Nate Greene’s May 2, 2016 Masters performance, titled THRESHOLD I, tells the story of two characters: Pepe’ the Hero (in white) and his nemesis, Quetzl the Dragon, who chases Pepe’ through the world. The Dragon was a video-projection-mapped dragon character with live texture-mapping.

Image courtesy Nathan Greene
Image courtesy Nathan Greene

THRESHOLD was a motion-mapped, augmented, participatory theatrical piece. With projections on both the Hero and Dragon, it brings into question how technology might “extract individual identity” by overlaying alternate realities. This hero’s journey explores the self-aware transformation required to fulfill a quest.

A three-piece orchestra provided a live soundtrack. The performance also involved an online component called “the Participatron” that people could use by uploading tagged images to Instagram. These were then mixed into the projected video.

The story involves an awakening with the hero in dream-like light. This is followed by a jungle and failure then falling.  The situation is resolved with a reawakening and balance. Here is Nathan’s video of the show:

This project evolved from the Pepe the Lamp Hero project,  part of AME 598 Understanding Activity in Fall of 2014, performed in December 2014 at the Digital Culture Showcase. Nathan used our motion mapping code and the Lamp Hero experience as a base for THRESHOLD to great effect. 

My role was as co-producer & stage manager for the main performance, project consultant and motion-capture & video technician. Here is time-lapse documentation of the show, shot on a Canon T3, 28mm lens and Polaroid timer.

The full crew involved:

Costumes – RuthAnne Greer/Renee Aguilar/Nathaniel Jack Green

Participatron – Aaron Hill, Nathaniel Jack Greene

Music – Written by Alex Kohli, Randy Greer, Stephen Helms Tillery, Nathaniel Jack Greene

Mocap – Pavan Taruga, Varsha Iyengar, Nathaniel Jack Greene, Qiao Wang

MotionMapping – Nathaniel Jack Greene, Varsha Iyengar, Prashant Seshasayee

3D Rigging and Mesh – Zachary Robinson

Technical Director – Nathaniel Jack Greene

Virtual Puppetry Performance – Nathaniel Jack Greene

Quetzalcoatl – Georgann Prince, Ruth Anne Greer, Varsha Iyengar

Stage Manager – Joshua Gigantino

Projection Systems – Andy Stavro and Roaddogs Show Pros, Phoenix, AZ

Projectionist – Cooper Sang Yoo, Nathaniel Jack Greene

Video equipment – Broadcast Rentals, Tempe, AZ

Executive Producers – Xin Wei Sha, Todd Ingalls, Nathaniel Jack Greene

Special thanks to the Katherine K. Herberger Scholarship, School of Arts, Media and Engineering

Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts |Fulton Schools of Engineering

Arizona State University

Director – Nathaniel Greene


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NAS: Integration of STEM, Arts and Humanities

Washington, DC – December 2, 2015, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine’s Board on Higher Education and Workforce hosted a one-day workshop on Integrating Education in the Arts and Humanities with Education in Science, Engineering, Technology and Medicine that included multiple members of the Alliance for Arts in Research Universities or A2RU. The workshop brought together members of government including the President of the National Endowment for the Humanities and congressional staff, academics from R1 and other research universities along with faculty, students and deans from a range of institutions.

The workshop was structured as an integrated design exercise with periods of small group discussion separated by lectures and panels.  Other sessions included a creative piece around the life of a young medical student, discussions on how employers see integrated education experiences especially companies like IBM and Oracle looking for “T-shaped professionals” and a structured brainstorming wrap-up. We would have been hosted at the NAS but instead were at the Carnegie Endowment because of an emergency meeting on CRISPR gene-editing technology which Ben Hurlbut of ASU provided an update on.

My role was as student on a panel hosted by Rick Vaz, Dean of Interdisciplinary and Global Studies at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI). Others on the panel included graduate students, an undergrad in nuclear and mechanical engineering and a recent bio-medical technology student. We discussed the needs and experiences of students already doing the types of transdisciplinary research the workshop is interested in prescribing to universities across the US.

The workshop goal was to further refine what is sometimes called “STEM-to-STEAM” or how to make STEM education more effective and inclusive of the rest of the Academy. When John Maeda coined the term STEAM, he wanted the Arts and Design community to lead the way for the rest of the academy. He probably wanted to prevent what one participant at an A2RU conference in 2014 referred to as “Science with Stickers!” Academy would be a better A in STEAM. This specifically addresses the concerns of anthropologists, writers and library sciences professionals along with the arts by incorporating all aspects of a classical liberal education.

The interest seems to be in what Giard (2009) refers to as “delta knowledge” or Simon (1976) calls the “sciences of the artificial” in the making and embodied knowledge around making that can only be learned by doing. Simon goes on to describe “a science of the artificial will be closely akin to a science of engineering—but very different.” Giard specifically recommends the corporate partnership over the student design competitions or sponsored design projects as a solution for design students to develop this delta knowledge of doing. These are the roots of what is now called design thinking as well.

One specific avenue for integrated education is to have instructors and teaching assistants in crossing fields — a Literature TA can bring up the writing level of an engineering or graphic design class, for instance. Projects like InnovationSpace at ASU that bring together and cross-train students across multiple fields is another way to bring realistic teams together to work on these complex or “wicked  problems” according to Brown et al (2010). Wicked problems are ones that defy disciplinary and national boundaries such as access to clean air and water, protection from pandemics and war, etc. These problems require people trained to think, interact and do in comprehensive teams, not just know and perform a specific task.

A key contrast is that some schools, like Worcester Polytechnic Institute and Lafayette College, have been conducting integrated engineering  education since the 1970s with good results that run counter to the specialization proposed and largely implemented from the 1955 Grinter Report. Grinter was part of the Cold War focus on technicians solving fairly straightforward problems and represented what Miller (2015) refers to as a “sea change”. Compared to contemporary wicked problems, the industrial and military issues of logistics and throw-weight from the Cold War are simple. Some of those wicked problems are related to the shortsightedness of that time, too.  Despite issues around metrics and quantifying more versus less integration in education, there is a demand for it, especially at the high-end. Another sea change seems needed for American education to tackle world problems in the 21st Century.

