Final Project Documentation

In the past few decades, we have witnessed huge transformations of every day things around us, specially in their physical sizes. A lot has changed from heavy unmovable space-eating giants into highly mobile portable things that fit well in our pockets or backpacks. Computational devices are a prime example for this transformation.

Surprisingly, refrigeration hasn’t evolved into a such highly portable form yet. There is nothing  we can carry in our backpacks when we go for an outing to chill our canned beverages or bottles of water. To this end, in this project I propose a cooling mechanism which uses the compressed air as the coolant. If successful this mechanism would enable building portable cooling devices to chill beverages “on-demand” within few minutes. To complement our main theme of “Heat for good”, I decided to present this idea as  solar powered chiller, which uses the power generated from solar panels to compress the air.

The cooling mechanism of this device is based on Amontons’ Law of Pressure-Temperature : The pressure of a gas of fixed mass and fixed volume is directly proportional to the gas’s absolute temperature.

With this theoretical back ground I tested the practical feasibility of this system using a simple setup. My test setup was consisted of DC air compressor and a copper tube- one end connected to the compressor. The other end had a valve.


  • Air-compressor pumps the air to the copper tube and increase the air pressure inside the tube.
  • After the inside air pressure reached a desired level,  user open the valve allowing the air pressure to decrease drastically resulting a temperature drop. This results a temperature difference between the liquid(beverage/water) and the air inside the copper tube. Therefore a heat transfer will happen from the liquid to air through the wall of the copper tube.

After several failed attempts I was able to use the system to reduce the temperature of water (around 750ml) from 2C degrees. But I couldn’t reproduce the same results because of the problems I had in my setup.

After this initial experiment, I realised even though the concept of the system is somewhat formidable, building a functional prototype is beyond the DIY level because of the following reasons.

  • Compressor draws around 5A current which is hard to supply from Solar panels.
  • Difficulties in making the copper tube air tight at the two ends
  • Difficulties in re-shaping of the copper tube to have a coil shape

Even though, making of a functional system is not feasible, I believe this idea has a potential of becoming a reality at industrial level with tailor-made components and techniques.  Because of this, I shifted my focus to speculate on future design possibilities through the following non-functional prototype.



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 Update


Conceptually developing the “Phoenix: a survivor’s guide” research algorithm and prototype publication has proven quite challenging considering the aim was high to accomplish several goals:

  1. Design, layout and scope. Submit IRB Proposal. Make initial contact with participant groups.
  2. Field research and data collection (speak to 2-3 stakeholders).
  3. Data analysis and review. Modify plan according to findings. Write rough draft and rough layout of the survival guide.
  4. Have 1 sample copy of the survival guide for the class demo.

To date, these goals have been accomplished with the exception being the IRB submission. Although the initial questions and IRB submission has been completed, the response from initial field research has altered our course. During preliminary field research with stake holders, it was determined that further study was needed to more precisely target the publication. The initial concept of creating a printed publication for homeless populations was due to the assumption that internet connectivity may be of limited availability to this demographic. During initial discussion with homeless shelter administrators, this assumption was debunked as not applicable to shelter observations. Additionally, it was added that the cel phone has become a primary life-line for “vulnerable” populations and is considered one of the last things given up in a homeless or survival situation.

Although the availability of cel phone and data communications devices does not preclude the development of a survivor guide in general, it does alter the trajectory of behavioral research questions and research design. The use and availability of data communications may suggest an opportunity to deliver a technology, app or website to deliver fresh survival information to vulnerable communities.

It is felt that further field research be conducted in a grass-roots manner and several shelters be visited, volunteer time be committed and true insight into the population be gained prior to submitting a formal research proposal.

In the meantime, resource availability and survival tips, including bio-markers have been identified and documented to support the Survival Guide prototype. Additionally, photo documentation of resources and bio-markers has been achieved and a prototype publication will be produced.

