Exploring Light and Shadow in the WICO Egg

In the middle of January we moved into a new space at the Maker Ed Community Studio in Northwest Berkeley. We have a little room that we can fill with exhibit prototypes, in-progress activity ideas, evidence of past projects and other delightful prototypes.


Over the next year we’re hoping to explore a series of themes in this experimental gallery (nicknamed the WICO egg) to see how many different directions we can take this little space.


When we moved in, the space was like a little storage closet (something that feels familiar to us by now) right off the makerspace. Our first steps included removing the wall-to-wall shelves and blocking off the windows to give a darker canvas for light and shadow sculptures.


As part of our process of creating new tinkering environments, we prefer to collaborate with artists and tinkerers from near and far. For this project we reconnected with our former colleague from the Tinkering Studio, Sebastian Martin, to work with us to prototype new designs.

To start we spend some time messing around with programming light play elements and seeing what felt most interesting about using micro:bit, moto:bit and servo motors to control different light and shadow elements. One of the things that we noticed from the initial experiments was that we needed a bit of a ledge to extend the lights, motors and interesting objects away from the wall so that they could project a large shadow around the room.


A couple days later, Nicole and I prototyped a cardboard mock-up of a ledge to get the dimensions just right before cutting out a wooden version. We used a jig saw to cut out a wavy ledge which both gave the impression of individual light play stations but also gave us a way to combine the light play scenes on the shared wall surface.

We added a couple initial contraptions to the ledges as a proof of concept alongside the rainbow light box table and a robot face with an RGB led controlled by potentiometers.

As another fun experiment, we tested out a mini version of the mylar light table that we could put in our gumball style vending machine outside the gallery. We made a little kit with a toliet paper tube, a sheet of mylar and a slowly changing RGB led that all fit in the plastic orb and cost less than 50 cents.


After we had the envrionment set up, Sebastian returned for a second prototyping session after work to play around with the materials again and create some more robust elements.


Over a few hours, we created a folding cardboard cornerwith a mylar cover, two spinning acrylic bowls with a light underneath, and a set of three grids that’s makes RGB colored moire patterns. These contraptions looked beautiful but were a bit rough with wires all over the place and makeshift stands and attachment points.


Over the next couple of weeks, Nicole constructed a system of threaded rod and wooden blocks to make everything look more presentable and clean. We wired all the elements to the wall power and used some new wifi plugs to make them turn on and off on a schedule each day.

Nicole also created one more light sculpture with a little matchstick moving back and forward on a dichroic fabric sheet casting spectacular rippling effect around the room.

After we finished the first draft of the installation we invited our colleagues from Maker Ed as the first guests to the space. Keyana and Lauren played around with the elements and we investigated the properties of light and materials together, using a white piece of paper to catch the stray shadows.


Over the next few months we’re planning to refine the concept of the environment, the kits and the programmable light play installation. As well we’ll be offering a series of tinkering workshops to explore different aspects of light and shadow. Check out the upcoming events that include creating pi-day photograms, building DIY pinhole cameras out of everyday materials and programming leds with the Chibitronics Chibichip.