Web site created by Donato Borello, Amsal Karic, and Randal C. Nelson

-The Project-

In the first weeks of the CS 200 undergraduate research seminar, we were presented with a challenge that would require us to branch out from everything that we, as computer science majors, were familiar with. The challenge was to create an electronic device which would last 1,000 years without the need to be opened for repair or replacement of components (e.g. no new batteries needed).

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We divided into four teams focusing on different aspects of the challenge. We had teams for mechanical housing, electronic components, the self-sustaining power system, and one to create a "treasure" that would make the object worth to keeping around for 1,000 years.

We spent the next several weeks researching current manufactured devices and how they failed or survived over time. We researched the most common failure modes of electronic devices, spent a day attempting to destroy the most durable objects the class members could find, and created a list of elements to avoid in our design. This included

  • Avoiding batteries
  • Avoiding mechanical switches
  • Avoiding flexible or pluggable electrical connections
  • Avoiding plastic as a load-bearing material
  • Avoiding adhesives as a method of load-bearing attachment
  • Avoiding hinges, bearings, and other moving parts subject to wear

With this experience, we started brainstorming on the device itself. We originally wanted to make a pocket sized object which would use photo-resistors to control tones produced by a protected, piezoelectric speaker. It would be a form of "musical instrument" and although we liked the idea, the power requirements ended up being too high to be met by our power team. The backup plan was a flashing LED beacon drawing attention to a magnification system that would display text preserved inside. This turned out to be feasible and was substantially completed by the final day of class.