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Bees as Superorganisms

February 15, 2017
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The recent conversation of microbes and our symbiotic relationship with bacteria has sparked a new ideas for my interest with bees.

For some beekeepers, a bee colony is not to be seen as a collection of individual organisms but as one single organism.  Within a bee colony each bee has an individual tasks that lends to the health and success of the hive.  With in a bee colony there are bees to breed, nurse, build, guard, and forage.  Each bee with it’s specific task can be compared to an individual cell within an organism.  The set of collective bees given a specific task can be compared to an organ within an organism. Given this analogy, honey harvesting is a destructive practice, which requires beekeepers to break into the collective organism, disrupting internal functions, weakening organs, and threatening the survival of the hive.  After harvesting honey, beekeepers must wait weeks before they can harvest honey in order to allow the colony to reach a state of healthy equilibrium. Very clearly, the relationship bees have with other bees in their hive is is very different than the relationship we have with the microbes in our bodies.  If we were to make any comparison between the two systems, I would say that our bodies function more similarly to a hive not a bee (at this scale).   

Bees are dying all around the world from bacterial disease, viruses, and parasite attacks.  Parasitic mites contribute greatly to the spread of bacterial and viral diseases within and between hives.  Maintaining and keeping hives clean of mites is the only current way to mitigate the spread of infectious diseases and keep bee hives healthy.  

I would like to investigate the architectural form and materiality of the hive.  Is it possible to treat the hive as a living organism?  Could the walls and structure host the necessary microbes to stabilize or augment the affects of the disease causing bacteria or prevent parasite from inhabiting the colony?  Can a mycelium material host these types of microbes necessary for a healthy bee colony?  

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Conversations in Punk: Art within Intellectual Climate Change

February 13, 2017
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I went to the Whitney this week, but I wasn’t able to attend the offered courses.  instead, I went to their online archive to look through the types of courses they are and have offered in the past.  The Whitney currently offers 3 courses, Decade in Focus: Painting in the 1980s, How to Look, and Crash Courses.  I really liked the Whitney’s approach to their offered curriculums.  It seemed to me that the Whitney Museum was focused on the idea of contextualizing art and artists within art movements throughout history.  

The idea to (re)frame artists within certain movements and ideas of the climate of the artist’s time really resonated with me.  It brought up this idea of conversation as a way for learning that I had discussed in my previous assignments.  Contextualization functions within this idea of conversation.  Conversation is not just the physical act of holding conversation.  Conversation is also the exchange of ideas between thinkers and umbrella-ing concepts that influenced them within the political, social, and scientific climates of their period.  

Above: A screenshot of the courses provided at the Whitney Museum currently.

 In my second assignment, I imagined my ideal curriculum for high school would have been a course load which was shared and exchanged with classmates through non-competitive labs and symposiums.  For that assignment, I believed that a holistic understand of learned material was necessary for exploration and the development of new ideas.  Science is not without Art and Art is not without Science.  Many of the greatest scientists were poets and vice versa.  For me, I think that is also true for understanding art.  So much art is pluralistic and references a multitude of ideas in a single instance.  All to often, we hear art discredited by those who claim to be capable of the replicating the same technique, but rarely do people understand the novelty behind the idea embedded within the work.  

Above: A rough sketch diagram of a potential course on Keith Haring and his Orbits of Influence.

My course would be structured around artist retrospectives or art movements.  It would not only teach students how to look at art visually by understanding visual language that the artist uses, but it would also examine the artist or art movement in reference to other ideas of the time.  For artists we would examine orbits of influence: mentors, inspirations, those they influenced, poets, musicians, science, politics, as well as the type of canonized art forms that were accepted at the time.  For art movements, we would examine paradigm shifts within canonized ideas, how certain artists functioned as catalysts for those paradigm shifts, and how those ideas influenced other areas of political, social, and intellectual thought.  

Courses would be a series of ongoing weekly tours focusing on a different artist or movements.  Tour guides/ instructors with visit current art on display or current exhibits happening at the Whitney.  The tour guides would bring a catalog of work reference with them as research material for the students.  The catalog could be physical documents, other artwork, biographies, or a slide show with relevant content.  

