Video by Laura Brehaut: https://www.instagram.com/laurabrehaut/

Gorgeous Floating Thing

Installation

Gorgeous Floating Thing (GFT) is a helium-filled installation that was exhibited at the Toronto Reference Library as part of Maker Festival in 2017. 

Myself and a team of 3 technologists began with a budget of $500, an enormous 6 storey atrium to fill, a timeline of one month, and our only viable anchor point located on the ground floor.

Role: Project Manager, Maker

Team: Udit Vira, Christopher Lewis, Andreas W. + ideation support from Tiffany Pang

 

Ideation

 A three hour ideation session and some rough weight-to-lift calculations led us to the concept of a giant jellyfish blimp with mechanically pulsating tentacles. 

 

Exploration

We bought some ready-made blimps and tested them, pulled them apart, and discovered how hard they are to control in flight.

 

We researched blimp designs online, and did some math on gases and lift in order to understand our design constraints around materials and weight.

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Prototyping

From there, we tested techniques for sealing mylar (aka emergency hypothermia blankets purchased at our local camping store) to make a durable custom balloon, stress-tested it, and built a wooden jig to manufacture tentacles quickly and consistently.

Animation produced by Christopher Lewis
 

Production

We built a jig in order to efficiently build sixteen identical balloons that would make up the eight legs of the octopus. We included valves in the lining of each balloon for inflation and deflation using smaller mylar tubes that are hemmed in to the seams of each balloon.

 

Umbrella Mechanism

 While the octopus body was in production, we remained determined to make it move. We white boarded alternative ideas for mechanisms to produce the pulsating effect, and decided on a design built around a pre-existing umbrella skeleton for ease and speed.

 
 
 

Installation

Unfortunately we didn't have enough time to complete the mechanism – the end result being an enormous static silvery jellyfish balloon. Despite having to downscale the scope of the project on such a short timeline, the installation was a crowd favourite winning Best in Show.