The MAKE OWT workshop‘s at Duke Studio’s are a collaborative design events that bring creative people, with different backgrounds and skills, together to make something in response to a set brief. This time around the challenge was to ‘Make Light’. As i’ve previously mentioned I was really excited at the prospect of learning new skills and meeting fellow creatives,and the event proved to be a really fun,worthwhile experience.
Workshop day 1.
We began by discussing various briefs that many had contributed, including my own which was to” investigate modular lighting that can alter the atmosphere of a space.” Luckily for me many of the workshop’s attendees took an interest in my brief and we had very helpful, interesting group discussions about the modular possibilities with LED‘s before splitting off into teams. I decided to work independently for the morning session, drawing and developing a russian doll/modular lighting concept and creating circuits using the Arduino boards. I had never even heard of an Arduino before this event and so although I was excited at the prospect of what could be achieved with them ,I was also very reluctant and nervous about getting technical with electronics.
After a presentation on the Arduino by Matt Venn (an Arduino pro) I felt excited at the prospect of what can be achieved by combining light with more complex technology. The Arduino is a micro controller, it allowed us novices at the event to combine sensors of all kinds to control and effect the light in interesting ways, it can also connect the LED to a WIFI server, meaning the LED could potentially be trigged by your phone’s apps such as twitter or facebook. With only two days to explore the Adruino, we all got very excited and set to work experimenting and sharing our experiences.
The first circuit I created was a basic demonstration of how an LED can be programmed with the Arduino software to dim gradually. Much like the HTML coding when creating a website , the Arduino uses code to communicate with you, you must type into the software in it’s ‘language’ and this cannot contain any errors or the circuit simply will not receive any instruction at all. Lucky for me not only where there a few Arduino experts at hand, there are also examples of code already installed on the Arduino program that can be used and slightly altered to suit the less experienced user.Unfortunately my video’s cannot be uploaded so here are some screen shots of my first attempt at using an Arduino to dim an LED.
A fellow creative Rosanna has been working a while on the concept pictured below. In an effort to create a piece that reflects her design ethos of combining high technology and craftsmanship, Rosanna’s project was a chandelier that responds to it’s surroundings. In the winter when it’s dark and miserable this light would sense the darkness outside and gradually get brighter. A really interesting concept, I enjoyed working and discussing potential materials and patterns of the diamond forms with Rosanna. I was comforted in the knowledge that this project had been developing for around a year and that Rosanna had had some previous Arduino experience at Uni, so I wasnt behind in my own project !.
Although it sounds relatively simple initially, the problems begin to surface as you begin to consider all eventualities that could effect the light sensor that this project requires. If the owner of the lamp comes home and it’s dark, but then switches on a living room light, the lamp should not switch off immediately. The Arduino needs to be programmed to know how to deal with all possible events so that the lamp is responding effectively to it’s environment.
The Arduino starter kits had everything you could need to start experimenting with Arduino. Although the possibilities are endless, each Arduino board costs £20 so they don’t come cheap but they are very hard wearing so once in place inside a design, would last a long time.
At the end of the first day I had discussed my russian doll / modular lighting concept in detail with several of the team, I discovered that my concept would need a much simpler circuit than the ones I’d created with the Arduino that day. The circuit would need a mains lead that plugged into a standard house socket this would power the LED in the largest Luminaire that houses the smaller ones. The smaller luminaire’s would need individual circuits that included rechargeable batteries that would charge off the main’s Luminaire and then light up and power themselves independently onces removed from the large mains luminaire.
I decided the next day I would build mock circuits as close to what I’d need as possible to see if the concept would work, it became clear to me that I would not be leaving with a perfect working model but I would at-least be leaving with a basic understanding and reassurance of the concepts feasibility.
Workshop day 2.
I created some small battery mock ups for the two rechargable lamps that would sit inside the larger main lamp. By sandwiching a cell battery between 3 wooden a laser cut disks I created a working example of what could sit inside my lamps. The wires would be attached to LED’s (as many as I’d need), they would not stick out as they do here, the bulbs would also sit neatly and be supported within the wooden housing. This quick drawing illustrates this loosely.
This drawing also show’s that each internal lamp would need to connect through a docking system to allow for charge to flow through connecting bolts.
Using a coffee cup and the inner workings of a solar battery powered garden lamp I tried to get an idea of what power LED’s Id need and how many. This one small LED produced a white light that dispersed evenly across and up half the length of the cup, this made me realise that depending on the strength of the LED I could simplify the design and just use one or two.
The best thing about the event was the co working aspect. Below are some images of Rosanna’s light sensitive chandelier concept.
One of the most interesting things the Arduino can do is connect to a wifi system. Inspired by the Bublino, a twitter monitoring, bubble blowing robot. A member of the workshop created this LED lamp that pulses whenever a specific tweet is found by the Arduino, I think this was a very personal, fun way to use light to communicate.
At the end of the workshop I felt I’d learnt an incredible amount about the future of interactive lighting and the technology behind it. I admit that I had no idea that the workshop would be so technical but I’m glad I powered through and made some circuits and models. I’m happy that I’ve come away with reassurance that my russian doll concept is feasible but also that I could discuss and assist others with their concepts. Duke Studio’s is a hive of creative energy and I thoroughly enjoyed my time there, and would advise any creatives in Leeds looking for studio space, workshops or even a laser cutter to give the studio’s a visit !.
Going forward I plan to make enquiries at uni to see if there is anyone electronically gifted that could discuss and assist me with what I’d need to buy and build. I hope by co working with someone that I’l be continue to develop this concept through to the end of my project. Even after the workshop’s activities my knowledge of electronics remains basic, I will be working to develop it in the coming weeks because I feel understanding these emerging technologies will be imperative if I am to pursue a career in the lighting industry.