Squidartha's Control Panel


Mythos: The control panel was modeled after the controls humankind used to signal messages to the Squidartha robot during its missions of peace and diplomacy. Squidartha would use light sequences to communicate to cetations it met, and its wise eyes reported back the responses to man. This particular panel was for communcation with whales, thus the writing was in "whale-speak."


Squidartha's original proposal called for an interactive element and I'd always envisioned giving visitors some control of the light patterns on Squidartha's body. The control panel was one of the last elements of the project. It took roughly 8 hours to design and build and was made of a slab of alder wood, cut "live edge" style from a piece of firewood harvested only a few miles from my home in Portland. Inside the panel was an Arduino Nano and a basic wireless transmitter that communicated to the Arduino Teensy 3.1 inside Squidartha's head. Power came from a 5v wall adapter hidden inside the base under the sculpture. Even with all six buttons lit the panel took less than 1 watt of power. One 18650 cell probably could have powered it most of the week.

A second panel was made as a backup "just in case" the buttons decided to malfunction during the week. The auxiliary panel was outfit with 3-AA cells and sealed up to be portable. We used it on one night to hand around to folks visiting Squidartha. That was fun! The auxiliary panel (and some wood scraps) are all I have left now.


There were six buttons, each assigned to a specific pattern in the programming sequence. Pressing a button would start the sequence and cause ALL buttons on the panel to go dark for 3 seconds. After 3 seconds the panel would re-activate, but the button pressed would stay dark for 30 seconds. In this way I "forced" people to try new patterns. Most people figured this out, but there were many who told me they thought it was some kind of video game and just pressed buttons willy-nilly or tried to press several buttons at once looking for a "secret code." Sorry, folks, it was really much simpler than that.

What is that writing?

The writing on the panel is actually a cryptogram, a simple puzzle with the cipher shown on the panel itself. The font is "Aetherian" which I liked because of its flowy and arcane appearance. Seemed as close to Whale Language as I could find on short notice. At Squidartha's initial debut ("Woosday" the Portland Burner's weekly social at A Roadside Attraction) and during Burning Man, I told a lot of people that the control panel was a puzzle and anyone could solve it. Many people including some of my campmates figured it out in minutes. I refused to tell anyone more than that, except I would publish the answer on this website AFTER the Burning Man event had concluded. Well, to keep my promise the answer is here. But see if you can crack the code yourself first! If you need a hint or are simply lazy, Click Here for Cryptogram Answer....

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