  By applying different LED colors, Aquarius can create even more mesmerizing displays such as gradient layering, multi colored streams, and more.

The water stream itself also needs to have a frequency dependent variable working in tandem with the LED lights (otherwise, it would really just look like a vertical stream of water with no effect).  By vibrating the water outlet at a frequency of 80 Hz, we can time that along with the light strobing as mentioned above.  The transparent property of water allows for maximum light dispersion in outlining the stream at exact moments in time.  And because it's simply water, users can still touch it without affecting the visual effects.

The scientific term for all of this is Persistence of Vision.  There are many resources available online where you can learn more about this:

Close-up snapshot of the Spectrum Pattern showing the individual streams in clarity
Close-up snapshot of the Spectrum Pattern showing the individual streams in clarity

 

Close-up video of the Tropic Pattern displaying 7 individually colored streams
Close-up video of the Tropic Pattern displaying 7 individually colored streams

Note: You may have noticed that there were lines in the promotional video and the GIFs here running up and down. Those are simply camera artifacts caused by a combination of shutter speed, frame rate capture, and variable LED strobing frequencies.  You won't see those in real life!

Design Process

The shape of Aquarius is symbolically tied with its corresponding Zodiac Symbol, sign of the Water-Bearer.

In keeping with its motif, the water vase shape of Aquarius was also made to be as slim as possible such that it can fit with a variety of indoor decor.  

Side view showing the slim profile of the upper frame, also shown is the Charcoal gray stain option for comparison against the Walnut
Side view showing the slim profile of the upper frame, also shown is the Charcoal gray stain option for comparison against the Walnut

Both the frame and base are built with high quality Baltic Birch plywood sourced from a Canadian distributor.

Baltic Birch plywood layering close-up
Baltic Birch plywood layering close-up

 There are 4 wood dye color options available as an addon:

Wood dye options from left to right: Walnut Brown, Charcoal Black, Royal Blue, and Emerald Green
Wood dye options from left to right: Walnut Brown, Charcoal Black, Royal Blue, and Emerald Green

The funnel and tank of Aquarius was designed in such a way that splashing is practically non-existent.  By narrowing the funnel as much as possible and designing the impact slopes such that they are almost vertical, any water splash becomes completely contained.  In addition to that, another design consideration was taken to minimize splash noise to the point of it sounding like very light raindrops on a window.  The inlet to the water tank is actually not directly beneath the stream but offset slightly so that the it never makes direct contact with the water (the source of all splash noise in general).

Aquarius can cycle through 11 different patterns by default.  This is all controlled by the aluminum dial at the front of the frame.

Aluminum knob dial for cycling between different patterns
Aluminum knob dial for cycling between different patterns
  • Ambiance: A water-less standby mode that acts as an ambient night/mood/accent light slowly fading in and out.
  • Helix: A single white stream that slowly rises, freezes, falls and repeats.  Clean, simple, and modern.
  • Double Helix: 2 Helix streams with ever changing colors.
  • Spectrum: A 3 stream display of high contrasting gradient hues.
  • Volcanic Lightning: Experience momentary lightning strikes amidst a volcanic storm palette.
  • Chaos Theory: Random colors, random number of streams, random directions.  Anything is possible when everything is random.
  • Ghost: Streams vanish and appear out of thin air.
  • Unicorn: A radiant rainbow display of colors.
  • Crossing Streams: Streams move unrestricted even against each other.
  • Northern Lights: A Northern Lights display right in your own home!
  • Tropic: 7 individual back-to-back streams with a tropic flair.

If a COMMISSIONED reward tier is chosen, then one of these default patterns will be replaced with the custom designed one.

We will be regularly releasing new patterns (full source code) as we discover them so that users can choose to program it themselves.

Northern Lights Pattern
Northern Lights Pattern

 

Tropics Pattern
Tropics Pattern

 

Volcanic Lightning Pattern
Volcanic Lightning Pattern

 

Unicorn Pattern
Unicorn Pattern

 

Imagination Is Your Limit!

