Final Project Update

Techniques that benefit human comfort in one climate may be ineffective or even unpleasant in another.

For example, outdoor items, such as benches, playground equipment, and doorknobs, are often made of metal. While this is a durable and sturdy building material, in extreme temperatures it can become so hot as to be literally untouchable. Therefore, a designer should consider what is the temperature range of the area where the item is going to be installed.

Another example is the use of misters, small sprinklers that light spray water into the air, as a means of cooling. In places that are extremely hot with low humidity, the water immediately evaporates, cooling the air. However, in a hot area with high humidity, the water would either not evaporate or just increase the humidity in the area. What was effective in one situation would only cause discomfort in another.

With this in mind, when determining how to design public spaces to keep people cool, we have to look specifically at the climate of Phoenix. Being in a desert, there is very low humidity. The dry air does not hold as much heat, resulting in there being a noticeable change in temperate if one is standing in the shade or direct sunlight. Therefore, an obvious and effective way to help keep people cool outdoors is to keep them in the shade.

However, keeping people shaded is not as simple as it first sounds. Phoenix is built on very flat terrain, so the sun can set far down into the horizon without being blocked by any natural land formation. This is so bad that it often interferes with drivers, as sundown and sunup are considered by many to be the most dangerous time of day due to the decreased visibility caused by the sun. Since morning and evening are often the time when most people want to go out to exercise or socialize, it is important to provide shade for people during these times.

While structures could be built that keep people shaded from the sun in every direction, those would nearly cover the whole area and cause a decrease in airflow. One of the keys to staying relatively cool is plenty of air movement, so a structure that is too covered may block the wind.

Given this environment, we designed prototypes for structures that could be used to shade a large area at all times of the day without blocking airflow. These pieces are designed to change structure over the course of the day to follow the path of the sun. Many of these designs could be implemented in multiple ways, from a high-tech automation to a DIY hand crank.

The animations of these prototypes were created using HTML5 Canvas, which allows the work to be easily viewed across browsers. In addition, because the pieces are composed of vector animation, they can run without being pre-rendered.

Two of the designs were created specifically to be used over large areas such as athletic fields, because of their specific needs. Due to their expansive size, athletic fields often have to be outside. Because the people using it will be engaging in exercise, it is necessary they stay cool. In addition, large groups generally gather at athletic fields in the evening, when it is most convenient for people to find free time.

Tarp over Field

Jungle-Gym Design over Field

The other designs are for shading public outdoor areas.

In one case, the goal was to use shade to create increased privacy in a public space. At sunrise and sundown, the individual shades fold to the side, giving some privacy for the people sitting at each table.

In the other, the shades were variations of blue and green colors, and fold into a shape that resembles lily pads, in order to invoke ideas of water while shading the people below. This hopefully offers some relief from the constant dry, hot temperature that the denizens of the area experience every day.

Semi Circle Shaders

LilyPad Shaders

final project status update: Shading

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

2015-11-05 11.56.50.jpg2015-11-02 17.19.42.jpg

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.

Final Project – Solar Refrigerator

How to: Solar Refrigerator

The hotter it gets, the more important it is for cool food to stay cold!

There are 2 types of solar refrigerators –
the high tech expensive kind
(use a solar panel to power a normal-functioning refrigerator
the also technical but less expensive kind
(uses a coolant heated up by the sun to draw heat out of the refrigerator)
This will be an attempt to create one of the second kind

most common cooling materials: lithium bromide or ammonia

* ammonia is poisonous, so must handle with caution

single-effect devices coefficient of performance: 0.6-0.7
(60 to 70 Btus of cooling for every Btus of input heat)
Btus – British thermal units

some pipe
a bucket of water
some calcium chloride (absorbent)
ammonia or lithium bromide (as refrigerant)
sheet of shiny metal (solar collector)
something with good insulation to work as refrigerator


