Synthesis of Design
We are addressing the problem of plants vs. technology. We will be bringing together the technological world with the natural world to create awareness on the significance plants have in this chaotic world. Plants have been keeping our air clean as early as time. However, we have taken them for granted as a society and overlook their beauty and power in creating a healthy earth. From farming to beauty, plants play a significant role in the world. We hope to create an exhibit of sorts that is open to the public in which people can come and interact with plants and the energy they produce, all without harming the plants themselves.
Leading up to our goal is a long list of indirect technologies. Energy has been begotten from plants via the very unappreciated method of fossil fuels (long dead, decomposed plants). This process takes millions of years we cannot no longer afford to wait. Recently, biofuels have become prevalent. However, they destroy the plants, an event we are avoiding. We are pulling our current plan from “singing plants”, a process of reading plants’ life signs and translating them to sound. This process reads what is already in existence, it does not harm or alter the plants.
- Our idea:
Our team is researching possibilities of harnessing the abundance of energy created by the plant life surrounding us without harming or disrupting their natural state. While exploring these possibilities, we are creating an aesthetically pleasing exhibition to bring attention to these opportunities. This piece will include lights and sounds controlled by plants via their naturally emitted life signals, powered by biomimicry-inspired solar panels.
Our current project is to display various ideas and bring attention to potential technologies via an artistic, interactive exhibit. In this project, we will be reading the naturally emitted electrical signals from plants via a touché shield. These signals will then travel through an arduino (a single-board microcontroller designed to make using electronics in multidisciplinary projects more accessible), which will then translate the signal into waves a synthesizer will then use to produce tones. A number of solar panels mimicking phototropism (the process by which plants follow the strongest point of light), will be built using Lego Mindstorm Robotics. These will power the speakers and lights the plants will control.
Throughout these experiments we will learn many things. We will learn problem solving when we need to change our experiments when they don’t work. We will learn about the energy produced by plants, how much and the type, and how to change it into sound and light. How to make a phototropic solar panel using light sensors to change the angle.
Our whole current project will combine art and science throughout the whole project. The art will be the layout of the project, the kind of plants used, the colored lights, and the musical aspect of it. The science is everything behind the display. The transforming electric signals from plants to mechanical signals a synth can turn into sound. How we figure out what kind of plants we will use and the experiments we will do. Our project will promote the science of looking into getting energy from plants without harming them in anyway.
With our project being very innovative, there isn’t as much data online that we can use as a resource. However, there are plenty of human resources who will be of wonderful help in processing our idea. In January, we have a meeting with Jean Larson, who works at the Minnesota Arboretum. We hope to gain insights on how to go about pursuing plant energy as an option in our project. We will also get help from our U of M mentors and design thinkers who will help us further progress in the design process and conceptualizing our project.