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

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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.

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

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Below: field at 11:34 am on Friday

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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

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Below: field at 6:09 pm on Friday

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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

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Below: field at 4:46 pm on Wednesday

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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

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Below: field at 5:17pm on Friday.

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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

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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.

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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.


Having to carry out daily activities under the flashing solar rays is not the nicest thing you experience in an “Arizona Summer”. My first impression, after arriving here was “OMG! this is an oven”. But later I realized there is a cooler side of being closer to sun than others. (yeah, few inches to Mercury!). The very same solar rays trying to bake us off can be used to charge our mobile phone or laptop, or may be light up our whole apartment without burning Petroleum. Yes, the Heat is Cool, when it gives free energy!


The idea of my project “Heat is Cool”  is to create solar sensitive self illuminating screen prints to be used as a simple awareness platform to indicate the potential locations to make solar powered energy. The message printed on the material, “Cool” in this case, starts to illuminate by changing to a contrasting color when exposed to the sun. “Hey, isn’t it cooler to put some solar panels here?”


  • Cut the stencils using the vinyl cutter machine.
  • Create self illuminating ink by mixing white (or clear) base paint and solar dust.

    White colour base and Solar dust
    White colour base and Solar dust
  • Print on a thermo-chromic material which changes to a colour different from the illuminating colour when exposed to sun.

    Thermo-chromic fabrics
    Thermo-chromic fabrics


Not exposed to the sun
Exposed to Sun
exposed to sun

I tried few combinations to get the “self-illuminating” effect. And third one was the closest to my expectation.

Potential (if everything goes well 😉 )

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Thanks for reading, stay cool!

Heat themed silkscreen printing

Light bulbs are known to generate heat enough to burn human skin. LEDs are more energy efficient. I wanted to use thermochromics ink to compare energy efficiency of a string of LED lights and an LED bulb.

My silk pattern is very basic, two triangles in a row. Two rows inverted and overlapped look similar to strands of DNA in the middle of being replicated. My intention was to place the string of LEDs at the intersection of the two strands to make the two strands appear physically separated from each other.



The silk screen preparation was quite simple but the print turned out sloppy. I made multiple copies of the print, had to wash the screen midway and dry it before I could use it again. This is how it looked on thick A4 paper.


I traced the border of the pattern to hide the messy edges and used a pencil tip to puncture the paper at designated places so that I could insert LEDs into them.

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One sheet had LEDs all over it and the other one had LEDs inserted right into the design tracing the paint. I checked the sheets after 15 minutes, 30 minutes, one hour and five hours. No change was observed in wither sheet after 15 minutes, after thirty minutes the sheet with LEDs inserted into the design had small circles around the LEDs where the dye was bleached.


After five hours the pattern was a lighter shade of gray. Once the pattern was exposed to heat from both LED string and a bulb the color was significantly bleached.


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


Heat-themed silkscreen printing

In this assignment, you will create a silkscreen print that relates to the theme of heat. You can focus on expressing the human experience of heat and heat vulnerability here in Phoenix. You can also more generally experiment with inks, fabrics, and designs that represent, express, or respond to heat.

While your print does not necessarily need to involve thermochromic materials, you are encouraged to play with thermochromic fabrics and pigments, as well as the thermal cameras and solar pigments.

Your final print can be on any material, and could be part of a larger concept (mural, graffiti, etc.). Please think outside the box and go beyond a “t-shirt that changes color based on temperature” 🙂

To receive full credit for this assignment, you must show your process (what you tried and any iterations on your design, stencil, or paint) and articulate why you chose to create your particular print.

Post pictures and a description of your work on the blog under the “heat” category.

This assignment is worth 5 points
2 points for creating a print or set of prints that relate to the theme of heat
1 point for showing your process (what you tried)
2 points for clearly articulating your design rationale