July 23, 2008

Bing Bang Boing development

Filed under: development, learning studio, P.I.E. — learningstudio @ 4:31 pm

It all began with a commercial on youbute for Ideal’s 1972 open-ended action game, Bing Bang Boing! Here it is:

We thought it would make a nice addition to our host of activities, so after a successful (if painful) eBay bid-war for the original set, and encouraged by other people’s efforts, we decided to develop our own PIE-flavored Bing Bang Boing.

Another source of inspiration was PythagoraSwitch, a wonderful Japanese educational television program that showcases intricate and delightful Rube Goldberg-type contraptions, like these:

First of all, we looked into ways of making the HumDrums that came with the game functional, plus make our own bouncy buckets.

We tried stretching latex over the original HumDrums (which were missing the rubber that originally made them bouncy), and securing it with zip-ties. Also, just a rubber balloon, cut at the stem and stretched over the drum, works pretty well, and actually has a high degree of bounciness.

We realized that the lip at the opening is important in keeping the rubber taut and secure, and that’s what makes cream cheese containers particularly good as homemade HumDrums. It also confers them rigidity to resist warping due to the tension from the balloon.

Other containers that worked well tended to be of rather sturdy plastic or aluminum. This on the left is a dried soybean snack container from SuperTokio, I believe. Rubber bands also work quite well in securing the latex. Tall containers provide a lovely sound as the balls bounce on them.

One of the first pieces from the original game got us excited was the BangleVator. This is a gravity-powered elevator: a weight provides stored energy to power a swinging arm, which catches the ball at the bottom, brings it up to the top, and releases it down the chute. The mechanism is really nice in that it can be wound a few times and, thanks to the dual arm design, it can catch and release a few balls before having to be wound again.

We tried some homebrewed versions of the same concept. One used the same principle of the gravity-powered swinging arm.

Magnets provided an easy way to adjust the weight, so that it could account for heavier marbles, if one decided to use them.

The catch holds the swinging arm down, and is released by an arriving marble. The whole arm is lifted by the magnet weight coming down.

The real breakthrough was the development of a “brake” to slow down the ascent of the swinging arm. The tension from the rubber band kicks in just as the arm starts speeding up, and deposits the ball at the top with a gentle motion.

Then Walter started thinking about ways to collect all the marbles that had started bouncing around the room in an automated way. This lead to the development of the splendid continuous marble elevator:

An earlier version did not include the escapement mechanism, which turned out to be helpful in timing the marbles being loaded onto the elevator


February 27, 2008

Visit from CAMP

Filed under: learning studio, showcase — learningstudio @ 9:49 pm


We had a really lovely visit today by Ryoko Matsumoto of CAMP, together with a few friends and co-workers. They seemed truly excited about our activities and philosophy, and it was a pleasure to have them.

February 25, 2008

Chain Reaction machines

Filed under: explainers, P.I.E., workshop — learningstudio @ 11:02 pm

Pie and Anne
Last week we hosted a small workshop with the Field Trip Explainers, as part of their daily training. Half of the explainers participated one day, and the other half the next: someone has to help those poor kids out on the floor to explore!

An extra motivation for the workshop was preparing for the upcoming Pi Day at the Exploratorium, when we will try to replicate a version of this activity of the floor, for the general public (Yikes!). So we provided each time with a Pi(e)-themed object to somehow incorporate in the contraption. See if you can spot them…

Pizza box

Oh, coincidentally March 14 (3-14, get it? Pi? Nevermind…) is also Einstein’s birthday, so there were a few Einstein-themed knickknacks too.

Einstein block

The workshop was great, and the range of solutions these guys came up with in a scant one and a half hours was astounding. For a more complete set of pictures, click here.

February 22, 2008

Light Play with Pulley Table

Filed under: development, P.I.E. — learningstudio @ 2:06 am

We worked with Jessica Strick on combining Light Play with the Make your own pulley exhibit, to see if anything exciting would come out of it. Here are some photos from the three-day session.

Pulley table before we started working on it.

Walter’s oscillating light source.

Spinning mirrors, another Walter creation.

3D shadows.

Karen’s multicolored display. The discovery of dichroic glass was fundamental.

Luigi drilled 267 holes through two disks to get an organic-looking light-shadow interaction.

Walter made an awesome reflector-projector.

Jessica’s display achieved complicated-looking movement without moving any object, just the light sources.

February 5, 2008

The Learning Studio is never done!

Filed under: home improvements — learningstudio @ 8:49 pm

But if it were, it would probably be now. Let us triumphantly announce the new and improved learning studio. Now with more tinkering! Click on the red cabinet to see for yourself:

Red Cabinet

January 24, 2008

Learning Studio Redesign

Filed under: Uncategorized — learningstudio @ 8:33 am

Media Desk

Construction in the Learning Studio is nearing completion after a thorough overhaul of the space which coincided with the new year. We paid careful attention to how the space had been used and how we might redesign it to facilitate the development of new activities and the accommodation of resident artists. Pictured is the new media desk, from where we can print wirelessly, and control audio from the new computer, I-pod, DVD, and VCR. We are hoping to have the space in shape by February.

January 17, 2008

About Us

Filed under: Uncategorized — learningstudio @ 12:00 am

The Learning Studio is a workshop in the Exploratorium dedicated to experimentation with ideas, tools, technologies, and new concepts in art and learning. The Studio provides a multi-disciplinary laboratory for visiting artists and scholars, while also supporting field research in art and science, and presenting forums, conferences, and symposia.
With an emphasis on interdisciplinary inquiry and a hands-on approach to research, the Learning Studio helps creative thinkers turn ideas into tools for creative investigation, whether those tools be artworks, performances, publications, exhibitions, environments, public programs, curricula, or innovative uses of new technologies.

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