Vibratory Clock

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Team Members

Left to right: Brian Lesperance, Jennifer Breger, Daniel Pinkawa
  • Jennifer Breger - Mechanical Engineering Class of 2009
  • Brian Lesperance - Electrical Engineering Class of 2008
  • Daniel Pinkawa - Mechanical Engineering Class of 2008


We built a horizontal circular platform that is actuated from underneath by three speakers placed in an equilateral triangle. The vibration of the platform causes a small object (e.g., an IC socket or a coin) to act as an hour "hand" on top of the platform. The object slides around the circular platform, impelled by friction forces due to the vibration. By placing the speakers at different phases and amplitudes, we got the objects to move to desired positions. Due to the nodes created by the speaker vibrations, the object will move back to the correct hour if it is moved away. Our project was given to us by Professor Colgate and was based upon the research of Professor Lynch.

Mechanical Design

The Vibratory clock consists of a wooden base, held up by adjustable legs, three speakers, and a circular platform. The following material were used to create the design:


  • wood: 16" diameter, 0.75" thick
  • holes: 6" diameter (3 total)
  • adjustable legs: 3 rods: 3/8"-16; 4" long; 6 nuts total


  • 3 Pyramid Power PW677X: 300W, 4 Ohms, 6.5" Chrome Subwoofer
    • previously adapted speakers replaced center of speaker with attachments 3" in height and 1/2" hole on top
    • 1/2" diameter PVC used to attach previous attachment to platform with a screw
      • held in place by 2 set screws each
    • centers placed 7.125" apart

Circular Platform

  • PVC/Acrylic: 11.75" diameter, 0.25" thick
    • machined on the LaserJet
    • screw holes counter-sunk at 7.125" apart
  • 2.875" above wooden base

Reasoning for Geometry of Design

Equilateral Triangle: By having the speakers equidistant from each other, we were able to create symmetry in our design, which made programming the various nodes much easier. For example, we were able to use the same theory to find the node at 12 o'clock, 4 o'clock, and 8 o'clock. If the speakers were not placed equidistant from each other, two speakers placed at equal amplitudes and opposite phases would not have created a sink in the exact middle of the two speakers.

Adjustable Legs:

We needed to make the legs adjustable since it is essential that the platform be perfectly level in order for the objects placed on the platform to move in expected patterns. For example, if one leg is slightly shorter than the other two, the objects placed on the platform would tend to move towards that leg and we could no longer rely on symmetry to program the various nodes due to the effects of gravity.

Height of Platform:

Through our own experimentation and from Professor Lynch's research, we found that we needed to have the pivot point (i.e. the speaker diaphragm) significantly below the platform in order to create sinks. At one point in the design process, we attempted to create a different pivot point by replacing the PVC with 1/2" outer diameter, 1/4" inner diameter Tygon 2001 tubing that only was able to bend in one point since it had stand-offs and screws inside the tube. However, this replacement in a sense created two pivot points (the speaker diaphragm and the Tygon), causing the platform to only create sources and not sinks. In addition, the different height of the pivot point may have also led to the plate acting differently.

Electrical Design

Software Design



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