EE 185/285: Interactive Light Sculpture Project

Autumn, Winter, Spring, 2019
MW 10:00-11:20, Packard Room 001

Instructor: Charles Gadeken
  • Office hours: Monday afternoons, Packard 001
  • Instructor: Mark Horowitz
  • Office hours: TBD
  • Instructor: Philip Levis
  • Office hours: W 2-3, Gates 409
  • TA: Matthew Trost
  • Office hours: TBD


    Course materials

    If you would like to be involved in the light sculpture project without enrolling in EE185 or EE285, please join the project mailing list. The class focuses on several key parts of the art; there are many other ways to contribute and help besides the course. There are weekly workshops on Mondays, which are open to the broader Stanford community. If you would like to help or contribute, please attend one of these workshops. Their time and location will be announced on the list.

    This year the Stanford Electrical Engineering Department celebrates its 125th anniversary. As part of celebration, we will be designing, engineering and installing an interactive light sculpture in the 3-story glass stairwell of the Packard building. The sculpture will remain in Packard for 3-5 years, allowing refinement, exploration of new engineering ideas, and new interactions.

    Students taking EE185/EE285 will, in collaboration with the course instructors, design, construct, help install, and program the piece. The course has three instructors: Professor Levis, Professor Horowitz, and Charles Gadeken, a local fire and light sculpture artist whose pieces have been installed in Palo Alto, San Francisco, Calabasas, and Robina (Australia). EE185 is intended for undergraduates. EE285 is for graduate students and requires a higher degree of technical sophistication in its assignments.

    Each quarter will focus on a different stage of the project:

    • Autumn: design and prototyping
    • Winter: construction and refinement
    • Spring: installation, control, and software

    Students are welcome to take the course for any one, two, or all three quarters. The course will rely on existing skills as well as teach new ones, applying them to a beautiful real-world project that will be on display at Stanford for several years. Students taking the course should feel confident in one of the following, and be interested in learning about one or two more:

    • Electronics and electrical system design
    • Mechanical design and materials
    • Artistic design
    • Software and programming

    Because EE185 is intended to be accessible to undergraduates, it does not assume a graduate-level background and is a 100-level course. EE285 assumes a graduate-level background, and the work expected from students enrolling in EE285 is correspondingly more technically challenging. Students may not register for both courses simultaneously.

    The fall quarter will focus on the engineering constraints that will influence Mr. Gadeken's design as well as an artistic exploration of different materials and approaches. Course material includes:

    • Materials, including aluminum, steel, additive manufacturing, and glass
    • Motor control and torque
    • LEDs and their timing
    • Power efficiency and distribution
    • Fire and evacuation safety and material constraints
    • Designing for maintainability and evolution
    • Software abstractions for physical objects
    • Sensors and sensor feedback
    • Part selection, hardware/software tradeoffs
    • 3D printing and mechanical design