My original project plan was to construct a scale model of a light-sensing umbrella that could change position to protect a particular location from the sun, no matter what the time of day. This type of technology is particularly necessary in locations like Phoenix, which are extremely dry (unlike more humid locations, temperature in and out of direct sunlight can be vastly different) and flat (the lack of hilly, mountainous terrain means that there is nothing blocking the setting or rising sun).
At the beginning, I did some work getting input from light sensors and using that as output for arduino servos. I’ve done some research on what type of mount would be best (Josh helped me due to his familiarity with telescopes, which use similar tech), but we determined that, for the price and scale we are using, it would be best for me to request a simple “pan and tilt” system, which, while being less smooth in it’s transition, also costs significantly less and is easier to acquire.
Pics: wiring, code
Pics: some sketches of what finished design would look like using different types of mounts
While using electronics has been a great personal challenge and has allowed me to expand out of my comfort zone, I did feel that the thing I was making was not particularly impressive on the scale of “improving human-heat interactions”.
So, I have tried to design several different examples of how this tech could be used for different outdoor situations.
Pics: For starters, I imagined the simple umbrella sculpture being scaled up. In addition to the possibility of it wacking somebody on the head, there is a significant risk that, when the umbrella is relatively low to the ground, rambunctious youngsters will try to climb onto it, which could cause a serious safety hazard.
Instead, we will be trying to design alternative ways of implementing this technology while reducing risk of lawsuits
Pics: Sketches of how the lighting works in the public areas outside the Memorial Union. Very nice around noon, but the shading falters as the sun lowers in the sky
Pics. One alternative: By having the tarp (or series of solar panels) move with the sun, you get greater energy input and protect the seating-and-working area from become too hot or bright. This would also work well for sport-fields, since the only poles are in the four corners of the structure. Also, since most sports teams practice in the evening (after class, less heat) being able to block the setting sun would be immensely helpful in not blinding athletes as they are try to play sports.
*This system works best in places like Arizona, which are *relatively* closer to the equator, since the angle of the sun will not change as much through different seasons. A more advanced version of this structure could have the two loops that the tarp is connected to actually bend to account for the changing angle of the sun’s ascension.
Pics: Lilypads. This is my personal favorite idea from an aesthetic standpoint, which uses green-blue tarps to protect the area below from the sun. It will both shade the students and given them a sense of a watery-area, without actually having to use water for decoration.
Pics: Personal shade. By using a series of these shaders around tables, it gives students a sense of coolness with additional privacy (at least at sunrise and sunset). Could be used around tables or Greek amphitheater-type seating.
Pics: This is another option that could work for a sports area, as it leave a large area open in the center. A dome composed of a series of geometric shapes, with tarps that can be stretched tightly or loosened over them based on the position of the sun. (because sports people are especially rambunctious, the structure would need to be 12 feet vertical at the bottom, to prevent people climbing on it like a giant jungle gym. This, unfortunately would mean that protection from the setting sun is limited (though an additional tarp could be lowered down the side at that time). On the other hand, some students might enjoy a gigantic jungle gym.
Going forward, I want to create more detailed drawings (and probably at least a few animations) of how these ideas would work. Based on that, it seems that the bulk of my project, while centering on the same concept of shade and moving sun protection, has significantly shifted from a construction focus to a design focus.