Introduction: Piece of Ocean


Piece of sea is an interactive jewelry box that allows the audience to experience what it feels like to treasure hunt underwater. The user can touch several elements in the box that will make the area light up. This interaction imitates the idea of a headlight being used while scuba divers scrabble through things underwater.

The circuit consists of 4 capacitive touch sensors and 4 10 mm LEDs. These parts will be connected to an Arduino UNO, which will run the code to initiate the interaction.


  • (One) 16" x 24" 1/8" Craft Ply
  • (One) 16" x 24" 1/8" Transparent Plexiglass
  • (One) Arduino UNO w/ USB Cable
  • Copper Tape
  • (Four) 220 Ohms Resistors, (Four) 1 Megaohms Resistors
  • (Four) Diffused 10mm white LEDs
  • (Four) handmade sensors
    • Conductive Yarn
    • Conductive Fabric
    • Paper clips
    • Regular split lock washer
    • Conductive Thread
  • (Ten) Jumper wires
  • Solder and soldering iron
  • Glue, Glue gun, Superglue, some wood stick to hold the circuit plate
  • Seashells ( Michaels)
  • Metallic fasteners ( could be nails, anchors, bolts, screws)

Step 1: Prototyping and Testing

Picture of Prototyping and Testing

I started by prototyping the project by testing with a basic Capacitive touch sensor exercise. I wanted to make sure that I had the wires connected right. I followed this tutorial to connect to the wires and modified this code and uploaded it onto Arduino.

I then experimented with several types of sensors, but they didn't seem to fit too well into the materiality of the project (more on this in next step). I tried making a stroke sensor but I felt that the yarn would get caught between itself, causing either a short circuit or an unwanted connection, so I scratched that idea.

Below is the code that you can upload onto your Arduino to make this project.

#include <CapacitiveSensor.h>

//Capacitive sensor initializer
// Common send pin is 2
CapacitiveSensor c4 = CapacitiveSensor(2, 6);
CapacitiveSensor c1 = CapacitiveSensor(2, 3);
CapacitiveSensor c2 = CapacitiveSensor(2, 4);
CapacitiveSensor c3 = CapacitiveSensor(2, 5);

// LED pins
int led1 = 8;
int led2 = 9;
int led3 = 10;
int led4 = 11;

void setup() {


  pinMode(led1, OUTPUT);
  pinMode(led2, OUTPUT);
  pinMode(led3, OUTPUT);
  pinMode(led4, OUTPUT);

void loop() {
  long start = millis();

  long total1 = c1.capacitiveSensor(30);
  long total2 = c2.capacitiveSensor(30);
  long total3 = c3.capacitiveSensor(30);
  long total4 = c4.capacitiveSensor(30);

  // Debug

  // LEDs light up statement
  if (total1 > 150) {
    digitalWrite(led2, HIGH);
  } else if (total2 > 150) {
    digitalWrite(led4, HIGH);
  } else if (total3 > 150 ) {
    digitalWrite(led1, HIGH);
  } else if (total4 > 150 ) {
    digitalWrite(led3, HIGH);
  } else  { // no sensors touched
    digitalWrite(led1, LOW);
    digitalWrite(led2, LOW);
    digitalWrite(led3, LOW);
    digitalWrite(led4, LOW);

Step 2: Laser Cutting and Assembling Box

Picture of Laser Cutting and Assembling Box

Laser cut the 1/8" ply and plexiglass boards into the shape indicated in the Adobe Illustrator .ai file and use glue gun/super glue to assemble them according to the instructions. The parts should assemble into a top and bottom box.

Be sure to edit the colors and stroke width to match your laser cutter!

Step 3: Creating Sensors

Picture of Creating Sensors

I created 4 capacitive touch sensors with conductive materials I found on campus.

I made a coral reef by stretching and soldering several paper clips together. It was difficult to solder the metal strips so this sensor wasn't as pretty as the other ones, but it works! The reef was connected to Pin 3.

Then I created some underwater debris with by creating a chain with lock washers and attaching some metal strips to it. I connected this sensor to Pin 4 with conductive yarn.

I also made algae with conductive fabric by cutting strips of the fabric and sewing them together with conductive thread. Then I connected this sensor to Pin 5.

I knitted a fish net with conductive yarn by following this tutorial. I doubled the conductive yarn because one thread would be too thin for the effect to be visible. I left some yarn over so I could bring it over to the back and solder it to each extreme. This sensor was connected to Pin 6.

Feel free to be as creative as you want with the materials. Once you are done creating the sensors, solder them to their corresponding pins.

Step 4: Assembling Circuit

Picture of Assembling Circuit

Put copper tape on both sides of the plexiglass board. Each side should contain one circuit from the diagram. The top of the board should contain the diagram for the sensors (left diagram) while the bottom should be for the LEDs (right diagram).

Then, solder the 220 Ohm resistors to the bottom of the board. You can curl or cut the legs of the resistors to make them fit better into the diagram. Next, bend the LED legs such that they follow the shape of the circuit. Again, you are welcomed to cut or curl the legs to fit the circuit. Solder the positive legs to the resistors and the negative legs to Ground.

Do the same for the top of the board, but use the 1 Megaohms resistors instead.

Trim 10 wires (I used jumper wires because they fit better into my Arduino pins) and solder them onto the copper wires that connect to the pins. Remember to leave enough wire so that they can connect to the Arduino well.

Step 5: Decorating

Picture of Decorating

Decorate the box with seashells, or whatever object fits the theme of your box. I got my seashells from Michaels and used hot glue gun to stick them to the box. I made sure to not stick anything to the top of the box so that debugging would be easier.

I also added some hardware such as nails and lock washers to insinuate the underwater debris. These objects also resonate with the materiality of sensors, which I believe also brings a stronger narrative to the project.

Step 6: Final Touches

Picture of Final Touches

Assemble the top part of the box onto the bottom section and connect the Arduino USB to your computer. Upload the code and start playing with the sensors!


The casing of the project did not seem as intuitive. Someone in class commented that it seemed like a jewelry box. For future iterations, I would make the encasing into a treasure box, and look into ways to age the wood to make it seem like it has been underwater for a long time.