Archive for the ‘Academic’ Category

Play It Forward

Saturday, April 14th, 2012


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Play It Forward is an interactive, motion-sensing installation that I designed and fabricated with Hiroshi Jacobs and Jonathan Grinham. The piece activates play and human motion by automatically donating a small amount of money each time someone plays with it. The project was intended to suggest a new kind of temporary urbanism that uses design and technology to affect social change. Inspired by the geometry of movement, Play It Forward was designed and constructed using advanced parametric and digital fabrication methods. Strategically located sensors on the piece identify activity and respond with visual feedback. Passersby interact with the installation by playing a simple game with the sensors and LED lighting, and by playing donate to charity. A digital read-out shows the amount of money that has been donated through play, and using the latest in mobile web technology players are encouraged to spread the word about their experience with their social networks. RTKL Associates, Inc. generously provided a stipend which has been donated to the charity KaBOOM! through Play It Forward gameplay. KaBOOM! fights childhood obesity by building playgrounds in needy neighborhoods and advocating nutrition and physical fitness.

Consistent with the idea of play, the form of the installation is meant to suggest motion, but it is also a discretized geometry that is constructed as a series of economically optimized units. This rationalization not only produces a heightened expression of curvature by marking deviation from the original surface, but also speaks to the ability of computational optimization to navigate between sketch and performance.

The Play It Forward installation integrates several technologies which work together to provide a fun charitable experience. The project was designed, from concept to construction automation, using computer programming and geometry based mathematics. CNC machines were used in the fabrication of the physical artifact. Physical-digital interaction was accomplished through the use of an Arduino microcontroller, a series of photoelectric sensors, and LED lighting. As the game is played, the microcontroller transmits game data via processing to an internet data hosting website called Pachube, which in turn is accessed by a custom-developed website that displayed statistics about the most-recent game. Players access the website on their smart phones by scanning an individualized QR code that is displayed on an Apple iPad near the installation. Although none of the individual technologies used in the installation is particularly new or ground-breaking, it brings parametric design, digital fabrication, interactive sensor-driven technology, web-enabled data hosting, social networking, and charitable donation together in a unique a way to affect social change.


Data Materialized

Saturday, October 1st, 2011

As a creative experiment in temporary urbanism and digital innovation, the 24-hour City Project explored the intersection of data, arts, and technology within the built environment. The project aimed to demonstrate how technology, imagination, and innovation can envision our future cities.

On June 5th, three interdisciplinary teams,  installed exhibitions at the National Building Museum that were meant to encourage a vision of the built environment that is more engaging, relevant to our lives, and accessible to all.

The three teams were led by Elissa Goetschius, Eric Gunderson, and myself, Kashuo Bennett, with much help from FabLabDC,  iStrategy Labs and A Wider Circle, as well as Virginia Tech and RTKL.

My team’s entry, titled “Data Materialized,” won first place in the competition. Here’s a video about the event:

24 Hour City Project from Russell Brothers on Vimeo.

This installation demonstrates how numerical data can be used to drive the shape of geometric form and then be converted into tangible material objects through the use of computer controlled fabrication technology. The form of the undulating physical structure represents higher educational achievement in the District in plan. You can see the number of bachelor’s degrees spike near Capitol Hill and decline east of the Anacostia River. By projecting colored maps of other statistical data sets onto the structure from above (like crime and median income), relationships emerge between data and social demographics. The digitally fabricated surface was manufactured using a laser cutter and has 717 unique pieces (and 4,302 rivets!).

Here is a video of the  fabrication process:


Student Work at Harvard

Friday, February 11th, 2011

Last semester I was invited to be a guest critic at final reviews for the Harvard Architecture School (aka The GSD). The class I was reviewing was on the subject of parametric modeling and digital fabrication (which I also teach a course on at Virginia Tech) The student work was varied and invigorating.gsd-5