[PHY] Final pt.2: Approach to Finals and Troubleshooting the Unknown


Our final project – the Steampunk Coffee Machine.

Challenges and Obstacles

The road to the world of steampunk and coffee has been rocky. We still feel that our concept is strong, but we are encountering certain challenges along with lessons learned. Main takeaway is that Thanksgiving break is deceitful. From personal perspective it turned out to be more important than ever, but from professional perspective it could have been skipped. We had code on hand, but not the parts and that’s probably what we should change in the future projects. Test out the parts first!

In particular we ran into some issues with SSD1036 OLED display, HX711 Load Cell Amp (or the load cell itself), and slide potentiometers.

We wanted to run two SSD1036 OLED displays, thinking that because they are both I2C they can work separately off the same arduino. After an hour scanning for I2C addresses it dawned on us to check the part description and finally face the reality that they have the same I2C address. Now, we need to rethink how to use our displays separately.

Load Cells taught us how finicky wires can waste 12 hours of work. Much troubleshooting and coding/recoding went into the Load Cells. A piece of wire being loose ruined it everything, but we learned to check for continuity (thanks in large to Sylvan, who in his sleepy state at 5-6 AM reminded us to check with the multimeter).

Slide potentiometers did not pose much trouble, but did confuse us. Fortunately, Abby dived deep into the schematics and figured it out.


  1. Play with parts first. Get a bunch of parts first and play with them. A lot. Run example code. From a financial standpoint, that can be difficult to do, but I guess this is why we are here at ITP. We have all this time to make mistakes and learn.
  2. Build it in a way you intend to use it/interact with it. Getting a variety of items that match the aesthetic or remind you of the finished product is not enough.
  3. Time management. Manage your time wisely. A cliche and a wise one at that nevertheless. Looking back, there were other projects/work obligations that we were all focusing and there is no way that we could have dedicated extra time. However, I think that first spark in the beginning when we thought up of the project should have led to immediate number 1 and number 2 on this list.


At this point when we are supposed to be nearing completion, we are far from our destination. We thought we knew where we were going, but apparently we took a few wrong turns here and there. Now, we are straightening out, taking that U-turn to get onto the right highway. The only way is forward and even though we are behind, we hope that we can deliver at least some part of our idea. It undoubtedly is the worst feeling in the world to be this behind.

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