9pm Thursday 4th Feb 2016 - Precedents Research Due (individual)
10.30 am Friday 5th Feb 2016 - Brainstorming exercise (in-class)
10.30 am Tuesday, 9th Feb 2016 - System Proposals Due
10.30 am Friday 12th Feb 2016 - Desk crit / Build; 1st-cut design/prototype due
10.30 am, Tuesday, 16th Feb Feb 2016- Crit/Review of outcomes
10.00 pm, Tuesday, 16th Feb 2016- Digital Documentation Due
Our habitat has to be closed. To protect the plants from the environment of Mars, we’ll create a protective bubble around the plants - a spacesuit to contain and maintain them.
Being closed, all matter stays within that bubble. As we consume nutrients or as the plants grow, by-products like waste materials, gases, rot or decay, and other outputs of the lifecycle all stay within. Water won’t escape but it might evaporate. How do we recover it? How is the air revitalized when the plants convert carbon dioxide to oxygen? How do we process waste (or dead plants) to recover nutrients and other resources? Closed loop systems ask if we can we use them in other processes or put them to other purposes to make the system sustainable. How do we recycle and reuse? What else might we introduce to help this process? What does life support look like for our plants?
It’s definitely possible. And there are plenty of starting points for this. NASA and other scholars have looked at this extensively at how closed-loop habitats can be created (see three links above). Aquaponics and hydroponics show potential for high yield crops. Paragon Space Development and Odyssey Moon have shown how it’s possible to grow a plant in a pressurised vessel on the moon. On Earth, Biome is a really polished example of “a flora terrarium, which works a little like a live tamagotchi – with a smartphone or Ipad as its key to controlling its climate, water level and nutrients.” However, experiments on Earth have also shown the challenges that exist in getting this right. Biosphere 2 alone holds a lot of lessons.
There’s also a lot of rich possibilities:
Could the plants generate the power for the system? Algae have a lot of potential to assist with the environment of the closed loop system. Jacob Douenias and Ethan Frier in their art installation at The Mattress Factory, show how Spirulina algae housed in glass bioreactors could be used to illuminate and heat the entire futuristic home display. Similarly the Latro Lamp by Mike Thompson is a speculative product using algae to power energy efficient products.
Could the plants generate light for the interior structures? A bio-digital installation by island chen shows that, bioluminescent algae could not just generate energy that can be converted to light but could directly provide the light for other species to grow
Could the plants themselves assist with communications? Could the stalks be either a surface to mount and position antennae or could they be conduits for transmissions or interactivity (as in Disney Research’s Botanicus Interacticus) ?
Could the space suit move? Could the plants rove the landscape seeking out the resources (light, heat, nutrients) that they need to sustain themselves? Like the Adam Ben-Dror’s Abovemarine which let’s a japanese fighting fish drive it’s bowl or Grégory Lasserre & Anaïs met den Ancxt installation at ISEA 2012 that explored of behavioral, interactive plants that can move around their environments.
This exercise is designed to develop knowledge relating to closed-loop systems for plant growth. You’ll explore existing earth technologies for closed systems and plant growth as well as develop a small-scale prototype of our Martian habitat. As part of this exercise, you will:
Explore closed-loop systems and develop a set of requirements for our biome
Apply this knowledge and understanding in a small-scale and working prototype of a closed-loop system
Investigate existing earth analog technologies which can be adapted for use on Mars
Work collaboratively and explore the skillsets, expertise and opportunities within the interdisciplinary participants of this course.
Speculate on the ideas of ‘spacesuits for shrubbery’ and the ways we’ll approach closed-loop systems on Mars.
Design and present a small scale analog for our Martian biome. You’ll be given a sealable pressure vessel, plants and a set of materials and technologies. Develop a working prototype that can monitor and sustain this plant on an on-going basis.
The only requirement is to sustain the plants and aside from that you can do anything you like! e.g. you can adapt the vessel/structure, build in additional proposals/ideas, modify the pressure vessel (e.g. from transparent to non-transparent), make it mobile, etc. etc.