Schools and programs of special attention from the literature provided for the workshop, primarily Stewart-Gambino (2015),  is ASU’s School of Arts, Media and Engineering (AME), along with Stanford’s CS+X, U Utah’s Entertainment Arts program and California Polytech San Luis Obispo’s Liberal Arts and Engineering program. Daniel (2015) specifically refers to AME as “gaining traction”.  Each of these has in some way reintegrated Arts and Humanities back into some form of STEM education.

Key Takeaways from the December 2 Workshop, adapted from organizer Thomas Rudin’s debriefing, Rudin, T. (personal communication, December 7, 2015)

  • Continue this conversation at all levels.
  • Measure the efficacy of STEM/Humanities/Arts integrated programs and curricula.
  • Develop recommendations for multiple audiences — colleges & universities, K-12 schools, government agencies, non-profit organizations, professional education and disciplinary associations, and others.
  • Preliminary educational results like InnovationSpace and top corporate hiring at IBM and Oracle suggest the value of these kind of  integrated education experiences. Systematic metrics need to be created to capture the value of these experiences.
  • There are enough model programs in higher education to suggest that educators believe this more holistic approach works. This means there are plenty of programs to measure and see what works.
  • A committee centered around the NAS is forming to organize recommendations.


The workshop was a wonderful experience. It was great to see A2RU’s efforts fit with the National Academies’ needs around higher education and workforce development. The key take-away of the workshop pointed to a growing recognition of the need for students and future workers to have deep and broad skills that help them cross boundaries and stay flexible while solving 21st Century problems.


Daniel, Alice, 2015, “Full STEAM ahead”, Prism, March-April 2015

Giard, J. (2005). Design FAQs. Arizona: Dorset Group.

Harris, J, Brown, Valerie A, Russell, J. (2010). Tackling Wicked Problems. Routledge.

Miller, R. (2015) Why the Hard Science of Engineering is No Longer Enough to Meet the 21st Century Challenges. Retrieved from:

Simon, H. A. (1996). The sciences of the artificial. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.

Stewart-Gambino, H. and Rossmann, J. “Often Asserted, Rarely Measured: The Value of Integrating Humanities, STEM, and Arts in Undergraduate Learning.” National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, 2015.


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Space Horizons 2016 – International City on the Moon

Above, RISD pedal-powered moon rover featuring 13 second deployment time and hand-made tweels.

Space Horizons 2016International City on the Moon was held February 19-21 at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. This year’s topic on building an international base on the Moon was approached as an iterative design workshop involving for separate but related tracks: Business & Technology, Politics, Science and Infrastructure.

Space Horizons is an annual conference founded by Professors Rick Fleeter and Ken Ramsley that focuses on near-term but still generative subjects around space with a special focus on relevant topics to students. Past years included Desktop Delta-V which focused on lab-safe propulsion for CubeSats, ChipSat focused on circuit board spacecraft and other topics.

In the past it has been a 1 1/2 day conference, this year was a three day workshop run by a student committee and hosting about 80 students and space professionals. It featured the usual faculty from Brown such as Jim Head, Rick Fleet and Alden Richards, a recorded video welcome from the Director General of the European Space Agency, and mentors including Jim Muncy, Olga Bannova, Phil Metzger, Brent Sherwood of JPL, German theologist Michael Waltemathe and others who generously donated their time and talent.

Unlike prior years when I have been the only designer involved, this year Professor Michael Lye along with industrial & graphic design students from RISD attended. The designers were critical in creating the dialogic system that enabled rapid iteration across a wide range of subjects that all need to be synthesized for this kind of space project or the workshop itself to happen. The design-thinking techniques employed are based around IDEO practices and include How Might We, the 7 rules of brainstorming, affinity diagramming and others. Two ASU students, myself and Chad Stewart (Aero, ’16) were in attendance.

The workshop was structured around having multiple small teams inside each track performing separate ideation and fact-finding while periodically rotating around the room to critique and confer. Teams fluctuated on Saturday as participants somewhat self-selected. Friday afternoon the professional mentors set the stage with a series of talks, Saturday was the main workshop and on

Sunday the ~20 teams presented along with more lectures including Dr. Bannova talking about old Soviet moon plans. Brent Sherwood presented on why Solar Power Satellites are key to further space development by providing Earth with unlimited green energy and energy for space manufacturing and propulsion.  Dr. Phil Metzger discussed how to build a self-replicating industrial infrastructure in space that scales like Moore’s Law of computer processing power.

Some of the themes that came up in student and mentor presentations included managing the dust, providing base power systems, recycling of technological and organic nutrients,  building domes and other large structures using local materials and techniques such as 3D printing using D.Shape or spinning up a dome using SuperAdobe construction.

Specific teams had some interesting results from the research. One Business & Technology team produced a Net Present Value (NPV) rating of an arbitrary-sized Moon base (not full city) of around US $65 Billion. This number can be used as a valuation of potential future value to draw loans and fund aspects of the project. Infrastructure Team 5, consisting of three industrial designers including myself and a medical doctor, produced a planning timeline that tried to bridge the gap in defining the user case between the period when there are 4 government astronauts temporarily on the lunar surface to grow to a community of 16, 32 and 108 permanent residents from different supporting entitites. Our tool tracked base preparation, power systems and mental & physical health evolution as the Moon Village grows from what we called “camping” into “the Shires”.

Space Horizons is an annual event, the topic for next year will be announced soon.

Infrastructure Team 5 presenting results on our Moon Village planning timeline. Sunday, February 21, 2016. Photograph by Dr. Phil Metzger.
Infrastructure Team 5 presenting results on a Moon Village planning timeline. Sunday, February 21, 2016. Photograph by Dr. Phil Metzger.

