Carousel! an Interactive Sculpture




Introduction: Carousel! an Interactive Sculpture

This was a collaborative artwork by the Flux Foundation, located in Oakland, CA. Carousel is an interactive, collaborative installation for the 2014 Project Zero Perspectives Conference at Lick Wilmerding High School. Inspired by the shared experience and wonder of the swing rides of childhood carnivals, Carousel uses simple materials, a strong color palette and playful interaction to create an immersive environment. In this space, participants contribute to a cumulative visual experience, reflect on inspiration from the conference, and engage each other in conversation.

The design was a tremendous success and we were asked to keep it up for two weeks longer than anticipated. It is currently being iterated and redesigned for the next unveiling at either Coachella or BurningMan 2015.

Step 1: You Will Need:

  • A large group of talented folks with a shared enthusiasm for learning & teaching
  • A vision much larger than one person
  • A studio space in American Steel Studios in West Oakland, CA
  • Access to fabrication equipment and a CNC plasma cutter

Step 2: Design Concept & Parameters

Flux Foundation's office space is located inside a shipping container, and we had many late night brainstorming sessions. The design evolved much more than we had anticipated, but her is what we started with.

Our Parameters:

•Interactive & collaborative

•Engaging to educators focused on making, tinkering and design thinking

•Hand assembly on site – no heavy equipment

•Design, build and install in 3-4 weeks

•Budget of $12,000

Step 3: Concept Sketches, Phase 1

We brainstormed, and we came up with some ideas:

Cumulative visual experience Ribbon -- maybe magnets at the end Something that creates a visual field Colorful Create a space that’s 20’ in diameter Create armature that we create to build an environment Use the armature to create a space with seating Color coding based on type of teacher and making art of the piece what participants want to share with each other Multi-layering Circular armature with arms reaching out on a track Have step stools Allow people to attach the ribbons where they would like Experience is that the piece is cumluative -- thick and full Content -- What did users learn each day? Maybe each day is a different color

We liked the idea of one question at check in, one question at lunch, one question at the end of the day.

Step 4: Concept Sketches, Phase 2

Here is a quick sketch by one of our architects. This evolved as our idea came together.

Step 5: Concept Sketches, Phase 3

Once we had an idea of the general form, it was time to draw up the details.

Step 6: Mechanical Design

Mechanical design was done in Solidworks by Will Buchanan, and the design changed quite a few times. The gussets were designed to bear load while also serving a decorative function, so we experimented with several forms.

Gussets were designed to be assembled using a mortise & tenon construction technique. It's important to take the tolerances of your CNC machine into account when designing, and tolerance stack-up made the physical assembly more difficult than on a computer screen.

Step 7: Waterjet Cutting the Base & Top Plates

Both the top and base plates (the critical structural aspects) were cut at Instructables Pier 9 Workshop out of 1/2in steel plate using an Omax Waterjet. The video attached is just for show: usually the plate is submerged so the water doesn't splash everywhere.

Thanks Instructables: you made this project possible!

Step 8: Plasma Cutting

The rest of the steel was cut on a CNC plasma cutter at a local shop in American Steel. Alas, no pictures.

Step 9: Welding & Mechanical Assembly

The assembly went together smoothly overall, since the plates were aligned from the mortise & tenon joints. Flux is fortunate enough to have the talented fabricator Sterling Stubblefield to help with the structural welds.

The core of the piece is a 3/4 ton truck hub. After taking the hole pattern measurements, it was used in the Solidworks model to keep the plates oriented about the central axis. Once the bolt holes were cut into the structural steel plate, everything aligned perfectly.

Step 10: In-Shop Assembly & Testing

Step 11: Circular Handle

Thwen spearheaded the handle using several sections of bent pipe welded together. The handle drops over the pipe and reattaches from the bottom once the hub is in place on the top.

Step 12: Wood Benches

Flux has a talented team of carpenters and contractors who put the base together. Each of the six pie slices slides in and out for easy on-site assembly. The bench provided a space to relax and immerse the participant in the sculpture.

Step 13: Prepping for Paint

A thorough cleanse with Simple Green and scrap t-shirts is necessary to have any paint stick.

Step 14: Painting

The entire piece was coated in white primer. It served to give stark visual contrast to the ribbons as well as prepare us for the next iteration of Carousel.

Step 15: Ribbons!

Step 16: On-Site Assembly

Since we had set this up once in the shop, the install went quite smoothly, using a few hands and two ladders.

Step 17: Interaction

The piece was a big hit, and we were asked to leave it up for two more weeks. Conference attendants were asked to write down their thoughts on the conference daily, and the ribbons populated the sculpture.

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