The Aquarius code was built with the FREE Arduino IDE platform.  Adventurous users will have complete control of patterns by coding it to their liking.  Start off easy by changing colors of the existing patterns, or alter the direction by varying their frequency!  Venture into more advanced techniques such as chaining animated demos or vanishing streams before your eyes!

Easily add new patterns or edit existing ones
Easily add new patterns or edit existing ones

Custom programming Aquarius will require a mini USB cable and PC connection, and the Arduino IDE platform (or other similar supported IDEs).  The USB cable is not included but can easily be found at any place that sells electronics.

The back view of the base showing USB programming port, DC jack, and water indicator window
The back view of the base showing USB programming port, DC jack, and water indicator window

 

Rewards (IMPORTANT, PLEASE READ)

There are 7 reward tiers available, 2 of them being limited early bird specials:

  • Thank You! - $1 CAD
  • Design Files/Source Code = $20
  • Design Files/Source Code/PCB = $40
  • Aquarius (Early Bird) = $249 CAD
  • Aquarius Commissioned (Early Bird) = $329 CAD
  • Aquarius = $329 CAD
  • Aquarius Commissioned = $409 CAD
  • Add-on: Wood Dyeing/Finishing Work = $50 CAD extra

All Aquarius Reward tiers by default do NOT include wood dying/finishing.  This is so that users have the freedom to stain/dye/paint their fountain or decorate it with graphics and more.  We made this decision due to collective feedback from the maker community.  However, we highly recommend to at least finish the fountain with a water resistant sealer as any splashes may cause unexpected blemish and expansion of the wood.

If you would like us to dye and finish the fountain, you may pledge an additional $50 CAD on top of your Aquarius pledge.  The dye colors are subject to change, currently we offer Charcoal Black, Walnut, Royal Blue, and Emerald Green.  The finish will be a crystal clear gloss.

If you would like to have the design files and BOM list, you may pledge for the "Design Files/Source Code" Reward tier OR an additional $20 CAD on top of your existing Aquarius pledge, we will include all design files, a BOM (Bill-Of-Materials) list, and source code should you want to create one yourself.  Note however that some parts will require significant investment to produce such as the 3D printed parts (SLA recommended to prevent water leaks) or the wood frame (which requires a CNC).

Alternatively, you can pledge for the "Design Files/Source Code/PCB" for $40 CAD which will include the PCB and all necessary circuit elements pre-soldered for you.

BOM list, STL, PCB, IGES files can be optionally provided
BOM list, STL, PCB, IGES files can be optionally provided

Shipping (includes tracking) is $50 CAD for international, $30 CAD for Canada, and $35 CAD for United States.

Users can also pledge the commissioned tiers.  This allows you to describe a pattern of your choice (within reasonable limits) and we will code it up and ship it.  Whether you want a pattern of colors that matches your nations flag, or the feeling of a calm serene walk through a forest, or even a disco party flair, we will design it to your needs.

Note that due to the time and communication involved in designing a commissioned pattern, the delivery date will be a bit later than normal for these pledges.

How Will Funds Be Used?

Our minimum (breakeven) goal of $22 000 CAD will cover our initial injection molding costs from ProtoLabs as well as allow purchasing all required pieces to make 60 Aquarius fountains.

Overfunding will be used to expedite work orders with additional hand-resources and/or upgraded tools and equipment.

Any leftover funding after delivery will be used to develop infrastructure for our future projects (Gemini, Aries, Libra, etc.).

Historical Timeline & Schedule

This is a rough outline of our schedule that we intend to meet.  Although we can't predict delays, we have tried to mitigate that in many ways already by securing our injection molding partner (ProtoLabs) who are a very reputable (and publicly traded) company based out of the United States.  Our electronic parts are readily available from many vendors which means there shouldn't be any delay with procuring them.

We have 2 woodworking partners (one as a backup) to help cut the frames for us. Both are also local (Canadian!) to squash any problems with timely quality control (which are typically associated with offshore sourcing).

Future Changes

Though all the technical details of Aquarius have been finalized, there is still some leeway we have for improving upon the frame design.  What you see on the images and video here may be subject to change based on collective community feedback (though not by much).

Details such as wood dye color selections and small dimensional adjustments to the base or upper frame are all on the table currently.

