Glow Rock

This project was built to be a moving temporary installation in the California Academy of Sciences. The goal was to create an artistic piece that would break the normalcy of the galleries at the Cal Academy of Sciences as it moved slowly from room to room.


The primary function of the piece was to be a whimsical disruption of the gallery and main atrium at the Cal Academy of Sciences. I wanted to have people stop and consider the space and themselves in it by jarring them a little with an unexpected form. In order to breakdown normal perception of the space I designed a roving semi-geodesic structure that represented something alien or unnatural. The Glow Rock is able to move, and react to its environment using geared motors, distance sensors and an Arduino (the brain) board. The Glow Rock would then be able to move and glow as a reaction to a passersby.


After some early initial sketching I began to work with the form of the piece in Rhinoceros, a 3D modeling tool. The main structure needed to be able to stand up to a very active gallery space and needed to be able to support it's own weight. On top of this, it had to be very light due to the fact that the motors I had available were not overly powerful. In order to achieve maximum strength with minimal mass I deigned around the geometry of a geodesic dome.


I built the structure out of wood with all the joints being 3D printed. The control circuitry is run by an Arduino and has a large external battery in order for the piece to be autonomous. The Glow Rock has base plates built into the bottom in order to hold the structure to the chassis and the skin of the piece is made up of laser cut polypropylene. In order to hold the skin to the structure, I zip tied the skin into place along the structure.


Glow Rock was deployed in the entrance of the California Academy of Science during a Night Life event. Through the course of the event the Rock moved around the main entrance space and engaged and delighted many of the patrons who stopped to consider it. Looking back there are a few key changes I would have liked to make, primarily the motors I used. Glow Rock was very slow and was driven by geared stepper motors that did not provide the strength need to move quickly. With this I also would replace all the zip ties with modular skin sections in order to assemble and disassemble quickly.

This project while whimsical was also a wonderful experience because I got to use my deep fabrication skills while also building something for the real world and a public context.

If you have feedback please feel free to email me by clicking below. I'd love to hear your thoughts.