Tag Archives: light art

How I Built It: Old Airplane To Contemporary Light Sculpture That Connects To NASA & Rest of The World

How I Built It: Old Airplane To Contemporary Light Sculpture That Connects To NASA & Rest of The World

by Daric Gill

{Time-Lapse Video of Process Above}

Installed at the Columbus Museum of Art

The Imagination Machine is an interactive sculpture that communicates with NASA, is motion sensitive, tells time, and has a feature that can be remotely controlled from anywhere in the world. It’s made from one of the two wings of a Flying Flea aircraft, strips of individually programmable LEDs, and the brains of a Wi-Fi enabled robot. Part of The Living Machine series, this responsive sculpture takes a look at the emotional intelligence of imagination, as displayed by a robot.

A wooden truss supports the wings, lights, and electrical controls from above. There are two acrylic cases that are packed with brains, power supplies, and sensors to make this sculpture work. In this article, you can explore the build process from start-to-finish.

About The Wing
The plane without the wings attached.

At almost 19 ft long ( ~5.8 m), this wing is one of two pulled from a real bi-plane. The Flying Flea, or (Pou du Ciel literally “Louse of the Sky” in French) is a large family of light homebuilt aircraft. The plane was a generous donation by Mark Curtner in connection with the Historic Grimes Field Airport in Urbana, Ohio. Ohio’s only airport with 3 Museums on Field: The Champaign Aviation Museum, the Grimes Flying Laboratory, & Museum and the restoration wing of the Mid America Flight Museum of Texas.

As you can see from the photos in this article, the wing is segmented into 3 parts (two shorter wing ends + longer middle section). This allows the wings to fold up and inward for tighter storage.

In truth, this wing is actually the ends from one wing and the center from the other. The remaining middle section had some primer on it, rendering it no longer translucent enough that light would pass through. Any pilot will notice that the wing is also flipped upside down, showing the sexier rounded edge to the viewer below.

The Electronics

While the wing itself is split into three parts, the electronics are split down the middle in halves. Each half has a separate Wi-Fi enabled brain, corresponding lights, and electronic hardware. The brain holds around 27 pages of codes that loop over and over. These codes calibrate and get feedback from 4 separate motion sensors, activate Wi-Fi and make frequent requests of data from NASA and a server (called MQTT) that holds any communication until a valid Wi-Fi handshake is made, control various pins (that do anything from trigger a relay switch to direct electricity from a large power supply, to modulating the signals that change each LED on the light strips, to telling time, and more). The main brain is a 2-layered stack consisting of an Hazzah32 micro-controller and Adalogger + RTC board made by a successful female-owned company called Adafruit.

Huzzah32 Feather with ESP32 wi-fi board & Adalogger RTC

This paragraph is jargon-heavy (sorry): The Hazzah32 is an Arduino friendly ESP32-based Feather, made with the official WROOM32 module. At the moment, it is meant for intermediate and above developers, as the documentation can be a little daunting. To its benefit, each of the pins can be hard coded to do several different functions. Truthfully, much of the time working on this project was learning how this new board worked and growing into the shoes worn by such an ambitious project.

The light strips are RGB WS2812b 5050 LEDs (often rebranded as Neopixels ). While the strips look simple, each bright spot is a module comprised of a tiny red, green, and blue LED + a little driver. This means that each color and light bulb has 3 uniquely addressable lights that can be controlled independently. In total, The Imagination Machine has 2,700 individually addressable LED lights and can modulate many colors with ease. I used a reworked version of the adaptable open source FastLed codes.

You’ll notice that I go through several iterations of designs, homemade boards, LED configurations, and layouts. The great size and technical scope of this project was purposely outside my normal comfort range. What you’re seeing is the honest proof that I really came up with the final goal and had to truly learn what I was doing along the way. It was an exciting and deep journey through many unknowns. I’m appreciative of all the new knowledge that was born from so many trials along the way.