Technical Specs

  • Power Adapter: 12V DC, 2A (US/EU/AU/UK plug option)
  • Consumption: 2.4W maximum consumption
  • Lighting: 60 Individually Addressable RGB LEDs (APA102C)
  • Platform: Atmel AT328P on an Arduino Nano clone with custom PCB
  • Library: FastLED (Arduino IDE)
  • Frame: Baltic Birch Plywood (can be optionally dyed and finished in choice of Charcoal Black, Walnut, Royal Blue, or Emerald Green)
  • Noise Level: 20-30 dB (sound of a light and calm water stream)
  • Liquid Capacity: 250 ml of tap water (minimum 150 ml required)
  • Made In: CANADA!  Everything will be hand-assembled, finished, and packaged here with the exception of electronic components which will be sourced and/or assembled in China.
  • Safety: Absolutely!  The water stream will auto shutoff after a programmed time (~1 hour) and switch to ambient light mode.  This time can be changed through Arduino programming.
  • Dimensions: 12 cm x 22 cm x 34 cm (Width x Length x Height).  The upper frame is only 3.75 cm thick!

Due to wood grain unpredictability and the hand-sanded/stained/polished nature of assembly, Aquarius fountain and base texture will not look exactly the same for every user.  Every fountain will be hand-made and thus unique.

In addition, the water funnel displayed here is an FDM 3D printed version.  The actual version will be a translucent white injection molded piece and much more aesthetically pleasing.

About Me

Checking out how awesome that lamp looks!
Checking out how awesome that lamp looks!

My name is Stephen Co, and I've been in the engineering industry (specifically ASIC hardware) for nearly 10 years now.  I led the industry's first set of PCI-Express 3.0 graphics cards to market during my time at AMD Inc. and published a small (but gratifying) solo patent out of it which you can find here.  My interests are primarily visual sensory experiences (hence my time at AMD), the maker community, and art.  At one point, I stumbled upon the field of KINETIC art.  I realized that by combining my love of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics with this field, I could create NEW sensory experiences for users to make them wonder in amazement and understand how things work through their own curiosity.

I started digging up interesting science experiments around May 2017 and researched how I could create a product out of those.  I then saw videos about levitating water which you can find here, here, and here and I decided to turn those lab experiments into a viable product for users to enjoy in the comfort of their own home.

Some of my early prototypes
Some of my early prototypes

After months of prototyping work, I finally finished my version of the levitating water experiment and aptly called it Aquarius.  The name, as you may have guessed, has alot of symbolic meaning with the art piece and helped guide its design.

I want to demonstrate through Aquarius that it is possible for art to be integrated with STEM (Science-Technology-Engineering-Mathematics) and to create these new experiences that take advantage of the tools of our generation.  These experiences should hopefully lead people to amazement, curiosity, and eventually a proactive understanding of how the world works.

If you would like to connect for professional purposes, don't hesitate to add me on LinkedIn (button below).  I welcome all mutually beneficial (and professional!) relationships.

 

I can also be reached at stephen.co AT northern-circuits.ca if you want to contact me personally. 

Thank You's!

 

Take a journey through Art & Science by supporting us today!

 

 

Risks and challenges

Lots of the issues that plague Kickstarter projects stem from manufacturing and communication issues overseas so we will be doing it in-house here in Canada. The only parts from overseas would be some of the electronics such as microcontroller, LEDs, pump, etc. All coding, soldering, assembly, testing, finishing, packaging, and shipping will be done solely by us.

In extreme cases of over-funding, I have additional contractors on stand-by to assist with assembly/packaging to mitigate delays in getting Aquarius out the door.

In addition to that, our existing prototypes are essentially production ready which means no surprise changes to the schedule due to engineering revisions. All that awaits us is securing enough pledges to help pay for injection molding and a minimum order quantity of ~60 pieces.

We can't guarantee with 100% certainty that there will be no delays, but we can be as transparent and frequent in our updates as possible to all backers so that they are aware (and understanding) of our progress.

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    Pledge CA$ 20 or more About $16

    1x Design Files/Source Code

    Includes all files to create your own Aquarius fountain. Note that there may still be significant cost required to produce some items such as CNC-ing the wood frame, 3D printing SLA parts, manufacturing custom PCBs, and sourcing LEDs/magnets/pumps.