Above: Edouard Manet, Olympia, 1865.  The stoic, matter-of-fact gaze into the onlooking viewers eyes caused outrage within the art community of the time.  It was a pivotal moment in subject matter within art history.  Who influenced Manet?  What conversations did he engage?

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Leaving a Mark: I Was Here

February 13, 2017
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in XYZ
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Above: Hand Paintings found in Cueva de las Manos is Santa Cruz, Argentina, 10,000-38,000 BCE.

Leaving one’s mark in a place and time has been an intrinsically human act dating back for millennia.  As civilization developed, the act of leaving one’s mark became a form of defacement as other forms of creating were quickly canonized within society for their inherent utility (i.e. architecture, crafts, poetry, etc.).  Graffiti street art and tagging became a tool for leaving one’s mark and claiming territory within public space, but operated outside society’s laws of property ownership.  Graffiti, the modern form of leaving one’s mark, became a destructive taboo within inner cities.  

Above: Keith Haring, Untitled,  1986.

Many artists have looked to graffiti, street art, and materials often used to deface public space as constructive tools for reclaiming space, creating a public message, and/or questioning society’s values.  Our group wanted to explore this idea of leaving one’s mark, not as a destructive force, but as a constructive act.  How does the process of leaving one’s mark invoke new ideas or add to previous content?  What does it mean to give a robot the ability to leave its’ mark and create or deface when most robots are designed to assist or streamline human performance and ingenuity.  We hope to give a robot character and a sense of humanity through the act of leaving one’s mark.

Above:  Selection of work by Dan Colen. Untitled, Chewing Gum, 2008.  No Sex No War No Me, Spray Paint Installation, 2006. Untitled (Vete al Diablo), 2006.

Using computer vision, our group will make a ‘draw-bot’ that examines and then augments portraits by drawing/collaging with other materials directly on top of the images.  We chose drawing on portraits because we see it as the ultimate act of defacement and the area for a robot to exhibit the most human character as it sketches in response to our physical features.  Does the robot now have an opinion?  Do the resultant drawings provoke the idea of preference or disgust?

Above: A selection of drawings made as a quick group exercise exploring the idea of defacement as an additive process.


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February 8, 2017
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Collaborators: Chester Dols, Jordan Frand, and Ariana Vassilopoulou

Violence can be both oppressive and liberating.  Violence is often viewed as a oppressive action that is a primitive response to dissatisfaction; where conversation and negotiation are the desired first steps for civilized response.  However, with marginalized groups, conversation is a privilege that they do not have.  Sometimes violence is the only way to start conversation and spark change.

This piece comes form a personal place of being victimized as a gay male.  I wanted to examine my experiences but also open the conversation to solidarity.  From what I have seen, it is rare for marginalized groups to stand together and for each other for basic civil rights.  Often, the lack of identity between certain group is exclusionary and leads people to believe that their cause is not the same cause as other minorities.  

Through the object of a bat, we pose a number of questions.  What is the significance of the bat?  What are the affects of inaction? Passive action?  Who holds the bat? and when the bat is held, what is it’s function?

Left: Arduino code for our initial swing tests with accelerometer sensor.

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Vertical Gardens

February 8, 2017
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Above: Vertical garden architecture and axonometric section of Kowloon City.

The Farmbot sparked a few interesting questions for me.  Upon first seeing it in XYZ (Ben Light’s class) and now in Biodesigning the Future of Food, I see so much potential in the the farming process not only along the X-axis and the Y-axis, but also the Z-axis.  The concept of vertical farming has been a fascinating speculative subject for architects and urban designers.  Without the available square footage in urban areas, the only way to farm is to move vertically with layers of compact crop fields.  I always imagined these vertical gardens through the lens of Kowloon City.  How could we co-exist within  intersecting green spaces with a diverse ecosystem of plants and animals?  Can a hybrid urban environment develop and be sustained?  Can we provide an infrastructure that a lots for more ecological niches?

