Rube-Goldberg Voting Machine
examining the idiosyncrasies of voting in America
collaborative class project
In this voting machine, a "vote" is passed from each person's component to the next. Additionally, each component in the voting machine represents a viewpoint on the American political system and/or aspect of the voting process.
In our nonsensical voting scenario, people could vote between two made-up candidates from two made-up parties, Richard Cantor from Redesigning Humans and Samuel White from Dreamers of Decadence. (The two candidates where actually represented by the same actor.) Also, people could vote by their own choice or press a big red button to let the machine vote randomly for them. The vote is processed through the machine and recorded and counted in a variety of analog and digital ways.
My component dealt with the role of money in the political system by requiring people to deposit a penny in order to vote. From campaign donations and PACs to tax cuts and pork barrel, money is the driving force behind politics. Requiring a penny to vote ironically snubs voting laws against poll taxes, when at the same time, a penny is basically no monetary value. A penny literally costs more to produce than it is worth, exemplifying bureaucratic idiocy. Pennies are archaic and inefficient, but still hold a great amount of nostalgic and symbolic meaning, qualities mirror those of the electoral system in the U.S.
The idea of a "coin-operated" voting machine fit in well with the other components in the machine, which developed an aesthetic and sensibility much similar to slot machines and arcade games. To reinforce this association, I designed the front facade to reference 19th century campaign graphics. Using copper conveniently draws parallel with the pennies themselves, as well as contributing to the machine's overall steampunk quality.
For more details, see the project site.
Construction: Front facade is hand-etched copper plating, with acrylic paint patina and mini flashlight lightbulbs. Balsa wood, craft aluminum, and an old coin sorter make up the primary body.
Breakdown: When the machine is ready for voting, the lights at "insert penny" are lit to indicate such. A penny is accepted from the voter by a classic coin slot. The penny travels down a metal chute, through a refurbished coin sorter, and flips a switch to activate the voting mechanisms, in which the lights switch to "vote now". When the vote is processed, the component is reset for the next voter and the penny drops to the next component.
Technical breakdown: Arduino controlled. A photo resistor placed at the opening of the coin slot detects when a penny is inserted and turns on the coin sorter motor. The coin sorter checks that the penny is indeed a penny, and not some other coin, before passing it on. The penny continues down a track and is stopped at a "gate" that is a servo motor. The track is aluminum and is wired to power, and the gate is copper-tipped, so when the penny is stopped at the gate, it turns a switch "on" which tells the Arduino to stop the coin sorter and to register that a vote can now be placed. When a vote is placed, the penny is released from the gate.