Would a room-sized, working model of the Internet—complete with moving ping pong balls—help you understand how it works? How might an event-specific social media platform work? Interested in gaming live with friends on your phone over Bluetooth?
Come to the ATLAS Expo this Wednesday, May 3, and you can explore all of this and more. It’s a colorful kaleidoscope of 100-plus student projects in virtual reality, physical computing, mobile apps, human-computer interaction, design and creative technologies of all kinds.
Over the course of the semester, students have dreamed big, ventured outside the box and mashed disciplines to create useful, beautiful, striking, informative and surprising devices and objects of all kinds. For a sense of what you might see, check out the fall 2016 student Expo projects.
The 90-minute event kicks off at 5 p.m. and is free and open to the public. Below are a handful of projects you’ll find there. And if you come, make sure you download the event-specific social media app to discover what’s hot. Visitors will receive a link to engage with the web-based app when they arrive.
Luminous Science by Lila Finch
This 9-foot "garden spirit" paper-and-wire sculpture, illuminated by 240 individually-programmed LEDs, is both a thing of beauty and a lesson in biology. Linked wirelessly to data from sensors in a nearby hydroponic garden, the lights in the sculpture will illustrate the biological processes actually taking place in plants.
When the lights are on, LEDs on the sculpture’s leaves twinkle to indicate photosynthesis, and pulsing lights indicate how sugar is being transported down into the plant. When conditions in the garden change (temperature, moisture, light, nutrient concentration, etc.) the sculpture responds accordingly.
Finch is an ATLAS doctoral student working in Ben Shapiro’s Laboratory for Playful Computation. And before earning an MS in chemistry from Caltech, she taught high school art and chemistry.
"I am interested in more creative ways for students to learn science and represent scientific ideas," Finch said.
She hopes her approach with this project can be used to engage students in similar projects to provide rich interdisciplinary learning opportunities. For example, students would choose a science topic to investigate, create a sculpture using nebuta (a form of Japanese lantern-making), learn basic programming skills and electronics, and build circuits.
No doubt, Luminous Science has the potential to light up a lot of young minds.