Final Project – Color Drop 21

Lumi Baron, MacKenzie Cherban, Jon Loeb, Ammani Nair

For our final project, we were tasked with designing and building an interactive art installation. Our team worked with Duane Rieder, owner of The Clemente Museum in Pittsburgh, to breathe life into photographs of the famed Pittsburgh Pirate through a dynamic projection installation.

The Clemente Museum is located in the Lawrenceville neighborhood of Pittsburgh, near the intersection of Penn Ave. and Butler Street. It occupies the old Engine House no. 25 and in addition to being a museum it is also home to Engine House 25 Wines and Rieder Photography. This project incorporates both the nature of the site as well as the spirit of the holiday season and all that it brings to mind—snowfall, lights, color, winter magic.

Not only were we inspired by the many images and memorabilia throughout the museum as well as Duane’s photography, but also the multi functional space, the unique windows, and the beautiful facade. We created an interactive projection installation that brought the front of the building to life with both history and seasonality.

For full process documentation and images please visit our Medium page. 

Final Project: Holiday Hockey

Morgan Broacha, Sujay Kotwal, Alex Reed, Victoria Yong


Our team aimed to create an interactive installation that emphasized the uniqueness of winter in Pittsburgh. As the holidays were coming up, it would be a nice touch to promote a local charity and encourage people to donate to a cause. Since Arsenal Bank is a vacant building that receives plenty of foot traffic during the weekend, we wanted our installation to draw attention to this blank slate of a property. Therefore, we took inspiration from Pittsburgh’s enthusiasm for its local hockey team, the Penguins, and came up with different ideas for a small hockey-like game that could be integrated into the existing architecture and would allow people to donate to charity.

Refining the Concept

At first, we had planned to use a stepper motor to power small penguin toys to move around a space between the small windows on Arsenal Bank below the pavement. These penguins would perform and play a hockey game with a coin between the windows, which represented hockey goals. Once a coin reached a goal, the space would light up with vibrantly colored LEDs to signify a reward. The representation of our concept changed due to the movement of penguins being too complex. This led us to design a vertically mounted clear screen with a transparent track to drop a coin through. This screen would be painted to resemble a hockey rink and fit perfectly between the windows of Arsenal Bank so that it would appear as though a hockey rink were incorporated into the facade. The two highlighted parts of the drawing represent two tracks in which a coin could be dropped. Once a coin reached the end of the track and triggered the IR sensors, the space would festively light up in multiple colors. Each of the four paths a coin could take call a different lighting effect.


In order to create a large clear screen, several large notched pieces of acrylic had to be cut to fit together. They were to be bolted on a varnished plywood frame for structural stability and to withstand the wind and precipitation that would ruin it. Smaller notched pieces of acrylic were cut like jigsaw puzzle pieces to create the track, which would be attached to the large screen in interlocking notches cut in the larger jigsaw pieces. Everything was cut with jigsaw joints for better durability.

In addition, we fabricated a large sign from chipboard to show which charity that this installation promoted. The charity that we had selected was Dress for Success (, an organization dedicated to providing professional attire for women who wanted to enter the workforce but could not afford work clothes. This organization accepted monetary donations, so it worked well with our coin machine.

Lighting and Software

In our initial design, we planned to incorporate a high definition light display from three LED color bars. We also planned to outline every major line on the hockey link with animated LEDs, but quickly realized that this would require using several micro-controllers to animate 10+ individual strands of lights.

In a static state, the bar LEDs emit a slow color change animation. In order to add an element of fun, we attached a pair of IR break beam sensors to either side of each of the coin tracks. When the coin fell down one of the tracks and interrupted the connection between the sensors, this triggered a different light animation per track. This would last for 10 seconds, and then reset to the default animation. The animations were controlled by one Arduino, connected via XLR cable to one light bar, and daisy-chained to the other two bars. The micro-controller and wiring were placed in a plastic bin to prevent weather damage.

See the animation code below. Note that it requires the DMXSimple Arduino library.


Although we were able to set up the lights at the site, our initial setup in Arsenal Bank was faced with many challenges. Because the screen was too large to be carried out, we had to assemble it in three different panels indoors. We glued and bolted the acrylic to three different parts of the wood frame. While this made the installation easier to transport at first, it was difficult to assemble on site because the track pieces had to lock into each other before being placed onto the acrylic. In addition, the strong wind, cold temperatures, and the snowfall that night had greatly inhibited our progress.