I found some discussions on the idea for vertical farming.  Within the sea of vast support for vertical gardens which seem to function more for spectacle than for speculation, I found Anderson Ruben, a sustainability consultant from Canada.  Ruben asks “But at what cost?” to the idea of vertical gardens.  He argues that all methods of vertical gardening and many “sustainable” systems required the use of non-renewable resources to be realized.  He proposes the idea of extraction when we consume and make.    When things are extracted from a system, they are removed, unable to be returned which is unsustainable.  Non-renewable resources, such as fossil fuels, are inherently extracted resources, but what happens when the system that is supposed to be sustainable requires more energy to make and sustain than it is capable of pushing out? 

Anderson Ruben’s Website

Below: Vertical garden warehouse and an aquaponic garden diagram which gets plants nutrients and energy from other organisms.  These organisms then receive their nutrients from the plants in one ‘closed’ system.

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February 8, 2017
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Collaborators: Shir David, Hayeon Kim, and Chester Dols

We initially spoke after class with an idea to make a kit for our future-selves. We imagined what the future would be like and what the necessary components would be for our survival. became the focus of our inspiration.  Project 2045 imagines a possible future of uploaded human consciousness onto a digital server where humanity can live in peace when the world’s resources are depleted.

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Our second point of inspiration was the concept of the ‘readymade’ and what a readymade can be.  We discussed a kit of objects that needed to be available for us when we arrived in our new virtual world.  The intention of the kit was a selection of items necessary to keep our humanity even though we had become digital.  We all really liked the idea of readily made objects from that we we could mash together to represent the parts of humanity that we thought would be necessary for our transitional preservation from physical to digital.

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Our vessel is a usb drive.  The kit, a collection of aggregated mesh objects.  Our objects represent 6 things that we felt are intrinsically necessary as humans and to stay human.

-Consumption: a car, a bug, a computer, and a hammer.

-Curiosity: a Mario figure, a skateboard, and a book.

-Inspiration: a bike wheel, a urinal, and a stool.

-Intangible Arts: a Spotify keychain and a music box mechanism.

-Compassion: a heart, a rose, a sword

-Health: a virus model, a snake, and a pill case.
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Above: fabrication of the futuristic usb and a screenshot of the health object in Rhino3D interface.

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Fairy Character Development

February 6, 2017
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The character below was one of three characters I developed in Fuse.  I played with the mesh geometry in Maya to give the characters special attributes, mainly horns an other aesthetic adjustments.  After working with the characters and re-exporting as a fbx, I imported the characters into Unity to troubleshoot the translation between the programs.  The imported mesh textures got a bit confused.  The characters I made are clothed, but I am unsure if I want clothing.  If I do not use clothing, I will need to figure out the texture mapping in Maya to complete the skin areas which Fuse censors.

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February 5, 2017
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I had this amazing teacher in high school, Mr. Beuschlein.  He was my “teacher” for physics and calculus, but was much more of a mentor than a teacher.  In class we never really seemed to have a syllabus.  We would maybe do 20 minutes of work on the ‘subject of that day’ and then quickly move to tangential subjects and labs for the rest of the time.  We always learned what we “needed” to learn for the class, but more importantly, we saw how everything fit together.  We would talk politics, art, science, literature etc; you name it we discussed it.  I was really quiet back then. I would sit and listen to the others in my class, often in admiration of their passions and the eagerness of my teacher to encourage them with conversation.  Everything seemed interconnected.  We might be talking about electromagnetism at the beginning of class, but by the end, we were looking into similar forces in biology or chemistry, deriving relevant formulas, and if we had time, quickly researching relevant applications of the subject before class ended.  I don’t know if our class structure was intentional or if Mr. Beuschlein was easily distracted; regardless, the structure of his class is one that I wish was applied to all my classes during high school.

In retrospect, high school was the time for exploration and discovery in ourselves.  We didn’t know what we wanted to do before high school, and few of us knew what we wanted to do when we graduated.  Mr. Beuschlein’s class facilitated this necessity of self exploration.  