New knowledge has been gained with respect to three important matters:

  1. Phoenix has established an intake organization for managing new homeless cases. Shelters are no longer solely responsible for managing intake and processing of vulnerable families and women.
  2. Phoenix still has not created this intake system for men who are the vast majority of the homeless population in AZ (68-71%)
  3. Homeless populations may have access to and/or use data communication technology and might warrant research specific to this fact.

In addition, new contacts have been made for accessing vulnerable communities in Phoenix for future research.

Final Project Status Update

My initial idea for the DIY Science final project is to build a Solar powered chiller using compressed air. Main idea here is to implement an experimental setup since this idea is facing a heap of implementation challenges.

I received the components needed in the second week of November- a copper tube and a DC air compressor. I tested the practical feasibility of this system using a simple setup. After several failed attempts I was able to use the system to reduce the temperature of water (around 750ml) from 2C degrees. But I couldn’t reproduce the same results because of the problems I had in my setup.

After this initial experiment, I realised even though the concept of the system is somewhat formidable, building a functional prototype is beyond the DIY level because of the following reasons.

  • Compressor draws around 5A current which is hard to supply from Solar panels.
  • Difficulties in making the copper tube air tight at the two ends
  • Difficulties in re-shaping of the copper tube to have a coil shape

Even though, making of a functional system is not feasible, I believe this idea has a potential of becoming a reality at industrial level with tailor-made components and techniques.  Because of this, I shifted my focus to speculate on future design possibilities rather than making a fully functional system.

Final project grading rubric

Your final project is graded out of 35 points and counts towards 35% of your final grade:

  • 4 points – brainstorming
    • your 30 ideas & post-its brought to class
  • 6 points – project pitch
    • clear and convincing write-up and in-class pitch of your idea
  • 3 points – project status update
    • you posted your status update to the class blog
  • 4 points – project concept
    • new interesting, creative concept
    • concept does not replicate what has been done by others
    • concept is inspired by something in the real world
    • concept is relevant to the theme of heat
  • 2 points – mastery of class material
    • project references citizen science concepts from this class
    • project is appropriate for your skill level
  • 1 point – external skills or concepts
    • project incorporates something we did not learn in class
  • 8 points – project demo Dec 1
    • the extent to which the project actually works during the demo session
    • how polished your demo is visually
  • 8 points – project documentation and write-up Due Dec 8
    • clearly shows the design rationale, process, and iteration
    • clearly shows how your project was made (diagram, parts list, materials used)

If you want to be included as a co-author on the DIS submission, please also email me a 3 paragraph academic-style writeup by Tuesday, Dec 8. The paragraphs should be:

  • your motivation (why you chose your topic and what your goals were)
  • your process (how you did what you did, your materials, iterations, etc.)
  • your outcomes (what you achieved and how this contributes new academic knowledge)



Status Update: Solar Cooker

Here’s what I’ve been up to.

  1. Researching can-openers


  2. Cutting cans – lots of them


  3. Flattening the sheets or trying to. The ten inch can needed more work. I will need to extend the tin panels further by at least five inches on one side to make use of angular sunlight.


4. This is what my collection looks like now

2015-11-17 08.47.24

5. An unanticipated problem – the broken umbrella is not broken enough. The metal rod is at the focal point and needs to be removed. This is proving to be more difficult than I had anticipated and I gave up trying. The new plan – make a sheet of reflective metal from soda cans and duct tape and cut it in the shape of an umbrella.

2015-11-17 08.41.17

6. The plan for the third cooker had to be changed as well. Instead of a trough like cooker I will now make one out of a shallow cardboard box and mirrors.

Fingers crossed!


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 status update

Post an update about the progress of your final project. Include the following:

  • Quick reminder summary of what your project is (1-2 sentences)
  • Components status (whether you are still waiting on any parts or if you have everything you need)
  • A picture and description of what you have created so far
  • Describe any changes you made to your project since the proposal
  • Describe any challenges or problems you are having

Post your project update to the class blog.

This assignment is worth 3 points
1 point for project summary and components status
1 point for a picture and description of what you have created so far
1 point for describing your project challenges and whether/how your idea changed since your proposal