Marcus Blackstock

Christie Chan

Timothy Chow

Lana Kobayashi

My Roles

Processing 3 programming

Arduino programming

Arduino circuitry


In this 3 week project during the Summer of 2016, as a team of 4 we had to develop a concept, interface, and physical device with the use of Processing and Arduino. The deadlines required a project proposal in week one, a device prototype the second week, and a final working system in the final week.

The device had to fit into one of the designated interactive categories:

  • Robotics
  • Health monitoring
  • Smart device for the home
  • Educational toy for children / adults / rehabilitation
  • Green / Sustainable design
  • Interactive sculpture


We wanted to focus on an automated/optimized version of a regular household object that was feasible with our limited resources and knowledge.

In the end, because of it’s practicality over our other ideas, we went with an automated pill dispenser. Our main goal when creating the project was solving the problem of elderly forgetting or overdosing on prescribed medication.

Sketch of final vision

In other electronic pillboxes we found online:

  • Many systems were a weekly system (one container per day).
  • There is a lack of onscreen/computer component.
  • Difficult to understand how to use it.

Our pillbox would be automated all day long, and all the user has to do is set their schedule and refill the medicine when it is low.


The main components we had to figure out to make the device possible were the pill funnels and dispensary filter mechanics. We found a few solutions that had potential, the initial idea of a linear filter system didn’t work out because we had to control the device using small servo-motors.

Initial planned filter system

With some experimenting with the Arduino, we developed a new circular system that used the servos motion with funnels to our advantage:

Finalized filter system


The interface uses minimal elements with pastel colours to appeal to older users. The application maintains custom dosage schedules and records for up to 2 users, with up to 3 types of prescription pills. Users simply have to fill the compartments with there medicine and set the dosage schedule with the computer interface.

User interface

Developing the code for the system was my biggest focus and the most challenging portion for me because the project required synchronization /communication back and forth between the Arduino and processing application on the computer. Whereas we were only shown examples in the course of Arduino and processing being independent sending data one way.

We implemented ‘split token’ serial communication, which compiles the data of multiple sensors from the Arduino to transfer to the processing application. After the dispensing time/dosage was calculated in the processing application based on the user’s schedule, the app sent back a signal to the Arduino so it would dispense when activated.


The physical device was made from a modified gift-box, with foam-core and card-stock to hold the Arduino components and wiring into place. Friction was a big obstacle with the dispensing of the pills, we fixed this by layering non-stick baking sheets over the slides and sanding the funnels of any irregularities so the pills would not get stuck on their way out.

Final physical device + insides

The final device used input 3 sensors: touch, light, and an RFID reader with two user tags. Final output components included 3 servo-motors, 4 LEDs, and the computer speakers:

Arduino Circuit
Final circuit diagram

Here are the instructions that were included in the scheduling interface to explain the use of the device as a whole:

Device instructions from the application


While the project was a success in the final presentation, there was plenty of room for improvement. Most notably we had problems with the physical components up until the end, due to lack of build quality and inaccuracy with the Arduino components.

I think it was as succesful as it was because we tackled a very specific problem with a very specific target audience. I am quite proud of what we put together for this project and I wish that we had kept it intact a little longer so we could create better documentation of the tangible final product.