Repairs begin on CALT sand table

Christian Richey and Adrianna Gonzalez

Repairs have begun on the Arduino Sand Plotter, a machine in CALT created by an engineering professor, his students and an AACC technician to show his students “what engineering can do.”
A magnet drags a metal ball through a board of sand when the Sand Plotter is working, making intricate designs. Motors, gears and belts controlled by a computer smaller than a phone move the large magnet, which is located under the board.
“I’m an engineer but I like the creative and artistic side,” professor Tim Callinan said. “I like using my engineering skills, but I like to create different types of sculptures or [demonstration] pieces.”
Technician Mark Merello and five students helped create the machine.
What inspired the Sand Plotter, Callinan said, was seeing pufferfish create intricate designs on the sea floor to attract mates, as well as a YouTube video showcasing a similar machine.
Second-year mechatronics technology student Austin Plummer said he worked on the sand table’s belt and track systems, which move the magnet.
The sand table is not working now. The problem remains undiagnosed, although Callinan said he hopes to see it fixed within the next month.
“The sand table is pretty unique,” second-year mechatronics student Alex Tram said.
Callinan noted another sand table is in the making that will depict topography. This table will use a projector to show the height of mountains of sand.