Solar ammonia absorption ice maker – good pictures, diagrams, & descriptions

Their description of materials and pricing:
Quan Material Cost
4 Sheets galvanized metal, 26 ga. $100
1 3″ Black Iron Pipe, 21′ length $75
120 Sq. Ft. Mirror Plastic @$0.50/sq. ft. $60
2 1/4″ Stainless Steel Valves $50
Evaporator/Tank (4″ pipe) $40
Freezer Box (free if scavenged) $40
1 Sheet 3/4″ plywood $20
6 2x4s, 10 ft long $20
Miscellaneous 1/4″ plumbing $20
2 3″ caps $15
1 1/4″ Black Iron Pipe, 21′ length $15
4 78″ long 1.5″ angle iron supports $15
Other hardware $15
15 Lbs. Ammonia @ $1/lb $15
10 Lbs. Calcium Chloride @ $1/lb $10
Total $510



paper on how to build a solar ammonia absorption refrigerator
senior design project


How to make a solar-powered refrigerator- solar design wiki


absorption refrigerator solar prototype from Chile


I don’t know much about food or cooking, so I am doubtful that I could create anything new or interesting in regards to a food experiment. Instead, I will be documenting my attempt to give up sugar (which I love), in the form of all desserts, sweets, and items containing processed sugar or high fructose corn syrup.

Tuesday 10-13
Doing pretty good, might have over snacked on salty stuff since I can’t have sugar. Went to the convenience store at Memorial Union, very saddened by all the delicious things I couldn’t have (and what a large percentage of the store’s content they made up).
Had a slight stomach ache later in the day.

Wednesday 10-14
In my dream last night I ate some chocolate chip cookies. I felt bad about it when I woke up.
I feel hungrier than normal. Which is weird, since sugar is supposed to make you hungry, right? Slight stomach ache mid-morning, felt sort of like hunger and an overly-full stomach at the same time. Energy level seems about normal, though I feel like I might be a little more on edge than usual.
Facebook says that today is national dessert day. Humpf.
evening: slight stomach ache seems to pop up whenever I eat. I also have a slight headache, though that might be from staring at computer screens all day.

Thursday 10-15
packaged candy in dream last night. Did not eat any.
Woke up in the middle of the night and had trouble getting back to sleep.
Also, it seems like I’m having a minor acne breakout.
headache through morning, slight sore stomach after breakfast. No stomach problems after lunch (I had a banana as part of lunch, and that does have some sugar (I have decided include fruit in my new diet)).
I think I might be getting dehydrated… or sick… I’m having trouble concentrating when I’m staring at my computer screen.

Friday 10-16
I’ve been getting more tired in the evening, so I’ve been going to bed earlier. Also been waking up earlier, so that’s good. No sugary stuff in my dream. Also, it’s worth noting that I’ve been having dreams for the past 3 days, since usually I do not remember my dreams.
I ate some peanut butter spread on sliced banana. Does that count as sugar? I saw peanut butter on a list of low-sugar alternatives, but it still has some sugar in it… hmm…
I was hoping one side effect of this would be some weight loss, but I’m pretty sure my increased fat-intake is going to undo any weight I would have lost.
Went to a birthday party, didn’t eat cake.

Saturday 10-17
Doing well physically, though morale is low. I probably would have started snacking on something if I hadn’t already cleared all the sugary stuff out of my apartment. Not sure if I have a stomach ache or am hungry.
went to the grocery store, stared at sugary baked goods, had a deep sense at both craving and revulsion and disappointment in myself for craving. Halloween = chocolate displays everywhere. Bought some dried apricots and figs (no sugar added).

Sunday 10-18
Feeling better. Overall not hungry and not craving.
Wasn’t too hungry. Ate a few dried apricots. Became more hungry. Ugh.
I think the hardest thing isn’t that I can’t have sweets RIGHT NOW, but that I know for the foreseeable future this is what my life is going to be like, as long as I stick to this diet. I guess it’s easier to just take it a day at a time.
Had my first non-sugar-related craving this evening (for salmon, cream cheese, and avocado sushi rolls). Might get that for lunch tomorrow.

Monday 10-19
Got a little sad this morning thinking about all the delicious sugary stuff I’m not eating. Oh well.

