When Air Takes Shape, bringing awareness to air pollution.
Mechatronics Team Lead since September 2021.
Story & Vision
I joined ATTA in September 2021 when they were recruiting new members to work on their When Air Takes Shape project. Their vision: creating a kinetic art structure to bring awareness to air pollution and evoke a desire for change. I immediately thought: “this is the perfect project for me!” Using engineering & art to address an environmental (and social) issue aligns with many of my core values and interests.
And so I joined ATTA as a general member. Due to special circumstances, and kind of to my own surprise, I soon became lead of the technical team. Our team is responsible for all the design, the artistic vision and the engineering behind this kinetic structure. We work closely with the web app team.
That’s an awesome vision, but how do we actually make people feel emotionally connected to our art and message?
There are probably infinitely many ways to address this challenge. The way we decided to bring this vision to life is by creating a kinetic origami structure that “breathes” at different rates depending on the air quality of a particularly location. We want people to breathe with the origami and feel ease, calm or discomfort based on the air quality it tries to showcase.
To do so, we have a world map on our web app where viewers can choose a particular city. Based on the level of air pollution in that city, the origami breathes differently.
For good air quality, it moves at a nice, calming pace. For bad air quality, it moves faster with more abrupt movements.
You can learn more about the project on our Kickstarter page.
A big learning journey
As a 3rd year Engineering Physics student, I had never led a large team on a volunteering project outside of school. Contrarily to school projects, this one was very open-ended, and our members (mostly students) weren’t forced to work on this project. They were choosing to dedicate a few hours of their precious time on this vision.
In my first few months as a lead, I must admit that I really struggled providing a clear path forward to our team. We lost some members as people were probably questioning whether we would ever build a functioning prototype.
At this point, I could have felt really discouraged and blame others, but I really believed in our vision, and I knew we could overcome all the unknowns and technical challenges. I persevered and did my best to improve and provide more clarity to the team. I showed up every Sunday and we continued making some progress.
In March 2023, we recruited another awesome lead and new experienced members, and we got to a whole new level! 😄
I am so grateful for all this journey. For learning how to manage a technical project and how to keep people motivated. Learning from more experienced members, both technically and leadership wise. Learning to delegate and trust. Learning from all our members and their own special magic.
Our first milestone - Showcasing V1
On September 24th 2023, we showcased our first version to 50 people at Fablab, a makers space in Vancouver where we work on our project.
The few weeks prior were crunch time, ensuring the integration between the actuation and the web app was smooth.
Back of the origami
Little cute video of our event
Next steps! - V2 in progress 🌟
This first milestone was great and it served us as a booster to go back to the drawing board and envision something more grandiose for our next version!
Our inspiration is this rendering by Jason Hall:
For V2, we want to hide all the actuation and frame behind the origami to really create the impression that the origami is breathing on its own. This implies going much larger and doing lots of folding! 😄
We want to simplify our design as much as possible and avoid using strings like in V1 (they get tangled so easily…). We also want to soundproof any motor noise, as this was a big distraction in V1.
Here are some of our ideas for V2 (small-scale):
The concept in this last video is the one we liked most (out of many others not shown here), and so we’re now working on bringing it to full scale!
Larger scale origami testing
More updates to come as we go along!
Next big milestone
Our plan is to finish V2 in June, this time with lighting and/or projections too. 🌟 Our goal is to travel to Denmark and showcase it as part of a cultural festival!
Thanks for reading. If you’re interested in joining us in this amazing journey, feel free to reach out! 🌬️