Saturday, November 26, 2011

Finalizing Design

The team went ahead and put in the order for 50 polycarbonate tubes. Since polycarbonate is a more expense material we will have less stalks than the original design and they will be shorter (about 2ft at the tallest). Overall we have decided to go quality over quantity which I am very happy about because previously only Brian and I had voted for using polycarbonate over PVC. One issue with the polycarbonate though is that it is clear and therefore one can see all the wires and the LED through the stalk. Brian and I tested different ways for making the stalk opaque. In the end we found that if we sandblasted the outside and the inside and then slipped a tube of Mylar down the stalk the finished look was a soft satiny sheen that perfectly masked the wires and the hotspot created by the LED. We will still use a piece of sandblasted acrylic at the top to plug the stalks and diffuse the light.

A few example of other things I tried along with the Mylar were newspaper and using ink on the Mylar.

Kevin, Brian and I also preformed a test on the PIR to gage its sensitivity. We had Brian stand to one side of the PIR and create motion. Once the PIR recognized it we put an x on the floor. I made a graph of the calculations.

I'm also still messing around with processing. Although I'm sure we won't end up using it, I wrote a simple code that displays the front of the PowerHouse with a tracking dot moving along the sidewalk to signify a person walking. The movement is not fluid however and we will most likely end up using a digital framework of the Powerhouse and working with a multitude of dots that the PIRs are outputting. But just for funsies here it is:

void setup(){
float x = 0;
float y = 350;
float speed = 9;

void draw() {
PImage img =loadImage("PowerHouse.jpg");
image (img,0,0);

  fill (255);
void move() {
  x = x + speed;
  if (x > width) {
    x = 0;
void display() {

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Week 7

As I mentioned before, this week my biggest priority was making our stalks have a beautiful sculptural quality. At this point the team was pretty set on using conduit tubing for the stalks because of its hardiness and its low cost. In my opinion conduit is ugly as sin but I liked the challenge of taking an ugly material and completely transforming it.
Brian and I brainstormed several different ideas for how we could manipulate the conduit and diffuse the LED light including spraying the inside of the conduit with gloss, drilling small holes in the top, sandblasting and glossing the vinyl covering the top, using acrylic rods at the top, and a combination of all of these effects. I documented our process on my camera. Below are the three we liked the best.

Sandblasted Vinyl: 


Drilled Holes:

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Gettin there....

This week we had a guest lecture from Sabrina Raaf. It was really interesting to see her work with robotics. I especially liked the the origami projects like the shape-changing lamp and the dew collecting devices. It was food for thought even if it didn't have direct relevance to Smartfence.
This week we made decisions on materials to buy for testing. PVC seems like a viable option for our project because it is sturdy and cheap. At first I was extremely opposed to this because I thought it would sacrifice the aesthetic of our design and PVC has harmful environmental effects. I was more for using polycarbonate which would provide a beautiful look and be less controversial. However, we decided that because of budget restraints we could either do a larger and more dense installation with the PVC or a smaller and thinner installation with the polycarbonate. Also the way we are using the PVC (embedded in concrete and not running water through it) is not that harmful to the environment. As Keenan put it, the most harmful thing we are doing is perpetuating its use. Moreover, one of the main arguements for using polycarbonate was for wave guiding the LED light, which would allow us to embed the LEDs safely in the concrete, but during a team discussion we vetoed wave-guiding becuase it was getting too complex in material use and the process of it.
I think guiding most of our decisions is the fact that we want to get our project actually built and ahead of schedule so we can troubleshoot and refine it in the last week. Because of this we are working as simply as possible.
Now that we have made some important material decisions I am interested in how we can make PVC have a beautiful sculptural presence. It will be a challenge. I found this video which uses PVC on top of an old television set. I think its a great precedent for how to use PVC creatively as a light sculpture.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Reverse Brainstorming

This week we had a guest lecturer, Eugene Shteyn, come in to hold a reverse brainstorming workshop. Each group had to list out 100 specific problems their project faced. Then each person from the group picked out ten short term problems and 10 long term problems that they thought were the most valuable ones to tackle. Next we looked at the overlap of everyone's choices to find our most critical challenges. My group struggled with the exercise a little. We made it up to about 76 problems but it was a lot of rewording of what we already had and we had a hard time listing out things specifically. Our design has a long way to go. I think one of the issues is that even though we are all in agreement about the concept - an interactive installation that also monitors human activity for security purposes - none of us have a clear idea about what that should look like.
I think the reverse brainstorming did help us in the sense that we were able to define a lot of our problems and see what concerned everyone the most but at the same time it was quite overwhelming to be faced with a giant list of problems. Some (most?) are not easily fixed and some we can not fix at all. Things that concern us are: what form our project will take, if people will respond to it, how will this device use/collect energy, how do we make this weather proof/thief proof, how do we display the information gathered, how do we make it repairable, and how do we actually get this done in the days we have left.
We began to tackle this list of problems by grouping items together to further break it down and then going back through the condensed version and separating problems vs concerns. Problems are fixable things and concerns are things we can't necessarily fix but that we should keep in mind while designing our project.
My biggest concern for the project is how people will react to it- will they enjoy it, will they be annoyed by it, will the novelty wear off in a few months, can we make it meaningful to them? To address some of these concerns I am going back to Hamtramck to talk to some of the people in the community. Without the input of people in the neighborhood I feel like we would be starting this project backwards. Hopefully I can get a better idea of what they will respond to most during this visit.
Another big concern of everyone's was if we were being too ambitious and what if we can't get this project done. We have come to the consensus that we should push ourselves to create something that actually works early on and then spend the rest of the semester fine tuning and improving upon it.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Final Teams