Because it was too difficult to create our installation on site, we set it up in the Ideate lab instead. By this time, the wood and acrylic had been warped by the cold moisture in the air and parts of the acrylic track and screen had broken off due to pressure. We had to glue the broken frame and screen back together. We were able to fully assemble the entire installation  Unfortunately, the track on the right could no longer allow coins to roll through it because a little too much hot glue had seeped into the cracks. The track on the left functioned perfectly and could be used to trigger the lights.

An attempt was made
Final resting place
Conclusion and Lessons Learned

From the onset, this project had a difficulty in scope that plagued it until the very end. It took much more time to laser cut the acrylic and wood than anticipated, which pushed back all other steps in the project. The materials  weren’t resilient enough to handle below-freezing temperatures and wind, which led to the entire structure deforming and having to be moved indoors. Finally, the enormity of the structure required more coordination and manpower than what was available – each third of the structure weighed over 30 lbs and had to be transported by truck, and bolted together by at least two people.

A project of this scope would have benefitted from less physical structure and more dependence on scalable electronics.


Final Project: Soot Spirit Run


Row House Cinema

The wall we projected on

Soot spirit in Spirited Away

Flyers for the game

To celebrate the Studio Ghibli showcase at the Row House Cinema, we decided to do a large interactive game inspired by “Spirited Away” in the parking lot next to the theater. The installation was done the night of the 13th of December.

We began setup at around 6 pm. The game was up and running by 9 pm, which is the time we advertised. We had created little flyers that introduced the running time and location of our game. We printed the flyers, left them inside the theater on the concession stand for movie seers to pick up, and also personally handed out flyers to nearby passer-bys.  

How it works

Front stage

It takes two participants to complete the game. Each player holds a black cylinder (mimicking the coal that the soot spirit carries) with one hand and taps a silver or gold star button (mimicking the star candy that the soot spirit eats) with the other hand to control the game character, the soot spirit, to move left or right.

crafting controllers

The game controller(Made up of Makey Makey and conductive parts)

Tap to move the character

The goal is to avoid getting hit by the spotlights and get the soot spirit to the far right of the game stage. Participants need to coordinate with each other in order to win the game because if two people press the star buttons at the same time, the soot spirit will not move anywhere.


We have a Unity made game that is run on a laptop. The laptop is connected to a projector, which projects the game onto a wall. Instead of playing the game through a keyboard, we used MakeyMakey to allow external control of the left and right arrow keys on the keyboard. MakeyMakey requires the use of two hands to connect to ground and the electrical input of the circuit. We used graphite powder to cover the cylinder, and golden/silver leaf to cover the star button to ensure conductivity. The player is able to grab the black cylinder with one hand for circuit’s ground connection and tap the start button to give electrical signals to the left or right input of MakeyMakey. The entire setup is powered by a gasoline powered generator.


Phipps Project Final Documentation

Phipps Lighting Display

-Johnny Wu, Nitesh Sridhar, SooJin Sohn, Brandon Darreff



Our project attempts to mimic the motion of candlelight to enhance the sense of a family feast as part of Phipps Conservatory’s Winter Flower Show and Light Garden. This year’s concept for the Sunken Garden included holiday arrangements and decor which evoke a sense of spending time and eating with family around the holidays.

We planned to utilize pre-existing lighting hardware to create the candlelight effect by briefly flashing white, yellow, and red lights as visitors passed by the corresponding motion sensor. As the candlelight effect follows the visitor’s direction, it encourages forward movement through the exhibit. This fulfills our secondary aim of reducing congestion and addresses the Conservatory’s main concern of crowding surrounding this annual event. Additionally, we implemented an idle animation of red pulses moving along the Sunken Garden Path along the tops of the walls that both fits in with the holiday themes and helps to move visitors through the space.

We initially planned on assigning one motion sensor to each existing arc light in the Sunken Garden which would trigger a light animation in shades of red and gold to mimic the effect of candlelight and lead visitors through the transitional space. We adjusted the quantity of sensors to one for every two arc lights and the colors of the animation after receiving feedback from Phipps to make the sensors a little more obvious and improve the quality of the lighting effect.



Bill of Materials:

(2) Cable Gland Joints- $3.90
(2) Electronics Waterproof Casings- $39.90
(2) Particle Photons- $198.00
(2) Arduino Unos- $44.00
(1) 2’ x 2’ Black Acrylic for Sensor Housing – $10.20
(6) PIR Sensors- $0 (Lent)
(130 ft) Electrical Wiring- $0 (Lent)
(2) USB CAT5 Extension Cables-
(2) 50 ft CAT5 Cables-
(6) 2” Diameter PVC Coupling- $6.84
(1) Mac Mini- $0 (Lent)
(2) USB to Barrel Jack Cables-  $8.18
(2) Breadboards- $0 (Lent)

Total Cost: $330.96



For our proof of concept demonstration, we connected a motion sensor with an Arduino and an LED behind diffused acrylic to mimic the basic functionality of our installation. When the sensor detected motion, the LED would light up. This basic circuit gave a simple but tangible visualization of how our project would look.