Extending the practice of how I learn (from the previous assignment), I would like to create a curriculum that is based on the idea of conversation/communication as a necessary practice to obtain knowledge. Critical conversation and critical listening between students, instructors, and subjects will be encouraged to promote exploration into hybrid fields of interdisciplinary practice as they move into their junior and senior year and (hopefully) college. In theory, the program will provide the language, tools, and applications necessary for conversation, collaboration, and sustained engagement.

The course structure will be based on a 10 class periods, centered around daily symposiums with practical labs. Symposium and lab will count as 2 courses leaving students with 8 classes chosen based on individual capacity and curiosity. Out of these 8 courses, students will be required to take 4 humanities courses and 4 math/science courses for balance. In these symposiums and labs would be cross disciplinary discussion and research. It is not necessary for instructors to have knowledge in all areas of study. Instructors will stand in as catalysts for conversation and curiosity. Symposiums and practical labs will take place between 10 students with similar and dissimilar classes. Their will be no hierarchy between participants. Students will explore tangential subjects through conversation and be encouraged to ask all questions they see relevant.

Prerequisites will be based on a course to course basis. For example, students interested in taking courses in calculus ii, must have previously completed calculus and before that, pre-calculus. Students interested in taking higher level courses in any respective subject must take the necessary foundation courses for that subject or show a capacity of competent knowledge.  (Physical wellness will be explored through after school extracurriculars.)

The main objective is to prepare students to approach the world with a cross disciplinary, collaborative practice, and to encourage lateral thinking between subjects in order to inform independent, unique ideas. Students will learn together and though each others’ interests, not limited to the scope or constraints of what offered courses can provide.

Above: David Altmedj, ‘Wave’, 2011, Plaster. I like David Altmedj’s approach to making. His work always seems to question process. His pluralistic approach to making creates opportunity for new forms and ideas. Is this a painting or a sculpture?

Above: Inspired by the idea of a semi-lattice, symposiums and labs would provide a more holistic way of learning and a pluralistic approach to problem solving. What one student can’t learn alone, they can learn through conversation with the group.  Diagram should be read bottom-up.

Full Disclaimer, this is not a fully developed idea.  It is a proposal on how we could restructure education and our approach to knowledge.  The courses offered are not fully developed nor is the scope to how this would be accomplished.  

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The body and mind are inseparable….

January 31, 2017
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In  Proust was a Neuroscientist, Jonah Lehrer explain’s that science and art are not independent of each other.  Lehrer says that for Walt Whitman, the “body and mind are inseparable….  This is Whitman’s central poetic idea.  We do not have a body, we are a body. Although our feelings feel immaterial, they actually begin in the flesh.”

Extending this idea of Whitman,  I reimagined the relationship of the mind to the body at the scale of a larger ecosystem.  I placed this claim, that the mind and body are one, against the field of synthetic biology as it was presented in the New Yorker article, A Life of its Own, by Michael Specter.  Synthetic Biology, is not a new field, but with the advancements in genetic research the field is breathing new life.  The infinite possibilities of augmented DNA sequencing for many scientists and corporations promises possible solutions to many of the world’s problems, ranging from a cure for hunger to cures for disease.   Many of these solutions address the immediate future, but few lack the vision to project how their work will affect the world for generations to come.  The seduction of this technology worries me.   In the article, it seems that Specter hints to the notion that we should be skeptical of the promises this technology makes.  Genetically modifying crops to produce more artemisinin, a reliable natural ingredient for fighting malaria, seems to have great promise, but it does not come free of any consequences.  Doing this would make the medicine much cheaper and more readily available for those in need around the world, but this new genetically modified plant would not longer be grown in areas where it was naturally found and consequently would no longer be the source of income for people in those areas.  It would be primarily grown in labs of major pharmaceutical corporations in developed countries.  Do we sacrifice the lives of one group for another?  In this case, the consequences are not as extreme.  One could always suggest that those robbed of the crop that they once grew could find another crop to grow for their new source of income, but what about other areas where genetic modification has been suggested as a solution.   