The highlight of this week was definitely going to the Powerhouse and getting a sense of the community surrounding it. We also got put into our final teams. Perhaps there's no good way to pick final teams but I found these pairing to be very strange in the mix of disciplines. In the first weeks each team always had a decent mix of architects, engineers and art students but in these last groups the ratios are very off. One team has three art students, another four architects. I wish they were more dispersed like before. My group has three architects, one engineer and two art students (myself included).
My group met once to discuss how things would be run. We all seemed to be interested in different aspects of the project, which is good because we can get an all-around developed project. We also decided we wanted to refine and develop the security monitoring installation or "smartfence." I would like to make something very site specific, something that will have a lasting impact on the community instead of a fleeting novelty effect. I proposed to the group that some, if not all of us, go back to Detroit and meet some of the people in the neighborhood so we can get a sense of what they want and need. In this way we can make the project more meaningful to us and to them. Perhaps the couple at the Powerhouse could put us in touch with a couple of the families so they knew we were coming and we could talk to them right away. I'm still waiting to hear back about if people can go or not but I think I will still try to make the trip happen regardless of how many people can make it. 
I hope everything in my group runs smoothly. I don't foresee any problems right now and we all seemed to be very individually motived to make this happen to the best of our abilities     

Friday, October 7, 2011

Week 4- heat, sliding, annually

This week the pressure was on to create a polished, thought-through project to present to the powerhouse. Instead of scrapping the old idea for something new we forced ourselves to examine what we had inherited and refine it. It seems like refining an idea would be a lot easier than coming up with something new but this was honestly the most challenging task. One of the biggest problems with the project was that it looked really really ugly. We all wanted to change the design but struggled to integrate visual spectacle with a not so glamourous passive solar water heater. Our group actually fought a lot about it and made little progress. Every new design idea seemed like an add on and no one was satisfied. On top of this the previous group handed us fried servos so we had to use two of the baby ones, which can't move much. Another problem was using copper tubing. We were well aware that copper was like gold to thieves and we wanted to add a level of security to our product. We added aluminum flaps that covered the device at night and then are used as reflective panels during the day. All in all we made something that was highly functional but not spectacular and not much to differentiate it from existing products. I was personally disappointed in myself for not being able to meet the design challenge.   
I loved going to see the actual powerhouse. It put everything in perspective and we learned a lot about the client and the neighborhood. I was surprised to learn it was a predominantly Bangledesh immigrant neighborhood. I wish we had started the semester by going to talking to the people at the powerhouse and listening to their wants and concerns. I think we all would have had an easier time creating products that they actually needed and something that fit the community. Now I feel like we're starting from square one again with all this new information.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Week 3- still Daily, Inflate, and Wind

This week seemed to be the most stressful for some reason. Once again the old idea was scrapped for the hope of something better. I liked the old idea (which I worked on last week) which was air purification and circulation but I admit there were a ton of flaws in our design. Lauren was the one who came up with the new idea of creating a solution for air infiltration. I did not know this before but a ton of heat is lost through any doorways, windows, etc in a house. This attempt at a solution would be to create a gasket system that would seal in windows, dramatically minimizing heat loss. The thing I liked about this project was that it tied directly into the architectural designs that were happening at the power house. The designers of the house had cut new holes in the wall which did create a more interesting facade but also created a heating problem. I hope the next group does refine our idea because I think it could greatly minimize heating costs but at the same time we left a lot of our design issues unresolved.  

I think the reason this week was so stressful was because everyone was feeling burnt out. Every time a new project was presented during critique it got such a harsh review that the new group was pressured to change it for something new and "brilliant." But it's kind of impossible to make something flawless in a week when you're starting from scratch again. Negative feedback is obviously very beneficial during critique but at the same time it deflates team moral after we kill ourselves to chug something spectacular out in a short time frame. The bulk of most projects being done over the span of one weekend because no one's schedule matches during the week. I think the critiques are the main reasons why everyone reinvents the projects each week. I'm still undecided whether this is a good or bad thing but it definitely adds stress and pressure within groups.