Friday, 24 June 2016

Future World at Singapore ArtScience Museum

Kudos to the Singapore ArtScience Museum for their fantastic new permanent exhibit, Future World. It is a wonderful collection of interactive digital installations, some of which are evocative and beautiful and others whimsical and fantastical. It was created by Japanese artist collective teamLab who work with artists, programmers, engineers, CG animators, mathematicians and architects to transform spaces to create their otherworldly experiences. Often when sharing the vision of STEAM with parents, students and other educators. I find myself giving examples from the world of robotics or industrial design to try to help them see where the various disciplines intersect. I'm thrilled to have something with more of an art focus to be able to share--something that could never happen without serious collaboration between experts of these different fields. And the exhibit is expected to stay for at least the next 3 years.

100 Years Sea Animation Diorama speaks to environmental concerns as slow haunting music plays and we watch as islands are slowly swallowed by rising sea levels--from the comfort of a pile of beanbag chairs in the middle of the room.

Sketch Town and Graffiti Nature are really the highlights of the exhibition. Visitors sit at tables with colouring sheets and crayons and colour pictures (in Sketch Town, it's spaceships, buildings and trucks, in Graffiti Nature, it's sea creatures), scan them and then watch as their illustrations magically appear in 3D, driving, swimming or flying across the wall along with everyone else's pictures. They are interactive as well. My son coloured in a spaceship and as it flew slowly across the wall, he could wave his hand over it to make it go faster. 

This digital, interactive hopscotch was fun to watch. My youngest could have stayed on there all day.

It's hard to get a sense of this one from the photo but it was pretty cool, standing in a room surrounded by thousands of little LED's lighting up in various patterns that look like they go on forever. I made an LED cube with an Arduino last year that was only 4x4x4 and I thought it was mesmerising to look at. This was basically the same thing except it's the size of a room and you're standing in the middle of it. Hypnotic.

I used to run a workshop to introduced students to generative art (digital artworks derived from mathematical algorithms) using a tool called Context Free Art. It's still available on my wiki here in cased anyone is interested. I later expanded on this with a 6-week unit about Generative Art to introduce my MYP Design students to computer programming. We used a language called Processing that was created specifically for artists and designers as a way of teaching programming concepts in the context of the visual arts. If you want to know more, check out It's a website with over 150 short videos that take you slowly, step by step, from basic to more advanced programming concepts. The site's creator is an artist himself and the examples he gives are always inspiring.

Now that we have this exhibit here in Singapore and it's going to be here for a while, I hope to revive some of these projects and see if I can use this as a vehicle to inspire some more kids to start programming (and hopefully get some teachers onboard too!)

Thursday, 9 June 2016

I Learned it all on YouTube - Part 1

Featured Favorite: Bruce Yeany

My first year running the STEAM program at TK has been one of the most productive of my life in terms of learning new things and immediately putting them into practice. Whether it was the use a particular machine, piece of software or a construction technique, YouTube has continued to be my first stop when I needed to learn how to do something. I want to write a few posts to acknowledge some of the people that have helped me on my learning journey and provided me with so much knowledge and inspiration 

This week, I'll start with Bruce Yeany's channel, Homemade Science. He's a science teacher in the public school system in Pennsylvania who designs and creates most of his own equipment and regularly posts videos of the projects that he does with his high school students. Everything is presented clearly and is easy to follow and from what I have read in the comments, he's quick to reply to questions and willing to share digital files of his creations if you contact him directly. The projects he does are always interesting and are often things I haven't seen anyplace else. Here's an example where he makes a homemade speaker from a DC motor:

Here's another one where he cuts a piece of wood with a Dremel cutting wheel made from a sheet of paper:

More than ten years ago, I picked up this little tumbling toy at a tiny, old toy shop in Liulichang in Beijing. It was mesmerising to watch it move and I always thought it would be a cool project to try to replicate it with kids. 

I forgot about it entirely until I came across one of Bruce Yeany's videos where he makes a few different variations on this toy. I tried it with a class of grade one students the other day and it went over really well.

His channel is truly a goldmine. There are more than 100 videos that he has created himself. I'm thinking about starting a Bruce Yeany fan club. It's that good. Check him out.

Monday, 6 June 2016

More Light Painting with the Little Ones

For our third session, the kids came to me with more ideas of their own, They drew spirals in the air that came out pretty well.

And then they started tracing around one another. We found that the 3-second exposures were too short.

We kept experimenting and managed to get all the way up to 8 seconds and were still happy with the results.

By this point, the kids were able to do most of it on their own--turning the lights on and off, clicking the button on the remote, tracing one another with the lights. We even had two kids tracing their 'models' at the same time. Awesome!