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Solar Power Satellites and the issues going forward after WiSEE 2015.

December 14-16, 2015 was the WiSEE conference on Wireless for Space and Extreme Environments, hosted by University of Central Florida in Orlando and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). WiSEE included tracks on Space Solar Power, passive wireless sensors and space internetworking. Here is a summary of ideas behind Solar Power Satellites and some of the issues that are holding up progress.

Solar Power Satellites (SPS) are a conceptual form of Space-Based Solar Power (SBSP or SSP) that collect sunlight, transform it into microwaves or lasers and transmit that energy to locations on Earth or in space that need electricity. The receiving equipment is surprisingly simple, building these systems creates jobs and technical skills, and the end product is the greenest form of electricity generation ever invented.

SPS has a dual effect on spaceflight economics that can open up development of the Inner Solar System; it requires many rocket launches driving per-flight costs down while being able to provide kilowatts to gigawatts for in-space receivers for propulsion and industrial use. While eventually providing unlimited green power for Earth, SPS enables our next steps out into the Solar System.

SPS is the only known form of power generation that can provide the entire world with abundant electricity while maintaining the heat balance of Earth’s biosphere. SPS has an extremely low carbon footprint, less than 1/100th of terrestrial solar and around 1/10,000th that of combined cycle natural gas. Most currently proposed systems (by Mankins, Jaffe, Kaya) use gigahertz microwaves at 2.45 Ghz or 5.8 Ghz, 5.8 Ghz being nearly transparent to water, very important for heat balance.

Older SPS concepts typically involved massive metal space-frames covered in solar panels with mile-wide steerable transmitters, assembled by hundreds of astronauts. Modern concepts like Mankins’ SPS-ALPHA use a composite sandwich structure module with amorphous thin-film photovoltaics above a direct current bus leading into a flat phased-array antennae across the bottom. The modules are launched in stacks on conventional rockets and can either self-point at a target or be docked together into a large flotilla of panels, orbiting in geosynchronous orbit (GEO). Together the phased-array antennae beam-form to create pulses that generate current in the receiving antennae or rectenna. Rectenna are typically a large metal mesh suspended above the ground. Higher density signals and smaller receivers are possible under this flexible schema that would provide point-to-point power for in-space transportation along with Earth-based industrial and military applications. Several safety measures are built in, the largest security issue is rectenna and ground transmission lines. Ranching or solar panel fields can utilize the land under the rectenna mesh.

Trained professionals — An issue that is directly related to the IEEE and workforce preparedness is that there are relatively few researchers actively working on what has until recently been an intractable problem. The basic techniques are well-established; the real issues in deploying SPS systems may be a workforce ready to finish developing and build these systems. The number of researchers with current demonstrations can be counted on one hand. People ready to design the circuits, structures, software and enterprises to operate these systems is lacking. Developing what are currently exotic microwave receivers for Earth and space is both a technical and political issue. Integrating these systems with existing rockets is likely the simplest part.

A cohort of engineers trained in this new type of space system, designers and managers able to synthesize the new requirements and policy specialists willing to tackle these issues are needed to make it viable.

Policy — The case for space solar power and SPS systems needs to be made convincingly to both the public and political institutions. This should happen through both grass-roots teaching using devices like Dr. Jaffe’s demonstrator and through coordinated moves to encourage sympathetic policies.

Making young professionals into effective voices for positive change is essential to this effort.

Technology readiness — Many elements of a functional SPS system are at middle Technology Readiness Levels, defined by NASA as TRL 1-9 with 1 being an observed phenomenon and 9 being off-the-shelf hardware. Jaffe has performed vacuum chamber tests at NRL on a complete SPS sandwich module. Marzwell has demonstrated an end-to-end analog system with solar photovoltaic collection providing electricity to a transmitter, received on another mountain in Hawaii. Dr. Kaya has performed multiple lab, public and suborbital rocket demonstrations.

Mankins estimates that it would take around 15 years to go from the current state of the art to flying a power-generating demonstrator (TRL 8) and an equal amount of time to scale up to a 5GW plant in geosynchronous orbit (TRL 9). Currently critical subsystems are stuck between TRL 4 and 6 and some have uncertainty about where to develop further.

New labs and startups with this new cohort of young professionals can drive these subsystems to higher readiness.

Transmission Issues — There is a minimum strength power beam needed to trip the threshold voltage of a typical 20^km rectenna, or any receiving antenna. Ground tests between mountains by Marzwell and separate demos by Kaya and Jaffe show the principle works at smaller scales. Finding the right sizes of rectenna and beam characteristics is important, especially for in-space propulsion and mobile or smaller terrestrial applications such as a military forward operating bases or atop cargo container ships.

For stationary rectenna powering urban cores, much of the technology is fairly simple and can be located nearby on the ocean, desert or farmland. In that case the biggest transmission issues are communication interference from sidelobes and getting over the minimum transmission requirement. Inflatable or deployable rectenna with much higher beam density may be needed for in-space receiving.

Transmission issues are heavily dependent on system implementation and usage details that need to be further characterized as various SPS systems come online. Finding the right scales for in-space, limited/mobile terrestrial and baseline terrestrial beams is an avenue of currently needed research.

Financing & Business Development — The financial hurdle to fund a working SPS is mostly in funding the research & development and proving out the technology subsystems. The operational system can be earning money after the first launch and scales to literally out-of-this world markets.

An operable SPS system might be financed using commercial methods with a payoff time around 10 years after completion for sale of power to high-price markets. The goal is to achieve around $9 per installed kilowatt of capacity (2011 dollars) for a fully operational system. Some have argued that prototype units could be used for in-space propulsion to boost other client payloads but this is currently a small market.

While the payoff to electricity users (both industrial & residential) and to government (in taxes, military lives saved and new space colonies) is potentially quite large, the 15-40 year process of development toward those goals has proven daunting. Financing further technical readiness steps is also daunting as some of them involve spaceflight. NASA, JAXA and the Naval Research Lab have provided much of the previous funding due to the obvious potential but are neither mandated nor properly equipped to finance or run this type of project. Some kind of public-private partnership with loan and purchasing guarantees may be needed.

