Pressure Project 3: MagneBulb



Our selected exclusion area is a combination of reaching and stretching as well as dexterity. Our group was interested in designing a system that will make tasks that require difficult hand motions to be easier for the target audiences. These problems are very common among the elderly population as well as people who have Motor Skill disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and Multiple Sclerosis. People who suffer from these disorders can have a lot of problems in carrying out tasks that require accurate hand-eye coordination. This can lead to these people not able to carry out certain tasks or even putting themselves in dangerous situations. We decided to focus onto one certain problem that one of these persons would come across.

Ideation, Sketching and Prototyping

A problem that arises is the difficulty of twisting a lightbulb into a light fixture. This can be extremely difficult for people who have bad motor skills and have to replace a light bulb in difficult areas such as a ceiling that requires a ladder to get to. For people with motor disorders, it can also be a scary task to put in a new light bulb and accidently dropping the light bulb due to difficulty in holding and twisting the bulb. This can lead to a shattered light bulb on the ground that no one wants to clean up.

Our solution to make the light bulb system easier for our excluded audience is to create a lightbulb and lightbulb fixture that uses magnets to attach and stay put. This gets rid of the difficult motion of twisting in a lightbulb with an easy magnetic attachment.

Our initial storyboard of the problem illustrates the problem of an elderly person trying to put in a new lightbulb. The man needs climb a ladder to switch out a new lightbulb attached to the ceiling. Due to the dexterity required to twist the new lightbulb, the elderly man who has trouble with motor skills falls off the ladder and hurts himself because he could not twist the bulb in.



We wanted to hide the internal wiring and other hardware of our device within enclosures, which represent the enclosures of our hypothetical magnetic fixture and magnetic light bulb.  Without the embedding principle, we could have simply used the Little Bits LED component, and attached it directly to the Little Bits battery component. The Little Bits would create our prototype in one simple connection of the LED to the battery. However, the form factor and aesthetics would be severely compromised if we were to use the Little Bits.


We purchased an existing LED light enclosure, complete with internal LED hardware.  We took it apart and rewired it to work with our design, such that when our bulb component is attached our fixture component, the bulb lights up.


We used two primary technologies in the design of our system:  magnetism and LED technology.

Components of Prototype:

  • Battery powered light fixture w/ batteries
  • Black and Red Wires
  • Magnets
  • Cardboard
  • Duct Tape

To create our prototype we had to create the two main components below.

Light Bulb

For the light bulb component, we had to cut out cardboard into a small box shape with a hole just big enough to hold our led light fixture in place. We then opened up the light fixture and after analyzing its internal circuitry, we determined that we could easily extend it in a way that would allow us to place its battery power source external to the actual light while also ensuring it could turn on upon closing the circuit. We also removed the internal springs and set the internal power switch on its side to make the light portion of the circuit more reliable.

Ceiling Fixture

Our second component was the ceiling fixture that would act as the magnetic insert that would twist into a standard light socket. To create this part, we cut out another cardboard box and placed the light fixture’s battery power source inside. We also added wiring that would connect the negative and positive ends of the wires to the negative and positive ends of the first light fixture. To attach both parts together, we used magnets taped to the bottom and top of each component.

Final Prototype

The left image below shows the top of the light bulb component on the left and the top of the ceiling fixture on the right. The image on the right shows the bottom of the light bulb component and the bottom of the ceiling fixture on the right.

The magnets are taped to the top of the light bulb component and the bottom of the ceiling fixture. There are wires on each magnetic side that connect and close the circuit when the magnets pull the pieces together.

When the magnets connect to each other, the circuit closes and the light turns on.


5 minute in class presentation (by 2 group members) and online documentation (by 2 group members) of your prototype.

Individual written reflection on your contribution to the project.

Nick: During our first meeting we brainstormed a design exclusion and believe that there are a lot of problems that systems give people with bad motor skills. After deciding on this general audience, we thought of problems that specifically old people who have trouble in motor skills would have. We thought that twisting in light bulbs would definitely be a difficult task for the elderly so we decided to innovate a system that would allow for them to replace a lightbulb easily through magnets. Before the second meeting, we created a list of materials we would need. I brought scissors and cardboard used to create the prototype and we all helped to make our final prototype design and inputted ideas on how we should construct it. I mostly worked on typing up the online documentation.

Peter: I was, unfortunately, unable to attend our brainstorming session due to schedule conflicts, however I was at our design and prototyping session. After some initial conflict I think that our team gelled pretty well, and we soon had a relaxed atmosphere of jovial industry. I mostly helped create the physical prototype, cutting the cardboard and taping it and the magnets into shape. By collaborating with Kelvin, who was spearheading the electrical component of the project, we established a plan for how the components should fit together, tested our initial design, and – after discovering that the initial design was incapable of supporting the weight of the prototype – iterated to a design that was. Throughout the process we were telling jokes – one of which was rather relevant (How many programmers does it take to change a lightbulb? None. That’s a hardware issue.) –  and staying generally lighthearted. We ended, having completed our prototype to satisfaction, by determining who would present the project to the class.

Kelvin: This was a fairly simple idea but quite tricky to implement especially given the components we were using. The led light we purchased was very cheaply manufactured and there were a few clearly not thought out design decisions, such as the location of the springs. This was great in the end though because it was easy to come with the modification we need. We tried to modify the internals of the light as little as possible so we left everything as is and just tried modifying the battery holder. We tried using some copper wire from the local arts and crafts store but and after testing the connection, we learned that current actually could not flow through the wire so we had to unwire and rewire with our alternative wire from an ECE kit. The circuit worked perfectly when we would close the circuit manually but when we finally had the box components put together, we found out the light fixture’s button would switch on and off at almost random times whenever the light bulb fixture was moved. To resolve this issue, we had to modify the hole to make it just big enough to hold the light fixture in place and we set the internal button on its side so it would stop switching the light off. We also ran into issues with the magnets. We originally wanted to hide the magnets on the internal sides of each cardboard component but this put too much distance between the magnets that the light bulb would, in the best times, barely hold, and fall off at the worst times. To fix this issue we just placed the magnets on the external sides of both components and the connection was strong and reliable. I think a little bit more planning about where and how exactly each prototype component would be placed and used would have helped avoid some of the issues we ran into.

Dominic: I was present during our initial brainstorming session, and also during the design/prototyping stage.  During the design/prototyping stage, my primary roll was to draw sketches of our product and create scenarios using storyboards.  I chose to assist in this way because I’ve been trying to improve my drawing skills, as I believe that being able to clearly communicate ideas through sketches is as important as being able to clearly communicate ideas through the written word, and even more important than the word in certain situations.  Although the artwork isn’t legendary, I hope it’s a step up from my very sad bagel cutter sketch, and has taken us a step towards an atmosphere of jovial industry that we all crave so deeply.


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