Prototype #5 - Just the wind
My name is Duncan. I love clouds, tinkering and math problems. I am 24, fresh out of college, and I have no idea what I want to do in life. I have many passions that I can lose myself in for hours, but there is no professional track or mold that I can follow to make a career out of them. So, I am embarking on a road trip to find out how others have combined their talents, values and passions in a useful and fulfilling way. Sort of like Roadtrip Nation! Along the way I'll interview influential people who carved their own route, perhaps apprentice with them, and build the skills and self-knowledge that I need to take a leap towards my dreams.
I have been building a portfolio of experiments, projects and ideas on a blog (www.stringandducttape.tumblr.com). Streamlines is a tangible finished product that showcases my creativity and drive, that will help me connect to STEM leaders and other imaginative artists. By backing this small project, you are not just funding an art piece, but enabling the growth of a curious individual who is sure to go off and create more cool stuff.
The atmosphere is alive. The great ocean of air above us constantly swirls, puffs, rains, sparks and shimmers. But we can only see so much of the picture from our tiny viewpoint. There is so much more going on, and only a handful of astronauts have had the pleasure to see it with the naked eye. As a meteorology student, I learned about the larger picture -- the innate beauty we can only piece together in our imaginations. It takes lots of practice to understand and visualize the atmosphere and all its beauty, and I wanted a more accessible way to share this beauty with students and non-meteorologists alike.
As a meteorology student, visualizing synoptic-scale weather as it truly was, even with advanced technology, was still very difficult. Scientists still use maps and a few basic animations to show atmospheric phenomena. There are a few great entities that are trying to change this right now (e.g. ESRI, NEMAC, NASA). What if there were a living sculpture of the weather, one that more clearly showed the relationships between variables in the atmosphere?
The Final Design:
As of now there is no final design. Instead I am creating five prototypes to try different methods, visual aesthetics and parts in order to create the best sculpture. You can see glimpses of the final product through the evolution of the prototypes and through my inspirations. Stay tuned for updates about the sculpture and the path it takes!
I woke from a dream, remembering these three videos:
"Oh man that's so cool, that's what I'm talking about!"
"Oh! and I could do something like that to show the wind!"
"And then I could make the pressure topography using this cool mold-able balloon method."
It would look something like this...
No actually like this...
Wait, actually like this...
My goal: a fluid sculpture, a living snapshot of the weather patterns above us that is at once accessible by the general public, and meteorologically accurate and educational. The final products will be a 11" x 17" version in a wooden box (for sale to the public), as well as a 4ft x 3ft final masterpiece, intricately detailed, showing every nuance of a day in the life of the wind.
- First I pick a day to model at spc.noaa.gov/obswx/maps. Usually I will choose an 850mb map to model.
Then I do a small paper study of the pressure contours and streamlines.
- Then I print the contours on a transparency and interpolate the streamlines by hand with an eye for placement of the tubes. I project the transparency with an old-school overhead projector onto my work space.
- If I'm working on a 9.5"x11" without pressure gradient represented, I begin laying tubes on a flat surface, taping and nailing around them to keep their shape. When the tube has reached the end of the picture, I loop it around the edge, come back to the left side and lay it side-by-side with the first tube. I apply a vinyl epoxy that melts the tube walls together. In this way I slowly lay and adhere tubing in one long loop, with the tubes following the streamlines of the wind.
- If I'm working on a 11" x 17" with the pressure gradient represented, I begin laying tubes on a mold I made out of plaster of Paris of the pressure surface at 850mb. In the same fashion, I adhere the tubes side-by-side to represent the flow of the wind, but this time the surface they create is not flat but wave-like. The troughs and ridges that the tube surface forms compose the pressure surface at the 850 millibar level. W
- When the continuous tube loop-turned-weather map is complete, I fasten it to one of the boxes from which I've already cut out the outline of the United States. I insert and attach the peristaltic motor that pumps fluid through the tubes, as well as the speed control knob through a hole in the front of the box. I then wire these in series with the power adapter cord and I'm almost done!
- With one end of the tubes attached to the pump, I pump water dyed with food coloring into the tube, removing it from the water jar every couple of seconds so that a small bubble of air also gets sucked in. If the tube were full of only water, then it would be very difficult to see that water move throughout. The air bubbles make the circulation visible.
- Finishing touches are made and the sculpture is ready!
Risks and challenges
Of all the obstacles I face, the most pressing one is time. I have four weeks to complete five prototypes. I am dedicated to working hard every day until I take off in late-August for my trip. One truly useful skill I have learned is the Gantt chart for project management. By keeping to a rigid schedule I am so far staying on track for completion.
In the same vein, shipping time from China for specific parts presents an obstacle that I'm trying to head off early.
Another possible pitfall is public reception of the basic product idea. Is this something that appeals to the average Jane? I've done some basic testing of responses to prototype #5 and got nothing but positive feedback. However, a few strangers, friends and family members is not a representative sample, and only time will tell if this campaign garners enough interest to be successful.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (14 days)