    Includes:
    • Design Files/Source Code
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    Pledge CA$ 40 or more About $31

    1x Design Files/Source Code/PCB

    Includes all files to create your own Aquarius fountain. Also includes a PCB pre-soldered with an Arduino Nano clone (pre-programmed) and all required circuit elements (voltage regulators, header pins, MOSFETs).

    Note that there may still be significant cost required to produce some items such as CNC-ing the wood frame, 3D printing SLA parts, and sourcing LEDs/magnets/pumps.

    Includes:
    • Design Files/Source Code
    • PCB (w/ Arduino Nano clone)
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    Pledge CA$ 329 or more About $258

    1x Aquarius

    Fully assembled (undyed/unfinished wood) and ready to use out of the box Aquarius frame!

    Kickstarter exclusive pricing, $50 off retail!

    Survey will be sent out after campaign for wall adapter type (US/EU/UK/AU).

    If you would like us to dye and finish the wood, please add an additional $50 CAD on top of this Reward.

    It is highly recommended to finish Aquarius with a protective (water-proof) layer either by us or yourself prior to operating it.

    You may also pledge an additional $20 on top of this reward to receive all the design files (STL/IGES/PCB/etc.).

    Includes:
    • Aquarius
    • Wall Adapter (US or EU)
    • Aquarius Source Files
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  6. Select this reward

    Pledge CA$ 329 or more About $258

    1x Aquarius COMMISSIONED (Early Bird)

    We will work with you to create a pattern of your own design! This is a Kickstarter exclusive reward, there will be no custom commissions outside of this!

    This personalized pattern will replace one of the existing ones that we normally ship with of your choice.

    Includes the standard Aquarius rewards.

    If you would like us to dye and finish the wood, please add an additional $50 CAD on top of this Reward.

    It is highly recommended to finish Aquarius with a protective (water-proof) layer either by us or yourself prior to operating it.

    You may also pledge an additional $20 on top of this reward to receive all the design files (STL/IGES/PCB/etc.).

    Note that limitations apply to the possible commissioned patterns. Recommended to ask us before pledging this tier to confirm if its possible for us to design.

    A survey will be sent out after the campaign to gather your design inputs for your pattern.

    Includes:
    • Aquarius
    • Wall Adapter (US or EU)
    • Aquarius Source Files
    • Commissioned Pattern
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    Ships to Anywhere in the world
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  7. Select this reward

    Pledge CA$ 409 or more About $320

    1x Aquarius COMMISSIONED

    We will work with you to create a pattern of your own design! This is a Kickstarter exclusive reward, there will be no custom commissions outside of this!

    This personalized pattern will replace one of the existing ones that we normally ship with of your choice.

    Includes the standard Aquarius rewards.

    If you would like us to dye and finish the wood, please add an additional $50 CAD on top of this Reward.

    It is highly recommended to finish Aquarius with a protective (water-proof) layer either by us or yourself prior to operating it.

    You may also pledge an additional $20 on top of this reward to receive all the design files (STL/IGES/PCB/etc.).

    Note that limitations apply to the possible commissioned patterns. Recommended to ask us before pledging this tier to confirm if its possible for us to design.

    A survey will be sent out after the campaign to gather your design inputs for your pattern.

    Includes:
    • Aquarius
    • Wall Adapter (US or EU)
    • Aquarius Source Files
    • Commissioned Pattern
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    Pledge CA$ 249 or more About $195

    1x Aquarius (Early Bird)

    Fully assembled (undyed/unfinished wood) and ready to use out of the box Aquarius frame!

    Get in early to save $130 off retail!

    Survey will be sent out after campaign for wall adapter type (US or EU).

    If you would like us to dye and finish the wood, please additionally pledge the Wood Dye/Finishing Reward for $50 CAD.

    It is highly recommended to finish Aquarius with a protective (water-proof) layer either by us or yourself prior to operating it.

    Includes:
    • Aquarius
    • Wall Adapter (US or EU)
    • Aquarius Source Files
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