Solar Solution, Professor Dan Mikesell: Solar Art Final

 Initially, this project began as an ambitious art piece composed of a myriad of sensors and actuators. Shelby Firebaugh and I designed a semi-kinetic structure meant to be placed in the backyard. This structure would be a myriad of different sensors and actuators, and would be able to sense things like temperature, humidity, light, etc. In this system, the actuators would cause the kinetic statuettes placed within the larger structure to move. Ideally, each sensor would relay analog values to an analog actuator, which would in turn cause the kinetic statuette to move accordingly. Here is a sketch of this statuette.

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However, this idea was critiqued, and as a result Shelby and I decided to reevaluate and eventually go another route. While still brainstorming, Jamie Chuan joined our group, and together with Professor Dan Mikesell, we came up with a commentary art piece which would be our solar project.

This art piece would physically be composed of several cell phones strung up from the ceiling, hanging at different lengths. These phones would have their back lights turned on, and the culmination of several cell phones would ideally emulate a starry night. The meaning behind this piece is a commentary on how Shanghai, a mega city and bastion of man’s manufacturing abilities, no longer has stars. Moreover, what has replaced stars is the technology, like cell phones, which we now look to in the same way mankind once looked to the stars.

Constant discussions with Nofar Hamrany, who was coordinating to help us establish our art pieces in the back yard, helped us distinguish where the art piece should go. In the end, we decided to hang these cell phones from underneath the back-yards canopy. Unfortunately, this canopy offered no place to hang these cell phones. To remedy this, my group agreed to take metal wire and bend it into bars, which would intersect with the canopy’s support beams and create a rigid structure to hold the phones.

While a simple trip to the electronics market was enough to get some components for this piece, actually attaining the cell phones was difficult. After several weeks of research and failed attempts to acquire them, Jamie was able to attain 30 old and broken cellphones from which we could work. The next two days were spent dismantling the cell phones so that their screens and batteries were removed. When each cell phone was stripped of these components, we stored them away and got started on the wires.

TO allow for the cell phones to hang, we cut 1 meter of red and black stranded wire, and twisted them together using the drill. Then we soldered the black wire to the cathode of a white LED, and the anode to the red wire. Once we had wired all of our LEDs in this system, we drilled holes in the phones to allow for the LED to fit in the old phone’s screen. After a phone had been fitted with its LED, we hot glued the phone shut to prevent it from ever being opened again.

As the system would be powered from a 12v battery, we decided to use 27 phones and place sets of three in a series. Each of these series would then be placed in parallel with one another. We soldered a 150 Ohm resistor to each set of 3 LEDs, and then connected these groups in parallel with the others by connecting them with 1.5 meters of wire. When this was done, the system could even be powered of a 9 volt battery.

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Installation only took a few hours to complete. My teammates and I bent the metal wire into 5 meter long segments, or “ribs” as I called it. In total we made 3 ribs, and then attached them to the canopy’s support beams. Once these were up and secure, we strung the phones across the ribs. By the end, we had hung 27 phones hanging, each capable of being lit from the solar panel’s 12 volt battery.

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