As SPS systems become viable, a business case must be made to current electricity providers, especially in coastal and desert regions. As with the development of wind and terrestrial solar, new construction sectors will need to evolve to build rectenna, ground transmission equipment and the factories to make thousands of these satellites. Development of one or several new companies will be needed.

Deeper modeling and trade studies are an opportunity to find the minimum viable products of this technology.

Orbits Utilized — The prospect of gigawatts of carbon- and heat- free power for terrestrial applications is compelling but comes at a cost. Most proposals for SPS systems place them in geostationary orbit (GEO), competing for orbital ‘slots’ with the proliferation of world telecommunications satellites. Orbital slots at GEO are precious, limited and nearly full. Multi-kilometer structures with unique control dynamics may not be allowed based on telecommunication needs.

Options include placing telecom transmitters directly on an SPS, beaming power to new, larger telecom satellites or to operate in other orbits. Prototypes, in-space beaming and high-power applications may benefit from flying in a sun-synchronous ‘high noon’ polar orbit. Final system options include Medium Earth Orbit below the GPS constellations or halo orbits around Earth-Moon Lagrange points if GEO slots are unavailable.

Space-based solar power in general and SPS in particular have tremendous potential environmental, technical and industrial benefits, costs to users that could rival terrestrial power sources, provide world energy security and fast in-space propulsion. SPS can be an enabling technology for lowering rocket launch and spaceflight costs. Convincing the US and international community’s citizens, regulators and politicians of this utility will require hard work and dedication among a new cohort of professionals who can practice an integrated approach to engineering these new systems.


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VidGrid Interactive Installation

Project VidGrid

VidGrid was a short 10-day project in David Tinapple’s AME598 Media Installations class. This project uses an OptiTrack motion capture suite and projected video to present an introduction of the class. The 40+ students in the class each made two introductory videos each that are laid out in a grid. When the user moves around, the video under them changes to a different video track.

Project VidGrid


The Proposal:
Project VidGrid (Joshua, Varsha, Henry, Prashanth & Connor)

The goal is to make a pleasant if somewhat creepy experience of the class staring at you. As one navigates through the space, the students they are directly facing will introduce themselves.

Project VidGrid is an installation using motion-capture and two selections of student video. It will consist of a projected grid of student face videos that align to a person walking through the space. When they stop over a grid space, the eight videos around them switch to the student introduction videos, all oriented to the user.

The positioning will use the B127 Optitrack motion-capture system and ceiling-mounted floor projector combined with a laptop running the video application. The application will be a combination of Processing and any other glue logic needed. Given enough time/CPUs/luck, the tiles of each video will be projected in 3D OpenGL code so that they appear to follow the user. The plan is to provide baseball caps rigged for motion capture to provide 6DOF head tracking of users. An attempt will be made to make the system multiuser but this is unlikely.

This project builds on several team members experience in AME598 Understanding Activity in using the motion capture rig in B127.

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Title: archKit (Architectural Kit)

Name: Joshua Gigantino

Quote: “Schematics never fully prepare you for the real thing.” – Admiral Patterson, Star Trek: Voyager, Relativity

Description: archKit is a first step in building a life-size rapid prototyping or sketching system for architects. A kit of full-sized, projection-ready wall panels are presented along with a reconfigurable ceiling to provide a first system of rapid prototyping for architecture.

archKit in AME's iStage, 9 December, 2014.
archKit in AME’s iStage, 9 December, 2014.

The system is intended to explore the quality of light in space in the context of defining the negative space needs of the architectural design process organically inside an experiential collaboration framework.

As shown December 9th, 2014, the kit consists of 7 interlocked panels of wood and muslin fabric. Together they form a 28’ (8.5m) wall or a 64^2’ room, a hut, wall or hogan with included fabric doorway. Hogan are 8-sided Dene (Navajo) structures that mean “Sacred enclosure” according to Nabokov & Easton (1989). Similar ritual and functional spaces existed among the Hohokam, Hopi and other Puebla nations. archKit includes a simple adjustable roof that can move between peaked and flat configurations.  A simple re-rigging would enable the roof to also form 2-, 4- and 8- fold peaks to follow these various Puebla people’s architectures along with geodesic domes and yurt structures.


Architecture is the construction of thoughtful shelter or the “human-based differentiation” of physical space by the “creation of a BOUNDARY” according to Alexander (2002) . Architecture’s roots are in ancient permanent structures, temporary shelter and the definition of space. Examples of these three states include the Parthenon atop Athen’s Akropolis, ancient North American Tipi tents and palisade walls of wood or cloth.

archKit provides the basics for realizing full-scale prototyping of architectural projects. This is in direct contrast to the standard process of sketching leading to small models to CAD renderings. It allows architects and others to participate in a more hands-on approach.

Alexander makes a point of boundaries, centers and “emerging wholeness”. CAD systems can “just as easily create a monstrosity as something good.” because “There is no such thing as neutrality in such matters.” Instead, Alexander starts by sketching with small bits of material to “find out what harmonious volume would unfold from the site itself.” This process continues on-site with full-size wall segments and materials tests in ever more accurate design spirals that eventually lead to a complete solution.

Current implementation is a ‘Wizard of Oz’ approach of obvious theatrics involving simple projection and artist’s tape combined with narrative components. Further implementations will use AME iStage systems and other digital sensing to present increasing levels of fidelity to these kinds of architectural simulation.

Presenting a scenario in wall configuration.
Presenting a scenario in wall configuration.

Further systems will include wrap-around graphics for environmental/in-situ placement, digital manipulation of window and other elements. Critical digital elements should include accurate projection of horizon, slope, water drainage, sun angles and accessibility features.

