“Design for Exploration” is a Stanford University course taught in collaboration with the Exploratorium as part of what is hoped to be an ongoing partnership between the two institutions. Stanford professor John Edmark and I have worked with 15 students for the past 10 weeks, introducing them to concepts of inquiry-based science teaching, designing for interactivity, and rapid prototyping. Informed by a constrained palette of materials, and modeling their work on art pieces as well as science exhibits, students found inspiration for prototyping new projects and evolved them through many iterations.
Here are some examples of initial light explorations . Read more at the DfE blog
From Claire Rosenbaum: In brainstorming for this piece, I watched an Eames video entitled “The Solar Do-Nothing Machine”. Link (note: poor visual resolution. Not original musical score) An aspect of the video depicts shapes which seem to be bobbing in an elliptical pattern because they are rotating form a crankshaft while having their center of gravity suspended from a string. I wanted to make a piece with the same “bubbly” feel.
During the ideation, I realized the rotating shapes do not need to be opaque, but could rather be light gels that overlap to transmit new colors.
From Jimmy Chion: My light piece was inspired by a attaching a piece of dichroic to a string and dangling it in front of sunlight. Besides being blinded every one in a while, the sunlight reflected off the dichroic was as focused as the sun itself and created a laser-like beam that changed colors depending on the angle it was reflecting at. Spinning the dichroic piece fast enough, I was able to get a laser show in my room. The interesting part was that the spectrum is created was only half the spectrum (i.e. the colors between the two complementary dichroic colors). The light that did pass through the dichroic lens created a expanding and contracting ellipse on the wall that continually changed colors but remained in the same place.
From Abby Sturges:
In one of the Exploratorium exhibits, I was inspired by the bent reflective surfaces and the way they concentrated light. While playing around with a different concept, I had spray mounted some silver Mylar to a bendable strip of foam core. I stumbled upoun an interesting reflection from the way the spray mount was shown on the thin Mylar. The result is a reflection resembling a “cell structure”. To me, it looked like a snake skin. I was entranced with moving the bendable strip of Mylar to make it look like a growing and shrinking snake.
From this exploration I wanted to create a series of movable reflective strips that users could interact with. Originally, I was playing with these reflections on the ceiling and walls. Not knowing what setting I would present the concept in, I decided to mount the strips on rods and have them project onto a white foam core board. I thought mounting the reflective strips on a rod with an adjustable angle would allow the user to really manipulate the strips by their ends.
What I learned was that mounting the strips on rods discouraged people from really handling the strips. People were much too gentle with the strips and missed out on some of the intended exploration. Plus, having to project onto a white board limited the reflection scale and effect. Additionally, all strip shapes is a bit dull and could be expanded upon.
I am pleased with people’s interest in the reflections and their reactions to connecting the reflections to cells or biology. There were some good points that were brought up last class. What other shapes could be formed that build on the concept of cell structure? What if the scale was much larger? What else can I relate this reflection to?
I plan to explore further based on this feedback. My original intention was always to have the reflections larger scale and projecting on the ceiling. I definitely plan to get rid of the mounted posts to allow more interaction with the reflections. First, I would like to explore other shapes. Then I plan to explore the incorporation of related cell structure things…and feedback is welcome!
Getting a tour of the NOAA exploration vessel OKEANOS Explorer was a real treat. The ship is packed with high tech remote sensors. For example, they showed us an accurate 3D map of a portion of ocean floor that they made on their way from Seattle to SF. You can see it on some monitors in the video below. I’ve worked with bathymetry data (ocean floor maps) during my geoscience studies and was curious about how they actually made the particular map that they showed to us. I actually found what I was looking for on the web. NOAA has pretty good web resources about the ship, it’s equipment, and missions. http://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/okeanos/
A neat feature of that web page is the ship tracker map that allows you to follow the ships path. It actually has the route the ship took a couple of days ago. The google maps image shows part of the route the ship took down to SF. Before they reached the bay, they moved in a zig zag pattern to scan the ocean floor with their sonar collecting bathymetry data. That’s how they made the ocean floor map, have a look at NOAA’s 3D ocean floor maps here. If you have a closer look at the ship’s route above, you can see that the lines are further apart where the ocean is deeper. Just like the beam of a flashlight, a sonar beam gets wider when the object is further away, so the ship “sees” a bigger piece of ocean floor when it is in deep water. OKEANOS has to do fewer zig zag lines in the deep ocean.
There’s plenty of other cool stuff on the NOAA Exploration pages, including ocean floor maps and fantastic video footage of the ocean floor.
Our colleague Pete Stevens introduced Rob Blackstock to us. Rob is a former MIT professor with a background in fluid dynamics. He showed us how to visualize any type of fluid flow in a dramatic way. He is using a special tracer fluid that works with polarized light (the effect is called streaming birefringence).
Since not many of us were here during Rob’s visit, I got him to do a short show and tell and video taped it. Rob is interested in working with us, his web page: www.laminarsciences.com
- Enjoy & many thanks to Pete for bringing him in!
Yeah, bubbles! I came in this morning and was surprised by the bubble madness outside the museum… what a great place to work at! More photos and video, click here
After many workshops using light traces, we came up with the first exhibit on light traces!
This time we are using black light and glowing objects to do light traces. A video camera gives real time feedback. Development continues, here is a first snapshot.
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