Introduction: TTT Project - Taj Mahal

This is our second project for our class CSCI 7000 – Things That Think. We had to make an interactive diorama, similar to the types of displays often found in museums. We visited the Denver Museum of Nature and Science to get some ideas. One of the exhibits was an Ancient Egyptian diorama with many small, intricate buildings. We really liked the way the exhibit looked and we wanted to try making a building as well. We eventually decided to make the Taj Mahal because it’s a very beautiful building, and it also has an impressive landscape around it.

The Taj Mahal is a white marble mausoleum located in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India. It was built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Construction began around 1632 and was completed in 1653. Ustad Ahmad Lahauri is considered to be the principal designer.

Step 1:


This will be the base of the building.

Laser cut the sides of the base out of wood. Most of the materials used for laser cutting for this project are 1/8 inch thick. The two longest sides are 9.25 inches, the four shorter pieces are 3.6 inches, and the smallest two pieces are 2.8 inches. They are all one inch tall.

Push out the small pieces at the top and throw them away. Push the larger pieces below them in slightly and glue them to the surrounding frame.

Do this for all sides of the base.

Paint the front and sides white.

Step 2:

Laser cut the bottom of the base. It is 11 inches by 11 inches. Take out the square in the middle.

Step 3:

Glue the sides of the base to the bottom piece. The two long sides should be glued to the straight sides. The four 3.6 inch pieces should be glued to the left and right sides of the other two sides. The remaining two pieces should be glued to the center of these sides. Make sure they are slightly in front of the other two pieces.

Step 4:

Laser cut 28 small parts. Push the small piece and glue it to the surrounding pieces as you did before. They should be 1 inch tall.

Paint the parts white.

Step 5:

Glue six of these pieces around each of the round edges of the base. You should have 4 pieces left after doing this.

Glue the remaining pieces to the sides of the center piece of the front and back sides of the base.

Step 6:

Laser cut 18 small rectangles out of acrylic. They should be 1 inch by .5 inch.

Insert the rectangles into the slots on the base and glue them. Some of the slots will be empty. These will help support the weight of the building.

Step 7:

Laser cut the top of the base out of acrylic. It should be the same size and shape as the bottom but without the slots.

Step 8:

Laser cut two more pieces out of wood to go around the hole at the center of the base. They should look like the image above. One should be slightly smaller than the other. The larger one should be 8 inches wide and the smaller one should be 7.75 inches.

Glue the larger piece to the center of the top of the base.

Now glue the smaller piece on top. Make sure to center it.

Paint these pieces white.

Step 9:

Now we will build the walls of the building.

Laser cut four walls. They should be 5 inches wide and 3.75 inches tall. The lines around the windows should be etched and should not be cut through all the way.

Step 10:

Push forward the four thin rectangles at the top slightly and glue them into place.

Step 11:

Push the outer piece in slightly and glue it into place.

Push the inner piece in even further and glue it.

Step 12:

The piece over the doorway should be pushed slightly back from the piece above it.

Step 13:

The piece surrounding the two windows on each side should be pushed back slightly.

Push the frames around each of the windows outward slightly.

The piece at the top of each window should be pushed inward slightly from the surrounding frame.

Step 14:

At the bottom, the frames around each rectangle should be pushed back slightly from the surrounding area. These pieces are very delicate, so be careful.

The rectangles should be pushed forward from the surrounding frames.

Step 15: Doorway

The rectangle between the two sections and the two small pieces in the bottom section should be pushed forward slightly.

The windows should be at the same level as the surrounding pieces. Make sure the etched side is facing to the front.

Glue the doorway into place. Set it as far back as you can.

Step 16: Windows

The small rectangle should be pushed forward slightly. Everything else should be at the same level.

Glue the window. Set it as far back as possible.

Repeat for the other three windows.

Step 17:

Paint the front side of the wall white.

This wall is done! Repeat for the other three walls.