A speculative proposal / conceptual design
A digital presentation of your design work (3 minutes maximum)
A working prototype of a closed-loop ‘spacesuit’ to sense conditions, adapt growth and maintain plants.
Final deliverables to be presented at the Crit/Review
All Investigations follow the same format: a series of small collaborative exercises that build towards a bigger vision. The format is 2-week rapid explorations of a theme, idea or theory, following four stages: Research-Ideation-Build-Reflect
Investigations will be conducted over a 2-week period (4 classes). The goal of investigations is to encourage:
unconventional approaches to practical problems
deep research and development of core knowledge, theory and methods
applied exploration as a means to problem solve and integrate theory
Students will collaboratively and rapidly explore a provocation as part of a series of four-coupled pressure-projects.
Teams will conduct research on the investigation theme.
Each person will identify and rigorously review two precedent projects (creative projects, research papers, theory, ideas, methods, etc.) that relates to the theme
The goal is to broaden your understanding of the field and deepen your knowledge of prior work that’s relevant to this project and to the course. You’ll be expected to select a couple of works and report on your findings with a critical perspective.
Objective: Report on two works you haven’t seen before, are relevant to the project and you find particularly interesting.
Create a post, embed a video and/or images of the project, and write a short critical reflection on the project (about 200 words) in which you:
Briefly describe the project (a couple of sentences) and who made it.
Describe why you selected the project (what is interesting, inspirational, etc. about it)
Critique the project - what are its shortcomings; how could it be made better, what did they get right and what didn’t they get right and why, etc.
Draw relationships to other work: What inspired or informed it? Compare this project with related work, precedent projects.
Draw relationships to your work: How does it relate to your ideas for your project?
Submitting this work: Post research outcomes to the #rme channel on Slack ahead of class
Teams will brainstorm to explore
Teams will generate a well documented and large set of possible, plausible, preferable and probable ideas. This will be accomplished in part through in-class exercises. Working in groups the objective will be to integrate research and speculative approaches into a proposed outcome.
Submitting this work: A short 200 word proposal should be submitted to the #rme channel on Slack ahead of class. Everyone should review and discuss online.
Each team will prepare a working prototype of a technical system to showcase their idea. Hardware, technologies and other resources can be requested.
Teams will prepare a digital presentation and take part in a crit on Tuesday. The crit is equally an opportunity to showcase success as well as pose open questions and highlight challenges or failures encountered. Teams should use the opportunity to reflect on the exploration and what it reveals for the Martian biome we plan to build in the 2nd half of the semester.
Submitting your work: Digital presentations will be made in class. Digital documentation of their work (see below) on the IDeATe Gallery by end of day.
Post an update of your investigations and collaborative work to the #rme channel on the course slack before each class (as discussed in process).
Final documentation for the project should be submitted to the IDeATe Gallery before the due date.
Each group should prepare a 3-minute digital presentation of their work and bring a working prototype to the Critique on
Include a write up of the following:
Speculative Proposal / Conceptual Design: Describe your vision. What is the driving idea behind your garden? What are your goals and motivations?How will it work for 18-months?
Prototype: Describe your working prototype: What did you create, how, etc.? What tools and technologies were involved? Include appropriate content and illustration
Precedents: Describe the prior work, ideas and projects that influenced your design. What work informed this idea. What other technologies, tools or investigations did you draw on.
Process: Describe how you arrived out the outcome. What iterations, refinements, design decisions and changes were made? Who did what?
Reflection: What did you learn? What would you do differently?
Open Questions and Challenges: What questions remain to be addressed? What are the challenges we’ll face when we build the structure at scale?
Attribution: Reference any sources or materials used in the documentation or composition.
Each of these sections should be no more than 200 words max. and well illustrated (images, videos, etc.)
For the Project Info’s goal description: it must be tweetable - summarise your outcome in no more than 140 characters
You will be provided with:
A sealable 7-gallon jar
A 500ml graduated cylinder
A solar panel
Pumps, servos and actuators
Sensors (Co2, Dust, light/lux)
Soil and other growth mediums
A selection of plants including spirulina, arabidopsis, water-cress and lettuce seeds, cacti, houseplants, etc.
Below are some useful resources