The article proposes that Darwinian evolution is over, that humanity has become god and with our new power of synthetic biology, we will be able to design a world without disease or discomfort.  But the world is not full of unlimited resources and humanity is not free of fault.  These genetic modification comes with a price I’m sure.  In what state will we find our ecosystem in the distant future?  For every solution there is another problem.  If we cure the diseases of the world we will need to cure the problem of world hunger because there will be more mouths to feed.  In which hands do we give the science.   Some nations may keep it for themselves, coveting and exploiting a resource that others do not have access to.  It is a theme that has played out with oil, water, land, and every other resources.  Even more worry some is this technologies use in biological warfare.  This technology could be used for mass genocide by targeting a specific genome that only a certain population may have.

Genetic modification comes with a huge ethical problem that I’m not sure if we can answer.   Do we neglect to help those today for the sake of generations to come.  That is why I liked the relationship proposed by Walt Whitman. The physical “body” of the world is not free of the world’s “mind”.  If the all the physical parts of an ecosystem (us included) make up the body, then culture and human relations make up the mind.  One is not independent of the other.  If we interfere with an organism or an entire ecosystem we should consider what kinds of scars we are leaving on the world’s body and the type of scars it will leave on the world’s mind.  What types of cultural paradigms will shift?  Will values change?  Will the worth of a human life stay the same?

In short, the psychology of the world should not be neglected for the health of a few organisms.  We must consider the consequences for our actions; we are not the only species in this system.

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Objection to Fairy

January 30, 2017
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I am interested in exploring the modern concept of the ‘other’ through the lens of the fairytale.  If fairytales, fables, and folkloric stories have lessons to teach, what are the moral/ethical lessons that can be taught to our contemporary civilization?  As technology evolves and pushes forward, so will globalization and the intersection of cultures.  With this intersection, conflict and discrimination has and will occur through the creation and discrimination of the “other”. Above are two images showing how the gay community chooses to subvert the derogatory term, ‘fairy’.  Above right, is a diagram of the cremaster muscle, Henry Gray (1918) Anatomy of the Human Body.

In the the 20th and 21st century, the term ‘fairy’  has been used as a derogatory term for homosexual men.  The gender bias that has developed around fairytales has discriminated against women, and consequently gay or effeminate men for being lesser.  Things of fantasy and folklore also seem to have a modern connotation of being escapisms, distracting lesser men from dealing with their problems head on (i.e. ‘manning up’).

Matthew Barney’s Cremaster Cycle examines the development of the male figure during puberty.  The cremaster muscle is a testicular muscle that fully develops during a male’s puberty cycle allowing the testicles to ascend and descend, optimizing the interior climate for sperm development.  Mathew Barney develops a uniquely holistic dreamscape to explore the development of the male figure by abstracting the concept of the male within biology, mythology, and genealogy.  I would like to respond to his Cremaster Cycle and explore the representation and reception of the gay male in contemporary culture by flipping and subverting the relationship of the fairytale with the gay community.Above are a selection of images taken from Mathew Barney’s Cremaster Cycle.

Mathew Barney developed his own language for representing what is masculine and the development of the male.  Below is a quick selection of objects and things that have the connotation for being gay or queer.  My intention is to develop my own language for the perception of the gay male within a holistic dreamscape of my own creation.Above are images of a pansy, a cupcake, a bear, and fruit.

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January 29, 2017
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Conversation is an essential component to the way that I learn.  Without conversation the growth of my curiosity and motivation are stunted.  I believe that it is the responsibility for the expert, or *teacher*, to provide the tools, language, and motivation to encourage learning.   If the tool is the material being taught, then language is the method for questioning and the vehicle to develop curiosity and individual exploration.  From a young age I realized that for me, regardless of how interesting the material (or tool) was,  if I did not have the words to articulate my curiosity or confusion, I would be lost at how to engage further and would quickly lose interest in the subject matter. Simultaneously, an overview of the material’s applications should be presented to inspire by contextualizing the material within its larger system.  Without context, the tools being taught often feel like an end in themselves and not the means for greater exploration.  For instance, if you are only taught that the sine function is a trigonometric function that can be used to find the hypotenuse of a triangle, you will probably find that you will rarely need to find the hypotenuse of any triangle and quickly lose interest.   When I learn, I need to be presented the system and all its components.  I need to know the multitudes of how a tool can be used.  I need to know that the sine function is used in combination with other functions, that it is a necessary formula for the architecture of a building, that the sine curve is used to describe oscillating sound waves, and that with it I can calculate the length of my shadow on a sunny day etc.  

