City Lights from Windmills

An interactive installation with a stylized city skyline that reacts to the wind, blending low and high tech.

Seokbin Kang, The University of Maryland, College Park Philip Dasler, The University of Maryland, College Park Link to Github

Overview City Light from Windmills is a interactive and visual art that displays how our city turns up the lights with electricity generated by windmills. The user can light up city building by blowing windmills and change its color/brightness. Each windmill is equipped with a photo interrupter to estimate the rotational speed of axis. Arduino interprets the rotational speeds of windmills and map them to back-light LED strips to illuminate city buildings. The colors and brightness of LEDs are adjusted according to the rotational speeds of each windmill.

Materials and Parts

Part Describe the Part’s Role In Your Project Count Cost Total Cost Decorative Paper Decorating overall painting, diffuse LED light, and display the shape of city buildings 3 $5.00 $15.00 Foam Board Used for the base panel 1 $3.00 $3 LED Strip Used to illuminate city buildings’ windows 1 $24.95 $24.95 Metal Sheet Used to build windmills 1 $3 $3 Photo Interrupter Used to sense spinning speed of the windmills 3 $1.95 $5.85 Bearings Used to allow windmills to spin 2 $2.19 $4.38 Wooden dowel Used for windmill shaft 1 ~$2 ~$2 Arduino Leonardo Used to control the system overall 1 $20 $20

Total Cost:
$78.18 parts_desc.png


circuit.png Challenges

Making the base panel and implementing back-light LEDs to illuminate city buildings.
Wiring 12 wire strips with different data components
Making windmills and sensing the rotational speed of their axes.

Future Work Ideas

We would add different input-devices from windmills, which provide diverse interactions and illuminations
The current implementation of back-light LEDs is over-complicated, and this could be minimized with a new layout.

Thoughts about Project

From the outset, our project idea was about turning art works into interactive one. We tried to incorporate user interface and visual/acoustic feedback to many different objects and reached the final theme with painting, City Light from Windmills. Windmills are perfect for reminiscing our childhood and to play with. City Light is beautiful to catch user's eyes. Moreover, the idea behind it is scientific and educational. "See how electricity comes and light up your house".

Links to Inspirations, Code Libraries, and Code Samples What Makes a Weed Not Be a Flower? - Jie Qi, MIT Media Lab Adafruit Neopixel LED Strip (API) References