Flying toaster hack

MIT,   18-Nov-2010

Hints came to me about the specific deployment day of a certain hack-in-progress that I already a little about, so I wandered down to MIT to have a look.

[Click any small picture for its larger version. A linear list of the larger images is here for ease of bulk-downloading].

First view of giant flying toaster hack As I came around the corner of EC, it certainly looked like a bit of curious activity was going on in the McDermott courtyard.

Giant airstream flying toaster across the lawn There in full glory was a super-sized Flying Toaster, straight out of the popular screensaver from the nineties. With toast popped up, flapping wings and a turnable light/dark adjustment knob.

Flying toaster hack from roof of bldg 18 I circled around the courtyard periphery, and found a door conveniently wedged open to allow a shot from the roof of 18.

Big toaster as seen from EC Many folks have noted that an Airstream RV trailer, especially one of the shorter models, really does look like a classic fifties silver toaster, so a hack of this sort almost seems mandatory. Here the companion Wonder Bread bag reveals a glimpse of its underlying nature as the tow vehicle.

Camera crew from Aloft public relations firm The trailer was donated by a public-relations group that had finished using it as a traveling exhibit, and wanted to see someone pull a hack of some sort with it. They had no idea what would actually happen, but because the project had been accomplished they showed up with their whole camera crew to capture the moment. They didn't have an immediate purpose for the resulting documentation but were confident in finding a good use for it soon after.

Unfortunately there wasn't much other press presence, but then again the general Boston/Cambridge community almost seems inured to MIT hacks by now. In fact, the tie-dyed shirt worn by the guy at the table here is from the famous Fleming cannon hack that appeared in this same courtyard back in 2006.

Wing drive cranks, raise and lower wings with cables The wing flapping was driven by a clever dual-crank mechanism and a variable-speed gearmotor. Cables raised the wings; gravity lowered them.

Cable failure: slack lets it wrap around wrong parts Unfortunately, the system was not infallible. The day was very windy, and if the wind pushed a wing up and let the cable go slack it could easily wind itself around the wrong parts and jam the whole mechanism. Fortunately not in a destructive way; the motor could simply be turned off.

Specially-padded ladder for accessing Airstream roof A ladder was specially padded up to lean gently against the Airstream's aluminum skin and provide roof access to unsnarl the works.

Flying toaster wing drive mechanism from above The drive mechanism from above.

They had real toast! A trio of extension cords to bring 60A power into the RV
And since no high-profile hack is complete without schwag, the team was making lots of *toast* to give away to passersby. Not just ordinary toast, but stamped with a selection of MIT-related logos before heating. Because of the high wind, tinfoil-covered and therefore "food grade" rocks were needed to actually hold the toast down.

With toast needing to be produced at fairly high volume, a trio of extension cords run into East Campus to separate 20A outlets supplied power to a scary gang of ordinary-size toasters lined up on the counter inside the RV. The interior of which, of course, smelled strongly of toast the entire day.

Flying toaster hack official T-shirts And of course there were official event T-shirts.

Toaster almost hidden by wind-puffed Wonder Bread bag Every so often the wind would kick up and billow out the bread bag to about twice the size of the Jeep underneath, making it look even more like a loaf. And here we see another masterful stroke of detail -- the to-scale plastic baggie-tie holding the end closed.

People coming by to see the toaster (and eat toast) Flow of onlookers wasn't quite up to what the crew expected but plenty of people certainly came by to see it.

MIT campus police didn't really care about the hack. The MIT Campus Police were around, and didn't seem to really care that the Toaster was there even if, technically, it was illegally parked.

A few other views

Toaster hack as seen from an office in 6 Toaster and bread bag hack seen through Great Sail
Toaster as backdrop to a late-fall scene Toaster hack viewed from above (in a tree)
Some attempts to be vaguely artsy around nearby pieces of the campus.

Late afternoon light behind toaster hack I wanted this to be a nice sunset behind the Toaster, but I couldn't stick around quite long enough to let the sun get low enough. Besides, the crew had to think about getting the rig back home through rush-hour traffic. The height at the top of the toast was on par with a full-size semi truck, so due care with clearances was needed.

_H* 101121