There is a feedback mechanism with in my system of learning.  After applying and practicing/playing with the material presented to me, I need constructive dialogue to move forward and continue engagement.  Without constructive criticism, I will lose interest.  I need a platform to jump from in order to go higher.  I need to hear what I did well and what I did poorly.  Most importantly in conversation, I need to hear how I can improve.  Regardless of whether I succeed or whether I fail, I learn.  However, without continued conversation my system dissolves, my curiosity lessens, a my understanding suffers.
As for the material itself,  I am a hands on visual learner.  Simply sophisticated diagrams go a long way and real world labs make an impression.  You can’t just tell me that gravity works equally on all objects.  I need to see a tennis ball and egg drop at the same time from the same height, and smash and hit the ground at the same time.  I need my hands in the material.  Give me an egg and I will throw it to see what happens.  

I also think that it is import to recognize how I receive information, and how one becomes an *expert*.  I like to think of the rhizomic model proposed by Deleuze and Guattari when I think how I understand what I know.    In order to understand, we siphon information from experts, peers, and outside sources.  Our knowledge grows when we intersect and have conversations with these individuals.  It is important to stress that the titles of expert, student, peer, and other are interchangeable.   No matter how removed a subject maybe, it will influence our approach and understanding during any conversation.

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POV 3D Display

December 15, 2016
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FINAL || Instructor: Benedetta Piantella || Collaborators: Michael Simpson
conceptWe began our final project under the pretense that we wanted to pursue a project that incorporated our shared passion for architectural design. We imagined projects that would allow us to carve out a physical space using movement and gestures. As we delved deeper into what these idea might look like in practice, we quickly realized that the level of abstraction created by the physical input made the resulting models too difficult for the user to keep mental track.

From there, we began thinking about drawing tools which leveraged existing modes of architectural graphic technique to allow a user the ability to draw three dimensional spaces in a 3D space. The device we envisioned allowed the user to create drawings in plan and elevation which would then be integrated to create a 3D projection of the resulting space. However, as we continued to pursue this idea we began to realize that the limitations of this kind of system outweighed the benefits.

These disparities made it clear to us that the adoption of abstract interfaces necessitate a display system capable of conveying complex volume data. To realize any of the ideas we wished to pursue we would need a volumetric display capable of presenting real-time data that is highly dynamic and also high resolution. After these revelations and some initial research surveying the landscape of volumetric display, we decided to dedicate our final project to the pursuit of this technology.

Our initial thought was to create a display that would use strips of individually addressable LEDs and spin these LEDs around a center axle. We based this idea on our existing exposure to the technique of Persistence of Vision (PoV) where the blink rate of a light in motion creates a light field, with a fast enough rate of motion, the light field created by this fools our eyes to integrate it into a persistent image.

Before starting to design our own PoV system, Michael conducted extensive precedent studies to survey the state of the art.  He quickly determined that there had been many attempts to create volumetric displays using PoV. Below is a table of summarizing the results of these investigations.

We both found that the Interactive 360 Degree Light Field Display created at the University of Southern California’s ICT Graphics Lab offered the most compelling representation. A goal of that project was to create a display using commercially available devices. Unfortunately, as we began to pursue a similar implementation we hit a major obstacle in trying to understand how to achieve the high projection frame rate (4800hz) necessary for that device. Their implementation used a standard DLP projector but with a modified (hardware) driver that used an FPGA device to act as a middle-man between a graphics card’s 24-bit HDMI signal and the binary (1-bit) colorless frames which are actually displayed by the Digital Micro-mirror Device (DMD) inside all DLP Projectors. Despite understanding the process by which University of University of Southern California’s ICT Graphics Lab employed, implementation was not a straightforward task and implementing the FPGA was actually something outside the scope of our project.