For our actual installation, our first approach was to use Photons as our micro-controller because of their WiFi capabilities, since the sensors would have to span long distances. However, we ran into many problems with this method. First, we found out that the Conservatory did not have reliable WiFi. We decided to try and send information through our own wireless local networks without internet. Unfortunately, this also failed because Photons compiled through the Cloud. We tried many times to put the Photon into USB compilation to get the code on the Photon, but it always had issues sending messages over local networks. We tried to have them communicate wirelessly with simple server/client or OSC/UDP setups but ran into a lot of issues with wireless communication without internet.

After realizing that the Photon would not work for our purposes, we decided to use Arduinos with extended cables. We first used Serial to communicate between the Arduinos and Processing. It seemed to work, however it had issues onsite. Processing was unable to get the proper sensor inputs from Serial. To circumvent this, we used firmata to control the arduinos and
ran all the programming from Processing itself.This setup was much more promising and we initially got better results regarding inputs from the PIR sensors and lag times. One side of the garden was even completely working. However, ultimately they also did not work as planned because of port issues and we ended up running our project generatively through processing alone. We also had some issues with the sensors themselves. Each time they detected motion, they remained on a ‘HIGH’ state for five seconds. This meant that during crowded times, the sensors would always read ‘HIGH’. We adjusted our animation in code in order to account for this, so the candlelight would only trigger on the first activation of the sensor after a ‘LOW’.

Besides the microcontroller issues, the rest of our project was relatively straightforward. Each sensor was soldered with long wires to span the lengths of the Sunken Garden hallways. They were heat shrinked to isolate metal contacts and for water-proofing. These sensors were then placed into acrylic boxes, the construction of which are further detailed below. Each
sensor’s wires were run behind the garden’s brick walls, and connected to an Arduino inside of a waterproof box. There are three sensors for each Arduino, and one Arduino for the two long sides of the garden. The two Arduinos fed into a Mac Mini via extended USB cables, where the Processing code ran. The code communicated with a light manager script which communicated with a DMX controller through MaxMSP. Additional barrel jacks were run from each Arduino because the USB cables could not carry enough power over long distances.


We fabricated acrylic housings for the sensors which nested into the existing perforated brick wall to help conceal them from the light show’s audience. The boxes fit together with finger joint connections and had a large circular opening in the front for the PIR sensor and a smaller one in the back for the wires leading back to the arduinos. The boxes were ultimately sealed with caulking in order to waterproof it and prevent damage to the sensors. We also added a section of 2” pipe in order to narrow the field of view of the sensors to prevent excess triggering of the system.

The installation was done on the off-hours of the Conservatory. We placed each sensor box equidistant along the long sides of the Sunken Garden. The wires for each sensor were run behind the garden’s brick walls, while the corresponding Arduino was placed in a waterproof box behind the middles of the brick walls. The power and USB cables were then run behind the walls and above a doorway to a closet where the Mac Mini was placed. There were several instances where we had to revisit the site to make changes, whether it was replacing the Photons with Arduinos,
resoldering connections, or checking connections.




This was our group’s first time installing a project in a real-world space with hundreds of visitors and a real client. Working through the process to waterproof our devices and create systems robust enough that attendees could not easily damage them was an incredibly eye-opening experience. While it did not ultimately work out how we wanted it to, we learned a lot through the process and created a generative light installation which fit the theme of the site.


Looking Out 2 – SooJin Sohn

‘Dancing House’ by Klaus Obermaier
One of them being installed at Festepiele Mecklenburg of Germany in 2015, the Dancing House is an interactive projection-mapped series of artwork. The projection will let users to use their shadows or even figure capture data to audio-visually change or distort the projected image. The projected image breaks into parametric array of squares, of lines and make animated movements to form an imagery of the house to “dance”.
This project is a fun interactive installation that any people passing by can lightly test on and play with. The interaction then allows the atmosphere of the surroundings to be brighter; the fun brings the sense of community, while the audience is not given a heavy cognitive load to understand the work.