The Imagination Machine
June 2019
Medium: Reclaimed airplane wing, LED lights, Wi-Fi enabled Adafruit Hazzah32 micro-controllers, Adafruit Adalogger with Real Time Clock, PIR motion sensors, electronics, and poplar.
226” x 48” x Dimensions Variable

{To see the finished piece in action, click here}


Interactive Airplane Wing Dreams To Be In Space, Connects to NASA, & Glows At Columbus Museum of Art

Interactive Airplane Wing Dreams To Be In Space, Connects to NASA, & Glows At Columbus Museum of Art

by Daric Gill

{Feature Video of Sculpture Above}

The Imagination Machine
Installed at the Columbus Museum of Art

The Imagination Machine is an interactive light sculpture that communicates with NASA, is motion sensitive, tells time, and has a feature that can be remotely controlled from anywhere in the world. It is made from the wing of a Flying Flea aircraft, strips of individually programmable LEDs, and the brains of a Wi-Fi enabled micro-controller circuit board. Part of The Living Machine series, this responsive sculpture takes a look at the emotional intelligence of imagination (as displayed by a robot), and how that relates to a more global sense of self.

This wing has been enhanced with new parts and imagines what it may be like to take flight in outer space. Looking up to the heavens, its onboard brains communicate with NASA’s open database using a unique online key. Each time the International Space Station passes directly over the wing, it gets excited and displays a special light show of vibrant blues. When not activated by the nearby space station, a set of motion sensors wakes it up to perform a slowly undulating pattern of pastel colors for approaching visitors. Additionally, on the hour, the wing pulses white, showing the passing of time.

Working from Kaffe Oswalds, Dresden Germany

The Imagination Machine holds another secret as well: One feature can be controlled remotely. From the beginning stages of this piece, I knew that I’d be working abroad during its inaugural debut. It is built to be globally interactive, both from space and from the ground. Just now, I used my phone to say ‘hello’ to the sculpture floating in the museum in Ohio, USA, from where I sit…  a beautiful cafe bistro in Germany.  This remote access has been intentionally designed so that I can share the experience with others I meet abroad. With the tap of a button on my phone, newly made friends can communicate with the sculpture and to the people visiting it at the museum.

{ Click To Skip Article & Go To Image Gallery }

{Explore the entire build process  here}

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VIDEO: How I Built A Robotic Sculpture From An 1800s Table

How I Made “The Shy Machine”: An Interactive Kinetic Light Sculpture That Moves, Learns, & Reacts

by Daric Gill

{Time-Lapse Video of Process Above}

The Shy Machine is a motion activated, sound reactive, environmentally adaptive, kinetic light sculpture. As its name would suggest, this robot is shy. The two halves of this 12-sided geometric form open and close depending on the noise levels in the environment. Vibrant lights pulse from within according to volume in the room. The insides are packed with electronic brains, lights, and sensors to make this happen. In this article, you can explore the build process from start-to-finish.

{Process Image Gallery Below}

 

Continue reading VIDEO: How I Built A Robotic Sculpture From An 1800s Table

"The Shy Machine": Fully opened in the Soft Volume Position. Slow undulations of rainbow light.

VIDEO: Interactive Kinetic Light Sculpture Moves, Learns, & Reacts

“The Shy Machine”: Interactive Kinetic Light Sculpture that Moves, Lights, Learns, & Reacts

by Daric Gill

"The Shy Machine": Fully opened in the Soft Volume Position. Slow undulations of rainbow light.
“The Shy Machine”: Fully opened in the Soft Volume Position. Slow undulations of rainbow light.

The Shy Machine: a motion activated, sound reactive, environmentally adaptive, kinetic light sculpture.

Taking over a year to complete (time split with other projects), this piece has been the most ambitious artwork I’ve created to date. It’s been my goal to create a piece with the specific aim to push myself beyond any previous personal limitations regarding engineering, finance, complexity, and conceptual meaning.

A project this involved earned a proportionate amount of planning and quiet contemplation before any work could even begin. At this point in my career, I view this particular piece as the combination of my childhood interests mingled with my adult potential. In this article, I’ll discuss how I came to the idea, how it works, and how I relate to it on a very personal level.

{ Click To Skip Article & Go To Image Gallery }

{Explore the entire build process  here}

 

Continue reading VIDEO: Interactive Kinetic Light Sculpture Moves, Learns, & Reacts