Step 18:

These will go in between the walls we just made.

Laser cut four corner pieces.

They should look identical to the sides of the larger wall pieces.

Step 19:

Glue the walls to the top of the base you made earlier. The walls should align with the long sides of the pieces glued to the top of the base and the corners should be aligned with the corners of those pieces. Make sure there are no large gaps between the walls and corners.

Step 20:

Thin Rods
These rods go in between the walls and corners as well as on either side of the tall parts of the walls.

3D print 16 small domes. The bases of the domes should have a diameter of 0.4 inch and height of 0.5 inch.

You will need 8 wood sticks that are 4.5 inches long, and 8 shorter wood sticks that are 3 inches long. They should be .2 inch wide.

Glue the small domes to the top of each stick.

Glue the shorter wood sticks to the corners of the building between the large wall pieces and the corner pieces. The longer sticks should be glued on either side of the tall sections of the wall. Paint the sticks white.

Step 21:

These are the towers at the corners of the base.

Cut four 0.5-inch wide wooden dowels so they are 6.5 inches long.

Paint them white.

Step 22:

Glue six small sticks 1 cm long around the top of the dowel, and carefully paint them white.

Repeat for the other 3 dowels.

Step 23:

3D print 4 small domes 0.7 inches across at the rim. Paint the domes white.

Glue the domes to the tops of the sticks on the wooden dowels.

Step 24:

Laser cut 12 rings and 12 of the gear like pieces. The hole at the center should be .5 inch across.

Glue the gears to the bottoms of the circles.

Step 25:

The should be three rings on each tower. One should be 3.5 inches high, another should be 5 inches high and the other should be 6.5 inches high (right at the top of the dowel.) Glue each ring into place.

Paint the rings white.

Step 26:

Glue the towers to the corners of the base of the building. (We put the rings on after we glued the towers, so that’s why there aren’t any rings in this picture.)

Step 27:

This is the roof of the building and will go on top of the walls we made earlier.

Laser cut the roof out of white acrylic. It should be 7 inches by 7 inches. Put it aside for now.

Step 28:

Small Towers
These are the small towers at the corners of the roof.

Laser cut the pieces shown above out of wood. You will need one large octagon (2 inches), one small octagon (1 inch), one circle (1 inch), and eight pairs of the long, thin pieces (1 inch) for each of the 4 small towers.

Step 29:

Laser cut these pieces out of wood that is 1/16 inch thick. You’ll need one small octagon (1.2 inches) one large octagon (2 inches), and 8 of the small pieces (.5 inch across).

Step 30:

Take two of the small, thin pieces. Put them back to back (so the thick sections are facing in opposite directions) and glue the thin sides to one of the corners of the 1-inch octagons.

Repeat step 3 for the 7 remaining corners.

Glue the small .5 inch pieces in between each column.

Glue a 1.2-inch octagon to the top of the structure. Make sure the sides of the top and bottom octagons are aligned.

Glue one of the 1-inch octagons to the top of the 1.2-inch octagon. Make sure the sides are aligned.

Glue the 2-inch, 1/16-inch thick octagon to the top of the 2-inch, 1/8-inch thick octagon. Make sure to align the sides of the octagons.

Glue the structure on top of the large octagons. Again, make sure the sides of the octagons are aligned.

Glue a circle to the top of the structure.

Repeat three more times to create the other small towers.

Step 31:

3D print four domes 1.2 inches across including the rim.

Glue them to the top of each tower.

Paint the towers white.

Step 32:

Large Tower
This is the large tower at the center of the roof.

Laser cut 5 large circle chips to form the tower. The circle has a diameter of 4.25 inches. Make 6 rectangles with a width of 0.5 inch and a height of .15 as holes for holders.

Laser cut long wooden holders with a width of .5 inch and a height of 3.75 inches in order to make a cylinder-shaped base.