Janich (1984) writes that “A topological space is a pair consisting of a set and a set of subsets”. In this project that set is the iStage blackbox theater, the subsets are the defined and undefined spaces generated by the archKit. Typically, the projector system and supporting computers are part of the closed set of the theatrical/studio space and the wall system provides an open set of enclosed space.Topologically the boundary should not exist but with feedback from architects it is clear that the walls need to be significantly thickened. The current panel set is only 7 panels, additional sets would modify but not negate this open set. In wall configuration the panels still define a space.

In creating a performance out of a design practice, elements of Artaud’s Theater of Cruelty organically emerge from the process. The audience are the performers, the only spectators were technicians and students maintaining the iStage’s technical systems, even they became actors inside the closed topological set. Artaud (1934) writes of a goal to make “…theater a believable reality which gives the heart and the senses that kind of of concrete bite which all true sensation requires.” Creating a prototyping system for a specialist field requires that believable reality be as representative and high-fidelity as possible while maintaining flexibility to improvise.


Semester Goals:

Highlight Color Explorer – rapid iterations of color for accent walls and other interior exploration.

Mobility – Light, mobile panels that can be quickly reconfigured.

5-8 Panels – Seven panels allows for a simple room to long wall.

Experiment with LEDs for color illumination.

Long-term Development Goals:

Wall Tracking: using RFID or optical tracking for wall positioning.

Interactive wall interfaces for color selection, windows, etc.

Sound Space: changes echo with size and shape of wall using convolution reverb.

DWG output: flat architectural CAD file output.

Wall-thickness units of dense foam.

Produce open-source stack of equipment plus bill of materials for architects and others to build and use as needed.

IMG_5829 IMG_5227


Wall Panels

1×2” spruce strapping


108” bleached muslin fabric





Plastic sheeting

Mason’s twine


Video Projector


archKit is being developed using action-research and ethnographic approaches. Current methodology is purely qualitative. A more quantitative approach can be achieved when archKit is fully digital with wall sections and people able to be tracked. Construction of the current set of panels consisted of assembling spruce strapping and muslin cloth panels in the AME FabLab. Ethnographic research has consisted of interviews and brainstorming sessions with two Architecture graduate students at the Design School at ASU who both have interests in hybrid digital-physical systems.

Three forms of color projection are being explored. First, using video projection for full color and motion graphics, but also Arduino-powered NeoPixel LEDS and a generic multicolor LED lighting strip.

IMG_5226 IMG_5217
IMG_5213 IMG_5206

LED color tests.
LED color tests.

Construction was with spruce strapping cut to length and mitred together with small braces for stability. 108” white muslin cloth was then stretched and stapled over it. Eye-screws were attached at top and bottom to complete each panel. The panels were then lashed together with paracord into a 7 panel array. The arrangement is mostly self-standing. A simple roof structure was rigged using paracord, mason’s twine and translucent construction plastic. Materials were kept as simple and construction-oriented as possible to provide a familiar environment for architects.

Testing has so far been conducted only in final critique. archKit will continue to be developed as a deployable component or kit for AME to spur collaboration.

Simple roof system can simulate flat and peaked coverings.
Simple roof system can simulate flat and peaked coverings.

Ethnographic notes:

Interviews with two architectural graduate students that are now collaborating on the project:

AF interview notes:

Roof & Foundation are critical to avoid just an interior paneling system. Light angles, drainage and domes need to be considered.

Book: Architectural Graphic Standards

Floor grid-system – IT style lifted floor or elevated floor tiles.


JC interview notes:

Interior panel partitions that mimic thickness of real walls. Office partitions crossed with SIPS panels.

Accessibility prototyping will be big – ramps, handholds, etc

System integration with BIM

Ingress/Egress prototyping

Lobby prototyping

Small scale mockups for high-tech buildings like hospitals and urgent care facilities.

Phoenix vs. Chicago: very different building materials. How to take into account?

Connectors and stowage.








Alexander, C. (2002) The Process of Creating Life. Berkeley, CA. Center for Environmental Structure.

Artaud, A. (1934) The Theater and It’s Double. Unknown translation or publisher.

Janich, K. (1984) Topology. Silvio Levy, Trans. New York, NY. Springer-Verlag.

Nabokov, P. & Easton, R. (1989). Native American Architecture. New York, NY. Oxford University Press.



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RISD/NASA Moon Buggy

RISD’s Industrial Design department is entering NASA’s Great Moonbuggy Race this year. Up against 70 engineering schools, they are the first design school to enter the yearly contest. I was lucky enough to attend the unveiling and critique of their buggy in December.

The vehicle is a 2-seat pedal powered reverse-trike that folds into a 4′ cube. It features a reverse chain drive in the rear and a folding rear wheel arrangement. It uses as off-the-shelf bicycle components where ever possible.

Front seat is tilted to 95° while the rear seat is at 105°. Seats are molded carbon fiber with lumbar supports. Both seats fold and they lock together when deployed.

Steering was a challenge do to limited room for a steering wheel or joystick. Instead they have a lever on either side of the seat with direct linkage to rear wheels. The steering system folds in various ways for storage.

In initial development they shortened the length to improve turning.

3 1/2 weeks of main assembly, 2-3 days for the drive train. Estimated speed of 11mph and a very low gear ratio for climbing. Mass under 80lbs. All wheel drive. Main challenge was getting consensus among 15 people and 5 system teams.

Prototype finished for a fall semester class with the vehicle being fine-tuned during the January and February winter session. The competition at NASA Marshall is in April.

Moon Buggy Race is about addressing the terrain not space travel directly.

Lessons learned: Use all the same bolt size and type. Address systems at a much earlier stage in process. Rearranged teams in middle to keep things fresh.

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“Building iPhone Apps with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript” book release party at AS220

On January 20th, Jonathan Stark presented his new book “Building iPhone Apps with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript” to the Providence Geeks at our monthly dinner, hosted by AS220. Jonathan is an expert on mobile software and mobile web.