At this point, we decided it was time to settle on a project design and to pursue that design with the remaining time we had.   Michael had previously worked with LED matrices and proposed that a low-pitch (meaning, higher density of pixels) matrix spinning between 900 and 1300 RPM would be able to create the PoV effect we had been looking for.


The final design takes two 32×64 LED matrix with 3mm pitch (from adafruit) and chains them together to create a single 64×64 LED matrix. The combined matrix is mounted on a center axle which is attached to a motor shaft. During the course of our investigation, we realized that a limitation of this sort of design (which was circumvented by the USC-ICT project) is that it requires power and data be provided to a spinning platform. This limitation can trivially be overcome at lower speeds by use of a slip ring. However, at speeds greater than 300 rpm, things start to become more difficult due to the design of the cheaper “capsule” style slip rings. While speaking to Ben Light, we were introduced to another style of slip ring known as a through-bore.

Through-Bore Slip Ring vs Capsule Slip Ring:  Through-bore slip rings have a hole in the middle of the ring with set screws that are intended to be locked into place around a motor’s shaft. This style of slip ring is specifically intended for the purpose of our project and are rated to operate even at speeds much higher than we intended. This style is not a readily available product in most stores and must be purchased directly from one of the manufacturer’s. As we believed this would be the key to enabling our project to work as intended, we made the decision to purchase one of these. Unfortunately, despite our being guaranteed of next day delivery, the slip ring arrived one day late- causing us to be unable to implement the project before our class. But, now with the ring in hand, we will continue to realize the project and will post again with results of the fabrication.

Communication with the Displays: Aside from the fabrication, we also needed software to communicate with the displays and also to allow them to be interactive. Our goal was to create an installation where the user would be able to control the pixels on the spinning display by means of a joystick and linear potentiometers for adjusting values like color, blink rate, along with a standard potentiometer for adjusting the speed of rotation.

A Raspberry Pi was used to communicate with the displays using C (Python was also an option) via adafruit’s gfx libraries. However, for a more interactive experience, the arduino mega was used to host a sketch that enabled control of the displays over serial communication. The sketch was derived from an old (and partially broken) SparkFun sketch which was meant for smaller displays. After making some adjustments to the sketch it was able to run on the mega with matrices in a 64×64 chained arrangement providing a way to interactively manipulate the pixel information. This interface would allow us to move a cursor around the displays and draw points, lines, rectangles, ellipses, polygons, and/or text on-demand. This component of the project is fully working but could not be demonstrated in PoV fashion due to the lack of a fast rotating platform.


Images above show successful use of controlling motor speed, successful communication to two LED Matrix displays with a combination of Raspberry Pi and Arduino Mega, and physical components for the first model fabricated with the the CNC mill and laser cutter.

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Work in Progress: Social Media Sustained Ecology

December 7, 2016
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FINAL || Instructor: Allison Parish || Collaborators: Carlie Zhang

The flocks’ movements are generated by a variety of environmental factors. For both flocks, the individual agents push and pull with cohesion forces and separation forces to avoid collision.  There is a general Perlin noise field which helps the flocks seem to move with intent and purpose.  The field vectors also keep the flock within the parameters of the screen.  Where flock one generally moves with the field vectors, flock two’s main objective is the chase and collide with flock one.  When food is generated on the screen, both flocks however, are drawn strongly to the food source to sustain their existence.  Food is the strongest motivating force in this system.  Individual agents will break from the larger group if food is in sight.  The number of food particles generated is equal to the number likes and the number of characters found with in the comments of the post.

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POV 3D Display

December 1, 2016
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FINAL  || Instructor: Benedetta Piantella  ||  Collaborators: Michael Simpson

After taking a few steps back from our original project, we plan on using our final as a study into volumetric displays and their functionality.  We struggled with the concept of drawing/sculpting in space without a physical feedback mechanism to inform our users of their production.  In order to understand how to interact in space, we found it necessary to develop a way to describe our 3D geometry in an accessible way for users of these tools (ie. without abstract drawing methods of architectural related design practices).

BOM & Scheduling 



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