Affluence and Irrigation Biomarkers in the Desert

When doing research into local biomarkers, I couldn’t help but notice the obvious amount of non-native plants populating the area. For example, my own apartment complex is populated by palm trees, flowering bushes, and thick, green grass that is clearly not native to a desert environment. Since humans are clearly having such a large influence on the biology of the local area, I thought it might be interesting to attempt to use local bio-indicators to determine information about the people (both the actual residents of an area and the results of personal presence, such as irrigation and infrastructure).

While this was just a preliminary review, I have found that the amount and type of “greenery” in certain parts of the city can be a direct bio-indicator of the wealth of that community and/or the history/irrigation system of that area.

Below: median square foot price for Phoenix homes, circa 2008 (


As we can see (assuming relative home prices have stayed close to what they were in 2008), it appears that homes are most expensive in northeast Phoenix (Scottsdale), cheapest in southwest Phoenix, and mixed in other areas. If my premise that “greater wealth = more greenery” is correct, we will find residential areas of Scottsdale to be the most green, while southwest Phoenix will have notably less plant life.

(Note: because I am trying to get data from around the city, I am using Google images in order to get larger and better amounts of data, as opposed to riding my bike around and photographing random houses, which is more likely to produce skewed and questionable results).

Within Scottsdale there is green diversity:

Arcadia, Scottsdale

scotsdale- arcadia

Paradise Valley, Scottsdale

scotsdale paradise valley

Paradise Hills, Scottsdale

scotsdale paradise hills

Notably, the region of Arcadia appears to have lots of houses with grass or green lawns, whereas in Paradise Valley only some of the houses have lawns, but most have a large number of trees or shade. Paradise Hills appears to have even more sparse greenery, though they apparently are willing to put in the effort to keep maintaining a GOLFCOURSE in the middle of the desert.

A brief history of the region reveals the fact that Arcadia was originally developed as orchards, and thus has an effective irrigation system in place. This likely explains why the Arcadia area of Scottsdale is much greener than the similarly priced Paradise Valley and Paradise Hills area of Scottsdale.

In contrast, other areas of the city have much less greenery. This is likely the result of areas that were not initially irrigated, less willingness to invest in the care and upkeep of plants, and smaller lot sizes which lead to less space to plant trees, bushes, etc.

Mesa, Arizona


Southwest Phoenix

southwest phoenix

Notably, these neighborhoods in southwest Phoenix likely are not suffering from a lack of available irrigation, as many of the neighborhoods are located right next to farmland, and the communities were likely built on top of what once was irrigated land.

This raises the question, how does one access water to keep a yard green? Phoenix’s Salt River Project (SRP), is in charge of distributing and regulating the use of water in Phoenix, and provides a nifty guide to getting yourself irrigated. For obvious reasons (so that each household isn’t in charge of picking up it’s own water), they suggest working through neighborhood associations when ordering/paying for water. ( Since these decisions are made neighborhood by neighborhood, it explains some presence of greenery like in this snapshot from southwest Phoenix:

other southeast phoenix

Of course, acquiring water won’t help if an irrigation system isn’t already in place, so for many neighborhoods it is unclear if they do not want to purchase water, or were built in areas that had not been properly irrigated previously (presumably because the area had not previously been used for agriculture). For a close to home example, there is a notable decrease in greenery in the neighborhoods west of campus after the first couple of blocks. I have been told this is because of lack of irrigation:


Overall, while the presence of grass and trees does not always point to a specific cause, it does seem that we can find clues towards previous agricultural endeavors and the wealth of the current inhabitants by studying the amount of greenery that has been able to flourish in this desert environment.

Soil System – Terraced Terrarium

For my project, I wanted to create a way for people to explore and understand different types of soil and what types of plants grow in them. To do this, I designed a terraced terrarium, which would contain different types of soil and plants on the different terraces.


Sketch of Terrace Terrarium – in this version, the terraces are divided by the dryness of climate (1st being full water, 2nd swampland, 3rd rocky soil, 4th sand). Theoretically, people could try only watering the top and then using overflow to water the rest of the terraces based on how much water trickles down, but that could end disastrously.

terraced terrarium print

Printed Model – even for tiny plants, the final version would need to be larger than this model, and would have to be watertight.

