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Light Play @ Maker Educator Meet-up

14
Feb/16
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At this month’s Maker Educator Meet-up we decided to share Light Play as the activity we try out together. It’s a personal favorite of mine because it blurs the boundary between science and art. It always amazes me that people can create such astonishingly beautiful vignettes from the simplest materials.

For this particular session Lianna and Ryoko led a condensed version of the activity that was closer to the way we do it out on the museum floor as a drop-in program, but everyone still managed to create a collaborative composition that we all ew'ed and ah'ed over.

During our debrief discussion we talked more pointedly about the science and art involved in this activity and the way we usually approach the starting point stations in a longer investigation:

  • Transparent, translucent and opaque
  • Size, Shape and Position
  • Colored light sources and materials
  • Multiple light sources with reflective materials and lenses

Our conversation also reminded me of 3 treasured connections to this activity
I thought I should share in a blog post (they're that good!):


41GfA+nJnDL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_

Seeing the Light: Optics in Nature, Photography, Color, Vision and Holography
This hefty book is incredibly approachable and complete in its coverage of light and shadow.
It has a prominent location on our bookshelf and we refer to it again and again.


Moholy Nagy, a Hungarian artist that Liz Kiem (film curator at the Exploratorium),
first introduced us to through a sculpture he created in 1930 known as the Light Space Modulator.
kaft09shadow

Everything has a Shadow, Except Ants
This book is a lovely account of children in Reggio Emilia discovering the wonders of light and shadow,
that shows both curiosity and sophistication of thought, not normally associated with young children.
It's a delightful journey investigating a familiar phenomena that we enjoy more with each reading.


If you're in the Bay Area and interested in joining us for the next Maker Educator Meet-up
at the Exploratorium on April 21st, write to tinkering@exploratorium.edu so we can give you
more information about joining the group. 

Hello,

Im trying to build this nice light boxes in my classroom ( Netherlands ) but what kind of motors do you use for the rotation. It is about 10 RPM I guess. Can you provide me with a link where i can buy 30 motors or so.

Thanks

Hi J,

Glad to hear you'll be building a light play set for your classroom. The slow moving motors we used for the Maker Educator Meet Up workshop were a surplus store purchase. They originally came from the heat actuator flap in GM cars, but it sadly has been discontinued. You can still find them on eBay and automotive sites but they're getting harder to track down. I'd suggest hitting a junkyard to see if you can find any! (Here's what they look like: http://www.ebay.com/itm/2001-02-03-04-05-06-Dodge-Caravan-heater-blend-a...) I'm also in the process right now of reaching out to several different manufacturers to see if we can get some custom made. If that ends up working, I'll let you know!

In the meantime, we've experimented with a few different types of motors as potential replacements, and have had some success with these ones from Servo City (http://www.servocity.com/html/3-12v_gear_motors.html). I like them because they can run off batteries, come in a range of RPMs (10 RPM is good for light play), are fairly quiet, and work using anywhere from 3-12 volts. They need to be mounted so they'll be stable for use in a light play, and you may want to experiment with different ways of attaching platforms or dowels to the motor's shaft.

Hope this helps, and let us know how building your Light Play set goes!

Best,
lianna

Wow, these panels are great, I'll stick it in my school with the students!

Hi there! Light Play!! WOW!

I am working on a design activism module and these kinetic sculptures are an amazing curricular add.

I am feeling good about the motor mount, but do you have any tips on the materials for the lights?

Many thanks!

Sara

Hi Sara - glad you like the activity idea.

For the lights - the most important thing is to have crisp shadows! You get that with super bright LEDs or pin-point light sources that don't have reflectors (like flashlights do) or frosted coverings like some common lightbulbs.

We'd encourage you to scrounge around looking for different light sources you might already have or ones you can find for cheap. Try a variety of things.

We invest in building ours because we use them over and over again & know the LEDs provide a super crisp shadow. See what you can find! You'll be surprised at the variety that's out there - and how many shadows are fuzzy. If it's something you'll do again & again - I would encourage you to try making a set for comparison.

-karen

Hi Sara - glad you like the activity idea.

For the lights - the most important thing is to have crisp shadows! You get that with super bright LEDs or pin-point light sources that don't have reflectors (like flashlights do) or frosted coverings like some common lightbulbs.

We'd encourage you to scrounge around looking for different light sources you might already have or ones you can find for cheap. Try a variety of things.

We invest in building ours because we use them over and over again & know the LEDs provide a super crisp shadow. See what you can find! You'll be surprised at the variety that's out there - and how many shadows are fuzzy. If it's something you'll do again & again - I would encourage you to try making a set for comparison.

-karen

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