Made by ltrawick

Found in DioT 2019: Internet of Plants

It's going to visualize the roots of a plant to indicate how well you're taking care of it.

Lee Trawick -


What if you had x-ray vision and could see through the opaque soil and inspect the roots of any plant or tree? “Taking Root” is a works-like prototype that lets you look beneath the soil of your home plants and see listen to what it has to say. Sometimes your favorite plants have things to say.

“I haven’t been watered in 3 days!”.

”You’re doing a great job taking care of me!”

“Today has been great. I’ve been getting 8 hours of warm direct sunlight today.”

Your plant “speaks” to you by talking through an LED embedded into its “roots” which are exposed on the outside of its flower pot. Rotate the dial to set how frequently you need to remember to water your plant. Watch the LED dance with joy every time you remember to water it on time. Forget to water your plant and the LED will dim until it’s not visible.



David Rose in Enchanted Objects tells us to open a comic book to find inspiration of what people dream about. I wanted to take an approach that included the following

  • · Look to comics and fantasy books for inspiration
  • o How do you enchant the flower pot?
  • · Run exploratory creative exercises to help me humanize the flower pot
  • · Define the simplest core experience that would communicate a “magic moment” 



· I read all of the IOT class readings to understand the big picture of designing for IOT.

· I went to the comic book store and bought the “Swamp Thing” to see how the world of fantasy discusses the world of enchanted plants

· I wrote the 200 word “Autobiography of a Flower Pot” to get a sense of all the stakeholder objects in a flower pot’s story. Here’s an excerpt

“My name is Chenhua. I am from bejing china. I have many brothers and sisters. When I was young, I rode a ship to America and started my life here in pittsburgh. I was raised by an American family. I owned many plants as pets and loved them all dearly....”

  • · I concept sketched 5 ideas inspired by “Enchanted Objects” and “Breakaway”
  • · I decided that I wanted to express the symbol of a plant rather than the real thing
  • · I narrowed it down to my favorite concept - “Roots: New Habits Taking Root”
  • · I went and bought clay, paint, and supplies
  • · I tested the electric components (one component at a time) and started coding

  • · With one day left in the project, I re-read the project requirements and realized my concept didn’t meet the rubric needs.
  • o I had to radically pivot to include practical features
  • o I pivoted to include both a living plant and the conceptual visualization of a plant
  • · My new concept would include the visualization of roots but include sensors for watering and light.
  • · I ran final code tests on my works-like prototype

  • · I created the first form (shape look) of the piece
  • · I sketched the circuit diagram and completed the final report

Lee Trawick -
Lee Trawick -


My code is included in the submission zip file.

List of components

  • · 1 Particle board
  • · 1 10k resistor per LED
  • · 1 LED
  • · 1 rotary switch
  • · 1 button switch
  • · 1 photocell sensor
  • · 1 pulldown resistor for the photocell sensor

Next Steps

Personally, I want to explore the non-functional art concept I was working on initially. I’m curious about creating a physical artefact that nudges positive behavior change.

If I had more time, I would polish the look and feel of the object. The next iteration would include

  • · A clear glass vase
  • · The leds held inside acrylic “roots” that glow when lit
  • o A web of roots with many leds
  • · An inch of real dirt at the top
  • · A hyper-realistic flower

After that, I would like to put it in someone’s home and user test it for a week. Get real feedback on it. 



My biggest surprise was the conceptualizing I was doing (which leaned towards art objects) did not fit the project rubric.

Building the circuit and code was simple because I have some prior experience in them.

I feel, because the devices are so simple to prototype, that the project needs to start with a good idea. Even if that good idea takes 90% of the project window to generate.

The last minute pivot I had to do really diluted the original vision I had for the project. I would want to take more time to revisit the concept under the constraints as I understand them now.

I would refocus my design process for a specific person in a specific context with a specific problem. My idea lacks precision of good conceptual design.

I wanted to 3D Print a small plastic watering can and set it on top of the “I watered you” button. The button was too sensitive to set anything on top of it. I can switch to a galvanized nail capacitor so you don’t have to press a button. 



Swamp Thing by David Alan More

Enchanted Objects by David Rose

Pieces of code started from “Sensors to Action” lab

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49713 Designing for the Internet of Things

· 16 members

A hands-on introductory course exploring the Internet of Things and connected product experiences.


It's going to visualize the roots of a plant to indicate how well you're taking care of it.


November 7th, 2019