These projects were conceived and built as 6 person teams in Smart Surfaces, an inter-disciplinary class hosted at the University of Michigan. The description of the class is as follows:
SmartSurfaces (Fall 2009) offered a collaborative, project-based learning experience in which undergraduate artists, designers, architects and engineers came together to build physical systems and structural surfaces that have the capability to adapt to information and environmental conditions.
The course was broken into two phases: an introductory / skill building phase, and the final project. For the first part of the course, participants focused on problem and constraint definition, structured brainstorming and skill building. Final teams were assigned in week six and the rest of the semester involved the production of the fully realized, funded projects shown below. Both phases focused on multidisciplinary, collaborative teams to carry out the assignments and projects. An important aspect of this course was the manner in which useful cross-fertilization emerged in the application of different disciplinary methodologies in response to concrete problems in practice.
Course participants had the opportunity to gain experience with using diverse tools and processes. Where possible, learning made use of practical problem solving through experimentation. All participants were challenged beyond their usual intellectual and disciplinary boundaries and had to negotiate and manage differences between the cultures of three university units (Art & Design, Architecture and Materials Science Engineering).
Each team was required to design, build, program and test a ‘heliotropic smartsurface’ that makes use of:
• Solar energy harvesting
• Microcontroller programming (Arduino) and circuit building
• Parametric modeling (Digital Project)
• Digital fabrication
Teams had to consider and negotiate what makes a surface smart, and why we would be interested in a smart surface that follows the Sun. They had to engage a methodology of defining explicit relationships, complex behaviors, and unforeseen responses in a context of distributed authorship.