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Luminous Science...What are we doing in Environmen

Traditionally we hold disciplines apart from one another; in art class you learn about art, in science you learn about science - usually one particular type. However we imagine an approach that integrates traditionally distinct topics, such as art, biology, and computer science. We explore how connecting the disciplines can enhance each of the subjects beyond what they would be individually, creating spaces where broader ways of thinking and learning are valued. The luminous science project is an exploration of interdisciplinary projects where art and technology are used to create new representations of scientific phenomena. For this specific project, we use a traditional form of Japanese lantern making, Nebuta, and create dynamic illuminations in the lantern that are indicators of biological, chemical, and/or physical phenomena of that system. After building a prototype of this project, we have been exploring new scientific representations through collaborations with students and teachers in and out of classrooms from elementary to high school aged students, as well as through projects with graduate level scientists.

The Luminous Science project started through an exploration by Lila Finch into how we could represent the biochemical processes of a plant using a new representational structure of a Nebuta-style lantern. Specifically we grew plants using hydroponic gardening techniques, collected and analyzed data using sensors, video, images, and hands-on measurements, and then translated that data into an artistic representation that told us about the biology, chemistry, and health of the garden.

The Garden
In the first prototype of the project we built a large wooden support structure to hold three levels of hydroponic gardens. We used an ebb-and-flow system on all three levels. We have grown an assortment of different plants: basil, coleus, lavender, marigolds, tomatoes, lettuce, and thyme. The plants grew so well that the coleus, and later the tomatoes, had to be removed and replanted elsewhere. We had a very fruitful crop of basil that continually was harvested and grew for over eight months.

We used a combination of BlockyTalky and weather:bit sensors to collect data and transmit that data wirelessly to a variety of data physicalizations (see below). We used a micro:bit in the garden connected to our sensor units to transmit data, via the micro:bit radio, from the garden to another micro:bit where that information could be used as desired. We are constantly adding new sensors and data storage capabilities to BlockyTalky and new sensor drivers for the micro:bit in the hopes to soon be able to examine more scientific details of the garden.