The luminous science project is an interdisciplinary exploration of learning about the biochemistry of a garden through art-making. Specifically we grow plants using hydroponic gardening techniques, collect and analyze data using sensors, video, images (including microscopic), and hands-on measurements, and then translate that data into artistic representations that tell us about the biology, chemistry, and health of the garden.
In the first prototype of the project we built a large wooden support structure to hold three levels of hydroponic gardens. We use an ebb-and-flow system on all three levels. Our first round we grew basil, coleus, lavender, marigolds, and thyme. The plants grew so well that the coleus had to be removed and replanted elsewhere and we had our first (large!) basil harvest.
To investigate the garden we have been collecting data using temperature, humidity, water presence, soil moisture, and light sensors using BlockyTalky. We have also began to examine the cellular structure of our plants using Foldscope, a $1 microscope that allows us to look at both live and harvested plant cells at 100x and 400x.
We are currently experimenting with how to creatively represent real-time and historical data about our garden through a computationally infused lantern. Our lanterns are inspired by the Japanese Aomori Nebuta Festival, an annual festival held in Aomori, Japan, where large lantern floats are created for months prior to the festival and then paraded around the city. This type of lantern is created using a wire structure covered in paper and painted with both wax and dye. The lights inside the lantern, LEDs in our case, will dynamically change based information collected from our hydroponic garden.
This project is supported by a gift from Oracle Corporation.
The Laboratory for Playful Computation is part of the ATLAS Institute at the University of Colorado Boulder.