This piece could help to demonstrate how different soil and water combinations can be beneficial to different types of plants, even when they are exposed to similar temperatures and amounts of sunlight.

Arduino Heat Sensor

For my project, I used the arduino heat sensor to create a temperature display using LEDs.

This was my first time working with arduinos (and wiring or circuitry of any sort), but I have a lot of experience with programming, so this project was a weird mix of using tools I was completely unfamiliar with and tools I was very familiar with.

Below: Arduino board. My first thoughts – “This thing appears to be full of scary metal stuff and possibly electricity. I hope I don’t accidentally start a fire or cause an explosion.”


Below: Arduino Breadboard. My first thoughts – “What does this have to do with bread?”


Below: Arudino coding platform. My first thoughts –“It looks just like Processing! I can do this!”


The final output for the temperature data is three LED lights, one green, one yellow, and one red. The starting idea for this project was that the higher the temperature, the more lights would go on. I started this by setting a base temperature (for most of my experiments the base temperature was set to 70 degrees, but it could be anything), and an increment temperature (I had mine set to 5 degrees; therefore, for every 5 degree increase in temperature above 70 degrees, another light would turn on). However, this was obviously a very imprecise way of measuring temperature, so I wanted to determine a way to make the measurements more useful without adding a ridiculous number of LEDS.

Below: LED setup on breadboard


My first design was to have the LEDs blink at varying speeds as the temperature changed. For example, (using base 70 degrees and increments of 5 degrees), if the temperature was just over 70, the green light would blink very slowly. As the temperature rose, the green light would blink faster and faster. At 75 degrees, the green light would stay on and the yellow light would begin to blink slowly. This way, the lights can give fairly detailed temperature data within the set range (below 70 degrees all lights will be turned off, and above 85 degrees all lights will be turned on unblinking).

Below: code for LED blinking


The other design option I used was to fade the LEDs based on the temperature. The technique is similar to the change in blinking rates, except this time it is the brightness of the LED that is changing. For example, if the temperature was 72 degrees, the green LED would be turned on at 40% brightness, at 73 degrees it would be 60% brightness, and so on. In an ideal situation, I think the brightness-meter is easier to read than the blinking-lights-meter, and can be less of a strain on the eyes (staring at blinking lights for long periods definitely not recommended). However, because the LEDs I am using have different maximum brightness (specifically, the yellow LED is way brighter than the green or red LEDs), the results based on brightness could be confusing or misleading.

Below: code for LED fading


Below: Yellow LED can become much brighter than green LED


Since the base temperature and increment temperature can be altered easily, my arduino device could be used to measure temperature for a variety of situations, such as determining if the refrigerator is cold enough, or how much waste heat is being given off by some incandescent light bulbs. Specifically, the use of colored lights in displaying temperature could be useful for very young children, who may not yet understand temperature or thermostats, but could understand something simple like “don’t play outside if the red light on.”

Ethnographic-Oriented Study of ASU Field Use

During this week, I conducted an informal study of the use of the large athletic field on ASU campus. From Tuesday through Saturday, I would take a picture of the athletic field every time I passed by there in order to document the amount of activity at the field. Obviously, because of the small sample size, this study is imperfect, but I think there were some interesting developments.

My starting assumption was that, due to the heat, there would not be a lot of activity taking place on the field during the day. For anyone who has to go outside this time of year, it’s plainly obvious that playing sports outside for an hour is not desirable.

Below: field at 2:44 pm on Tuesday

2015-09-08 14.44

Below: field at 11:34 am on Friday

2015-09-11 11.34

Generally, people began to arrive at the field around 5-6 pm. This is around the same time that the sun is setting, which results in a noticeable drop in temperature to a much more manageable level.

Below: field at 5:47 pm on Wednesday

2015-09-09 17.47

Below: field at 6:09 pm on Friday

2015-09-11 18.09

However, I began to consider that the heat might not be the only contributing factor to the presence of people. For example, on Wednesday the sky was overcast and it was unseasonably cool. Despite this, the field remained empty for most of the day, with people only showing up close to 5pm.