Jonathan began by saying that writing for O’Reilly is a wonderful experience. Brian Jepson, one of O’Reilly’s editors and a Providence Geek organizer, was there. Several O’Reilly people from around the country where in attendance as well.

Mobile Apps, a quick history. June 29, 2007, iPhone released. Everyone at release event goes nuts when Jobs slides to unlock the phone. “How to develop on it?” At the time it was only web apps but 9 months later Apple releases the SDK, then the App Store. 1 Billion app downloads by November 2009, 3 Billion by January 2010.

Compares to Android, Blackberry, Nokia, Palm. All are good but none are as definitive as iPhone.

Web Apps

Developing for iPhone is a complete pain in the butt. SDK is only available on Mac, Apple takes 30% of sales.

“I want my app on all these phones.” Each platform uses different languages and APIs for development. “Don’t web apps already run on all of these?”

Identifying web apps:

Is: available at a URL, uses web standards optimized for mobile.
Is Not: installed on the device, available at iTunes or other app store, no access to certain phone features: accelerometer, microphone, speakers, address book.
Can access: GPS and text SMS services.

Native apps always look better. Development complexity depends on project goals. Beta testing much easier on web apps. Load testing and distribution especially. Payments and cross-platform issues also easier on web. Native app development means sitting on hands waiting for Apple approval.

Hybrid apps – Phone Gap gives developers the best of both native and web. MIT licensed application framework will work as native app and web app. Has functionality differences such as access to camera and cosmetic differences. More people can create the mobile web.

Fragmentation – with scores of different devices, better hardware and software. “If you can build your app with HTML, CSS and Javascript, then you probably should.”

Jonathan demos his “Kilo” app at This is a Phone Gap Javascript application, can access camera etc, to demonstrate the abstraction layer.


Q – Does it (Phone Gap) store cookies?
A – Actually uses a SQL instance but similar to cookies. Makes web apps available offline.

Q – GPS access?
A – Not sure about other methods but Phone Gap does support GPS. Also can get GPS coordinates in Safari.

Q – Phone Gap as an app-bundler?
A – Yes but has approval issues.

Q – Is it open source?
A – Active development under MIT license.

Large retailers want to be on every device, much easier to target using technology like Phone Gap.

Q – Monetization model?
A – Same as other web SaaS products. Depends on market, mobile payments are still an issue.

Q – Please talk about writing for O’Reilly.
A – O’Reilly books are the best – but it’s not just the writers. The whole system including editors and interested people is amazing. The book is online for free now but also available in multiple formats. Open feedback loop like a blog system where each paragraph of the book is an entry. Constant feedback makes a better book.

Q – How does a web app work offline?
A – HTML 5 runs offline, loca storage creates persistence with the SQL databases. Check Safari settings “database” page for the Offline Application Cache – list of cachable stuff.

Jack Templin says “This is one of the most important technology titles of the year.”

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Guerrilla Girls @ RISD, January 13, 2010

Guerrilla Girls presentation @ RISD auditorium 1.13.10

Steph introduces – where we are now, have been and are going.
Part of the Year of Providence Initiative
“If there is no dancing at the revolution, I’m not coming.

Guerrilla Girl Frida Kahlo starts at back of auditorium, hands bananas out – makes comment about brave man wanting phallic banana (ed: contrary to form, bananas are the stamen or female part of the flower but whatevs)

She gets to the stage, finds her glasses and comments that they are hard to wear with the gorilla mask.

Quotes Pythagoras, Luther, Brimoire(?) and others – shows a graphic – a Wall of Hate Speech.

Guerrilla Girls wear masks and take pseudonyms of dead female artists to focus on the art and critique. Guerrilla Girls could be anyone, anywhere.

Feminism’s normal dialogue has caused those that are in agreement to be put off. Very few actually disagree with equal pay, freedom from sexual violence and other depravity.

“Weenie count” at the Met followed the “Do women need to be naked to get into the Met?” posters. Were disappointed at the nakedness of Greco-Roman section, only nakedness in early Renaissance was a full-frontal nude baby Jesus. As art moves into modern era more flesh appears and it is 85% female nudes. Museums have basements full of female artist’s work.

There are token women and minority artists that are shown over and over. Top 10 art world tokens poster.

It’s been worth it just to be able to finally criticize a museum on it’s own walls.

Venice Biennale pictures.

Anatomically correct Oscar – billboard of chubby white guy.

US Senate more egalitarian than Hollywood – more female senators than directors.

Goes further into the history of hate speech against women. Labeled from birth (?)

Lack of bulemic, strung out or teen-pregnant Barbie dolls. Barbie started out as a sex doll in post-war Germany. Sold in tobacco shops.

Real and fictional women as stereotypes. Military lesbians – General MacArthur asking one of his assistants to root out the lesbians in women’s corp in WWII. She outs herself as being at top of list, plus all the admins, motor pool, etc. He replies “Forget that order.” Other stereotypes such as Lolita (the sex crazed tween as stereotype instead of the predatory older man). Mom stereotypes.

Describes book Bitches, Bimbos and Ballbreakers. Any woman who is accertive is labeled a bitch – Hillary, bitch. Madonna, bitch. Embrace the label.

Introduces Guerrilla Girl ethnic dolls collection:

Theresa the Good Catholic Girl, Lauren the Jewish American Princess, Running Deer the Indian Princess, Pearl the China Doll, Rosa the Hot Tamale. Theresa the Good Catholic Girl, she’s already someone’s wife as a 7-year old alter girl. The perfect doormat for any man or priest in her life, has a special button for apologies.

Still Crazy After All These Years. A short history of hysteria.


History of a diagnosis – how women were treated for “hysteria” as a condition. Doctors would manually stimulate women that could afford it… sometimes for hours. Shows array of objects for treatment. Electric home vibrators appear 10 years before commercially available vacuums and toasters. Sears offered a combo vibrator-vacuum for relief plus a clean house!