Looking Out 2 — Victoria Yong

SONG 1 by Doug Aitken at the Hirs

This installation projects a short abstract film onto the facade of the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC. The Hirshhorn is an art museum that houses experimental and modern pieces as well as short film reels.

This project coincides with Colangelo’s framework of an ideal media installation because of how its size emphasizes collectivity. Everyone passing by this building can look up and see this film playing in full sound, thus sharing this bizarre with other passersby. Because the Hirshhorn is such a large, expansive canvas it can be seen from hundreds of feet away. It could also get people to want to get into the museum because of how interesting it looks. The people inside the Hirshhorn would not get to experience this installation, however.

Looking Out 02

The Illuminator

The Illuminator is a group of activists that aim to raise awareness about a variety of issues through massive media light projections. The group was formed during the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011. The very first piece was by artist Mark Read, with a projection on the side of the Verizon building in NYC of ‘99%’.

These projections are certainly classified as mass media, since they are highly visible, able to reach a multitude of people. The installations are also highly variable, enabling them to be presented on any large surface. The nature of the projection allows it to be broadcast to the public, fitting within Colangelo’s framework. While the focus of the Illuminators reside in the political sphere, this type of artwork is not restricted to political messages.


resist gif

Jenny Holzer

shimon attie

Members of The Illuminator create a projection of Edward Snowden for a Brooklyn Park. Photo courtesy of Emily Andersen/The Illuminator

Looking Out 2 – Leah Jiang


By Höweler + Yoon Architecture and Parallel Development

“Aviary is a unique interactive audiovisual environment designed by Höweler + Yoon and Parallel Development, with an audio composition by Erik Carlson. Aviary is an interactive light and sound sculpture which invites the public to explore and create musical and color compositions. Aviary responds to touch with a display of light and sound effects that evokes a bird in flight or a bird’s natural habitat.

Like a shared musical instrument, Aviary can be ‘played’ by one or many users. It can be played in many ways: taping, stroking, holding, wiping, etc. Each pole has a unique set of related sounds that range from bird songs at the top to abstracted musical interpretations at the bottom. A casual touch creates a vertical burst of light and sound, while a sustained hold slowly fills the column with light and sound. Sliding up and down the pole causes the sounds to be blended in a unique and dynamic sound effect. A quick slide up the pole causes a light burst to float up to the top and migrate to adjacent poles. The gesture is similar to the releasing of a bird, allowing it to fly up and to circle around.

Experienced in the space, users may follow the spiral from outside to inside, finding themselves ‘within’ the coil of the spiral. The surround sound effects are best finding themselves ‘within’ the coil of the spiral. The surround sound effects are best appreciated from within the center of the spiral. The sophisticated custom software takes into account a single user or multiple users, and the sound and light responses are played out throughout the whole spiral. When there aren’t any touch events, Aviary goes into a ‘dream mode’ playing through a series of ‘remembered’ touch events. It also can play a series of 3-dimensional animated graphics that can evoke clouds, fireworks, smoke, and falling water.”

Looking Out 02

Part of a touring exhibition Umea was a series of light and ice installations meant to introduce the Swedish culture around Europe . This piece specifically was a large structure made of 48 tons of ice cubes with a light projection mapping designs that reflected the Northern lights. This piece is specifically designed and created to promote the Umea cultural society, by bringing the “Northern lights to Cities across Europe”. The use of ice as a pixel screen is a really creative system. This not only allows people on the exterior of the structure to view the light display, and glimpses of the interior, but creates an immersive space within the ice structure itself, transporting people to the northern sky.

This fits with Colangelo’s themes in the trans-local sense, as people are encouraged to take photos and share the experience with those who have interacted with it in different cities, as the focus is on an international cultural sharing experience. This piece is also large and visible in scale not only to an observer, but also in that the public can interact with the entire space, from exterior to interior.

Looking Out 02 – Willow Hong

Project Blinkenlights was a light installation in the Haus des Lehreres building at the Alexanderplatz in Berlin that transformed the building front into a giant low-resolution monochrome computer screen. The installation was created by the German Chaos Computer Club and went online on September 11, 2001.

The project fits in Colangelo’s framework in the following ways:

  1. The project is very large scale, and transforms online massive media into public facing messages in the physical world.
  2. The project gives control of a public space to the mass public instead of any particular authority. People are able to interact with the system in many ways through mobile device. Some novel uses of the screen are for people to call a number, play Pong or send animations for display.
  3. The messages displayed on the building facade are the continuous representations of the project’s ability to connect space, technology and people. The mass public are able to engage with each other through either direct interaction or emotional resonance from distance.