It could be that, having already established schedules around what the heat would likely be, many students did not divert from their exercise plans even when the weather allowed it. It is also likely that schedule diversions are especially discouraged for field activities, which are largely team sports (soccer, baseball, volleyball), which require a large number of people to show up at the same time. This could be an additional reason why activity increases in the evening, since that is when most classes are over and the majority of students will be available to play sports.

Below: field at 9:26 am on Wednesday

2015-09-09 09.26

Below: field at 4:46 pm on Wednesday

2015-09-09 16.46

This study was also disrupted by the military, which on Thursday landed a couple of helicopters on the field in a patriotic / recruitment / information event. The event lured non-exercising students into the field, and also likely disrupted any sports activity that would have been going on had the helicopters not been there. In addition, some tents set up on Friday did enter field space, but didn’t seem to have an as disruptive effect on the exercisers.

Below: intrigued by the presence of helicopters on Thursday, students ignore the heat and wander openly into the field

2015-09-10 16.28 helicopter

Below: field at 5:17pm on Friday.

2015-09-11 17.17

The last issue affecting the use of the field is availability. Since the heat and class schedules pushes many of the sport activities to the evening or later, the use of the field lights is invaluable in allowing the students to continue their exercise activity at night. Of all the times documented, the field was most crowded after 9 pm on Thursday. There was such a large group, in fact, that there was even a scheduled police presence (in the form of a bicycle cop, who was nice enough to answer a few questions) stationed by the field in order to prevent any fights or other mischief that could result from large groupings of people.

However, on the weekends the field lights are not turned on, so anyone who wants to use the field must schedule their time wisely to avoid the intense heat of midday or the unplayable conditions at night. Despite the darkness, there were some people using the field at night on Saturday, but it was not many, and there were no large teams or groups of people like there had been on the Thursday.

Below: field at 9:22 on Thursday

2015-09-10 21.22

Below: field at 7:13 on Saturday. It wasn’t actually quite as dark as it looks in this picture, but it was still fairly hard to see and there were not as many people using the field. Since it was only a little after 7, I did ask some of the people at the field if the lights would be turned on later in the evening, but they said no, the lights were never turned on during Saturday.

2015-09-12 19.13

From this analysis, it appears that the amount of people using the field depends on a variety of factors, including heat, scheduling, pre-planned college sponsored activities or visits, and access to light. It seems, through the data available, that the temperature on a particular day does not have a large effect on how or when the field is used. Rather, the Arizona heat is a forgone conclusion when sports teams decide their group practice and exercise schedules. While special occasions (such as helicopters or tents) can draw students out into the sunlight for a period of time, scheduled sports activities seem bound by the anticipated climate and ASU’s willingness to water and light a field of grass.

Jennifer Weiler – Heat Themed Silkscreen Print

In my silkscreen print, I was interested in differentiating the presence of heat and sunlight, two things that seem inseparable to us in Arizona. As a base material, I used the grey color change fabric that turns white in heat. I then printed a scene depicting some mountains using white ink, in the hope that that part of the image would disappear in the presence of heat when the clothe turned white. On top of that, I printed an image of a sun in solar-sensitive orange ink, which should be invisible when not in direct sunlight, but orange when in direct sunlight. The only way the whole image can be seen (both the white mountains and the orange sun) is if the cloth can be displayed in sunlight in the absence of heat. While there are places in the world where this would be possible, here in Phoenix is not one of them.

Left: intended appearance without heat and sun
Middle: intended appearance with heat and sun
Right: intended appearance with sun but without heat

Printing results are not quite as good as I would have hoped. For the most part, the print of the mountains came out great and I was really happy with it. However, because of the difference in ink and fabric texture, it is possible to tell the image from the background even in intense heat. The print of the sun bled a little bit, and is still visible even when the fabric is not in direct sunlight. It also seems to not be doing a good job changing color in direct sunlight, which could be because I did not use enough of the color-changing powder when mixing the ink for the print.

Left: appearance without heat and sun
Right: appearance with heat and sun