Feminism was the cure for hysteria. Knowledge of the body, etc.

You can not tell history without including all the voices. It is the difference between history and a chronicle of power.

Gathers a volunteer from audience. Young man is brought on stage, given the role of hero and offered to change into a pink dress. Frida hands him a script and grabs her cigar to take the role of Arnold Glimcher, gallery owner. They read a telephone conversation. “Even I can’t tell the New York Times what to do.” “But why aren’t there any women in your stable of artists.” “There are no women artists that fit our PROFILE.”

After the reenactment. “You can find your own way to be an artist. You can find your own way to be an activist. Can you find a way to be a feminist?

Q – “is X history month needed?” (black history, women’s month, etc)
A – Until they are not needed they are needed.

Q – Have the Guerrilla Girls created new venues?
A – Don’t curate shows, find their own ways, the joy of dissent.

Q – How to better support women designers? How to bring in more women designers?
A – Maryland school as example. Some footwork involved, find out who you want and demand it. Never a simple fix.

Q – Why gorillas? Why not just Anonymous?
A – Guerrilla Girls are both Anonymous and Female. Masked crusaders.

Q – As an Asian international student, does Guerrilla Girls focus on inequality in art only in US or worldwide?
A – No orthodoxy, no plan, tried to do it in Istanbul (and Turkey is a better place for women artists than the EU). Would like to make alternate audio tours for the world’s museums.

Q – Have you gone outside art schools? Midwest, big universities?
A – Travel 50 times a year, much of it in the Midwest. Lots of invites from gender studies, political science and American history departments. Least presentations and most resistance from art schools.

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RI Business Plan Elevator Pitch contest, December 8, 2009
Providence, RI
Joshua Gigantino, 2009 Creative Commons license.

An enthusiastic crowd gathered to listen to and have a panel critique young entrepreneur’s 90-second pitches on Tuesday, December 8th. Great job to everyone involved!

First Aerial Photo taken in America
First Aerial Photo taken in America
Garret opened the event. Each pitch was enthusiastic and provided an interesting look into the minds and goals of Rhode Island entrepreneurs. Got there a little late and couldn’t find a program so some of the names are misspelled or wrong, corrections are welcome. Direct any other questions to

So here are notes from some of RI’s start-up community:

#3 – or youfund is for low-income, high achieving students. It’s goal is to empower a student’s personal network to help finance that student in school. Founded by seven Brown students with university and community advisers. Create an ever growing cycle of educated students.

#4 – Health and Life – provides help in understanding complex medical issues. Connect visitors with useful products.

critique: what is actual business model, how will you make money?

#5 – Kinetic Energy Recovery – pass

#6 – Z Blok – $3billion in suncreen sales. Major problem with sunscreen is eye-stinging. Z Blok uses zinc oxide for UV protection. Goal is to become generic term in consumer products, the “Kleenex” of sunscreen. A team of sailors tested Z Blok on a long distance race, had no problems with stinging eyes. Wants 1% of sunscreen market.

crit – sailing, go bigger in market goals, sailing as product test, power of a story, any IP, patent or trademark issues?

#8 – Univercity – Kendra Davis, compares music scene of Boston and Providence. Providence as the Creative Capital still has no music institute. Rock, hiphop, jazz, krunk experimental will all be available at Univercity.

crit – Less problem, more solution. Nice pitch with no notes. Who is audience?

#12 – Behavioral Energy Solutions – save your time, money and the world. World is full of crisis with global warming and other things, crisis and source? No, it is us. Needs to do our fair share. Imagine a light switch, a master switch. Program it to turn off unneeded outlets. It will lower electricity costs, give you a fatter wallet and a better planet thanks to BEH. All this is made easier with BEH.

crit – good and passionate, what is the exact to-market?

#13 – Sparamus – $92 billion lost to overhead inside non-profits, Sparamus has a philanothropy “AdSense” with HopeRank feature. Developed with Carnegie Mellon University it provides blog, mailing and social media integration that leads to 60% better donation rates. Goal is to be market leader in 2 years.

crit – good integration of needs and markets.

#14 – E3 Resource Center – Berelli. Our E3 device provides reliable classroom document exchange. Today faculty have trouble managing documents. The E3 has 24 USB ports for file exchange – unit pays for itself in one year over photocopies.

crit – need to ask how is it this better than email?

#15 – Vicinity Housing – C West – Green modular housing, Vicinity Housing profits on economies of scale from offsite manufacture. Provides custom houses in a wide range of options – compares a house to Mr. Potato Head, just add the features you want. Website will have options for all the choices from classic Victorian to very modern, colors, facilities and options like a ground floor in-law apartment. pilot in PVD and…

crit – How does this affect a land shortage in urban areas? Makes sense, analogy is good, Where does VH sit in the process? Architect, general contractor, manufacturer? How long does it take from ordering to delivery of house?

#16 – International Standard Testing Academy ISTA – Muhammed – This is for the 600,000 international students in the USA. While SAT tests are standard in the US, both the tests and preparation are hard to get in other parts of the world. This is a huge untapped market. ISTA is a team of international students and teachers that are recruiting high school (returning college?) students on summer break to teach SAT prep classes. This will be both in-person at local schools and online. ISTA because every student deserves a chance.

crit – World is huge, where to start? Hard to blanket the whole planet in 12 months. How will you be the low cost provider once the model becomes standard? Value and need are obvious, how to scale it?

#17 – Moms – “Close your eyes” imagine a place like home. Moms gives college students a relaxing place with great atmosphere. Not just a restaurant a place you can feel at home.

crit – college food is known for being awful so a might make sense – somewhat unproven market that might have trouble scaling? Is it Starbucks for college students? rest. business is challenging How will you be better than the local pizza joint? Differentiated menu, good details; conceptual differentiation.

#18 – DTester – Brown students. Critical health issue is vitamin D. List of D-deficiency diseases. Existing tests are expensive and require blood sample. DTester provides instant, cheap results. The team has a significant tech lead. Product will be a device and test strips sold on a “razor and blades” model. Huge growth potential.

crit – Market eduction needed on this product, don’t get nervous pitching, why won’t it get copied?