Put the long wood holders into the holes and use a glue gun to glue each chip. Each of the circles should be 0.5 inch apart.

Use white foam to wrap the whole cylinder.

Step 33:

Back to the roof
Now we have to put everything together.

Glue the large tower to the center of the roof.

Glue each small tower to the corners. Make sure they aren’t going off the edge.

Cut off the tops of the rectangles that are sticking out on the large tower.

Step 34:

3D print a large dome. The diameter of the bottom should be the same as the diameter of the large tower you made earlier.

Glue the dome to the large tower and paint it white.

The roof is now finished!

Step 35: Landscape

One of the complex parts in our project is a large landscape, basically a square garden.
The image at the top show a view of the whole project.

The second image shows the garden part.

In the garden, we have paths, the grey and also the dark red one in the image. We built them from wood using laser cutter and paint them to the color we want.

For the grasses, we glued green papers on the board first, and then put fake grass on it.  We also stuck some trees in the garden. There are seven trees on each side, four on the left and three on the right.

There is also a water tank at the center of the garden, which reflects the image of the mausoleum. We cut through the board on the top but not the one on the bottom to make this tank, and then painted the bottom of the tank to blue, so it looks like there is water in it, which also reflects the color of sky. The tank is laid out with avenues of trees and fountains. There are ten small trees on each side of the tank and eleven little fountains in it.

At the top of the board, the area around the building should be painted white as shown in the image above. The white area is about 14 inches across. The remaining area is gray to match the paths.

The third image shows the scale of the whole landscape.

Step 36:

Display Board
This will display some information about the Taj Mahal.

There should be some empty space left at the bottom of the board. The width should be 24 inches and the height 5.5 inches.

Download the image by searching “world landmarks Taj Mahal” in Google Image Search.

Design the display label in Adobe Illustrator.
Left: An introduction of the Taj Mahal from Wikipedia.
Middle: Symbol centered.
Right:  Description of location, Designer name, year 
       Team member names

Use a laser cutter to print:
(Black Set, 50% power, 5.0% speed, nitrogen off, fan on)
Cut the board through as a rectangle
(Red Set, 100% power, 3.0% speed, nitrogen on, fan on))

Step 37:

Small gardens
These are small grassy areas on either side of the main building.

Laser cut the rectangles shown above out of wood. You will need two of these. You will only need the outer pieces.

Paint the rectangles white

Glue the rectangles on either side of the main building in the area painted gray.

Use a glue gun to stick fake grass in the middle of the rectangle

Step 38: Electronics

In order to make our project more interactive, we add two hotspots into the scene. One is right by the main building, and another one is next to the pool. Imagine when the tour guide is trying to tell the story about Taj Mahal, he / she can simply use a laser pointer to activate one of the hotspots, and the audio guide will be offered automatically.

The mechanism of this system can be described as follows. We use light sensor to detect ambient light and the analog value of light would be collected by Arduino. Once the laser pointer hit the light sensor, Arduino would play the audio record, which is kept in an SD card.

The first image shows the audio module we use, WTV020-SD.

The second image shows  the schematics of our system.

Here is a demo of the hardware:

Step 39:

And the main part of the code to control the audio module, is:

  sensorValue_1 = analogRead(sensorPin_1);
  sensorValue_2 = analogRead(sensorPin_2);
  if(sensorValue_1 > 500)
    digitalWrite(play, LOW);  // this is for playing sound

   if(sensorValue_2 > 500)
    digitalWrite(next, LOW);  // this is for playing next sound recording
    digitalWrite(next, HIGH);

Step 40:

Once the system is finished, it needs to be placed inside the base. Make sure the switch, LED and light sensors are sticking outside of the base. Then glue the building onto the base. After that, you can put the ceiling on top. It’s not necessary to glue the ceiling, and the project is easier to carry without it.

When the entire project is finished, it looks something like the images above.

Instructables Design Competition

Participated in the
Instructables Design Competition