#19 – The Good Marketplace – E Daulton – represents hundreds of social enterprises, #1 challenge in non profits is lack of marketing – a lack of knowledge and expertise in marketing. the Good Marketplace is an online destination of vendors and buyers. TGM makes money on market services, gives a place for social enterprise to grow.

#20 – iReceipts – how much money, trees and ink are wasted on receipts that just get thrown out? iReceipt’s main clients will be retailers such as Walmart, Target, etc. Already have CVS and another onboard. Card swipe goes directly to your online receipts. Useful for tax, holiday and others. Charge a business transaction fee to retailer, iReceipts is attached to customer-loyalty cards.

crit – retail has thin margins, what advantage does it give businesses? Any issues with transmitting sensitive information?

#21 – – design your own goods. Print photo-quality images onto phones, skate boards, etc. Online designer for users to makes their own.

crit – good presentation. What is the model? how do you differentiate from similar services? Youth market is good choice. Branding needs to be stronger… (ulu, uloop, youhoot)

#22 – Vibrational Device for Pediatric Needle Pain – everyone remembers going to the doctor as a kid and hating getting shots. A team of Brown undergrads have engineered a handheld, noninvasive device. It uses high-frequency, mechanical vibration analgesia to quickly number an area of skin. 60,000 pediatricians in US. $30million market. Seeking $100k for prototype and patent.

crit – good articulation of problem. 100k is 1/10th what will be needed, $30m market not a big enough number. Good structure and research.

#23 – – only 16% of software development is on time and on budget. is in the business of servicing software tools. Filming 125 hours of software instruction combined with a new generation social network, promises to help you deliver software 100% of the time.

#24 – YarEnergy – Cassie from Brown, provide cell charging stations via banana-to-methane power in Uganda, each charge is $0.25. cellular is changing the world.

crit – attention getting, more on electricity from banana peels, very Back to the Future. Needs to cover more on food issues, and developing nation’s electricity needs.

#25 – EduKits – EduKits as building blocks for developing genuine liking of science and math. Each kit has a complete experiment. Physics kits with others in development for primary and secondary school students. In-store retail segment.

crit – education toys is a big market. Place in home schooling? Full packaged kits make sense.

#26 – Leotus Inc – K Hardy, home cooling AC with full access to window. Modular 3-part green AC. Inside, outside and bridge. Unit is self-balanced. Dyson of air conditioners. $400K needed to go from current prototypes.

#27 – Van Waffels – (shakes MC and judge’s hands) – everyone loves Dutch Waffels, huge market gap because they simply are not available in US. Have been importing them and selling out near Brown. Wants to make the cookies here, bring in machinery and mass produce.

crit – manufacturing and marketing that product is hard. Crowded space so a better model might be to continue importing?

#28 – RI Pirate Players – KC Dorman, RI’s only history group teaching about RIs’ pirate past, works w/ schools, libraries, in ’10 want to do full pirate education center.

crit – great presentation (he was in full pirate costume, mates), what is the end game? How will pirates make money?

#29 – Industrial Trust Building Museum – Noah Schwartz, let’s talk about very old tech. Airships. Meant to carry a few people very far. First aerial photo in the USA is of Atwels Ave, Providence. The Narragansett Bay Industrial Trust Building was completed with an airship dock in 1923(?) then Lindberg crossed the Atlantic and airship were relegated to history. (holds up postcard of airships over Providence), It will be the greatest museum of its kind.

crit – Put museum toward the front of pitch

#30 – Shady Lee Farms – Susan – with the economy going green, wants to turn the farm at corner of Rt 1 & 4 into a green learning farm and restaurant. Will teach about recycling, compost, grow into having a bakery. Big enough restaurant for reunions and functions.

crit – good for kids, work on presentation, be concise. Was recently asked “Daddy why don’t we live on a farm?”. Could be bed-n-breakfast. Don’t wane off toward end, try to find similar local businesses as example or if none, as a needed market.

#31 – Clean energy – Kinsdale, all green power generation except hydro is unemployed when the sun or wind is out. Magnetic generators solve these problems. How would you like history to remember you?

#32 – NewCo – undergrads @ Brown, PCR thermocycles for biomed and genetics. Heats a small part of DNA, normally made of blocks of silver, NewCo uses aluminum and carbon to produce the same component for less with superior properties. Currently have protos, want to distribute to manufacturers of devices.

crit – describe the problem better to non-technical audience. Good but complex explanation.

#33 – Semtec – ever stayed overnight in a hospital? 10 major dangers in hospitals, ventilator assisted infections(?). Unlike standard tubes, Semtec’s tube is 36 times more antibacterial. Can generate $100 million in first sales year.

#34 – Todd Baraka, West Bay Collections – (the repo man) In tough economic times they have made $190K in first year. Don’t qualify for SBA or bank financing. Need working capital to start call center.

crit – congrats on good start, explain issues in more upbeat terms. What else can you do to grow?

#35 -Solubricin – urinary catheters and monitoring issues. Urinary infections are 42% of all hospital infections. Lubricin is a protein discovered by Brown doctor who holds patent. Solubricin can be applied as a preventive. Looking to further research.

End pitch from the organizers: Write business plans for the 2010 competition on any of 3 tracks: Student, Entrepreneur or Small Business.

Winston Churchill was being driven to Parliament during World War II. He sat in front of the building, pausing, “Just a moment, I’m practicing my off-the-cuff remarks.”

After a break the winners were:
$50 – Behavioral Energy
$50 – Vicinity Housing
$50 – ISTA
$50 – DTester
$50 – The Good Marketplace
$50 – iReciepts
$200 – Beat the Wheat Bakery
$200 – Sparamus
$300 – Vibrational Pediatric Device for Needle Pain

News release from event via RI Business Plan Competition