UCF Students' Solar-Powered Art Sculpture to be Installed in Lake Nona
A team of University of Central Florida students who designed a solar-powered art sculpture celebrated this week after the Orlando Utilities Commission and Tavistock Development selected its project to be built in the innovative, master-designed Lake Nona community later this year.
Four teams of senior-level undergraduate students in mechanical engineering, electrical and computer engineering, and computer science worked with UCF art students to create four aesthetic solar-powered sculpture designs, the result of a year’s worth of work refining the concepts that began with hundreds of sketches, thumbnails and ideas.
The winning sculpture “Sundial” was praised for its combination of artistry and sound engineering.
“This beautiful combination of functioning solar and thought-provoking art prompts our customers to learn more about the innovative programs we offer. By bringing future engineers and artists together, UCF has done a tremendous job of giving us an opportunity to showcase the next generation of top talent,” said Linda Ferrone, OUC vice president of Strategy, Sustainability & Emerging Technology.
OUC sponsored the projects and competition to create a sculpture that would give the public an opportunity to learn about solar power and its importance as a renewable energy source. They wanted to give residents an engaging, beautiful, interactive community centerpiece sculpture that would contribute to a local power grid.
The winning team wanted to embody the spirit of Lake Nona – traditional and community-oriented, and at the same time modern and new. With built-in sensor plates, the circular sculpture features interactive LED lights and musical sounds. The sculpture also serves as a clock by casting shadows created by the gnomon (the triangular shape that rises from the circular base) and also with LED lights. Measuring 14 feet tall and 22 feet in diameter at full-size, the sculpture will generate the energy it requires with solar panels. It will be installed at OUC’s expense in Lake Nona’s Laureate Park Village Center.
“It’s surreal to think that we won, after all the challenges we faced every day,” said Dominique Russell, a senior in mechanical engineering who graduates today. “We’d work so hard to refine a feature, but then the next day we’d have to change it. We had to remain flexible.”
Marie-Jo Gordo, a junior in studio art, noted the unique challenges that arise when artists work with engineers. “As artists, we often want to create things that are not physically achievable. We had many great ideas but the engineers kept bringing us back to reality.”
The Sundial teammates are: Gordo, junior, studio art; Daniel Schutt, sophomore, graphic design; Russell, graduating senior, mechanical engineering; Peter Warren, graduating senior, mechanical engineering; Graham Morgan, graduating senior, mechanical engineering; Kevin Weng, graduating senior, mechanical engineering; Julio Rodriguez, senior, mechanical engineering; Jade Sziros, sophomore, computer engineering; and Camille Van Atta, junior, studio art.
Four teams vied for the honor. The students presented their designs to OUC executives in March as part of their UCF coursework. Team members also delivered carefully prepared and rehearsed product pitches and presented small-scale prototype sculptures. Working from OUC’s ongoing feedback, the students refined their designs and showcased their polished prototypes during the College of Engineering and Computer Science’s senior design showcase on April 21. Two finalists were selected to move onto a final round of competition, which placed the finalists before OUC representatives and the Tavistock design review committee Wednesday night.
“Tavistock Development is proud to partner on this project at the intersection of higher education and public arts,” said Jim Zboril, president of the Tavistock Development Company. “These sculptures are a reflection of what Lake Nona is about – innovation, sustainability, technology and education.”
The projects represent a culmination of work between the College of Engineering and Computer Science, and the School of Visual Arts & Design. Classes were held in SVAD’s AdLab. They also served as the engineering and computer science students’ final senior project, a requirement for graduation.
The teams incorporated sound engineering principles into their designs, such as the ability to withstand hurricane-force winds and optimize sun exposure to generate energy to power the sculptures’ electrical features and contribute to the grid. The sculptures use materials and convey art concepts – such as reflections and shadows – that recognize that it will be on display year-round outdoors in the bright sun.
UCF faculty who oversaw the projects include the engineering faculty Robert Hoekstra; Mark Steiner, Lei Wei; and Mark Heinrich; and the SVAD’s Robert Reedy.
As the Big Ben is a well-known monument in London, this team wanted to create a similar clock “tower” to artistically convey the merging of the past with the present. Circles represent timelessness, a concept artistically conveyed in this sculpture, which at full size will stand 14 feet tall and measure 22 feet in diameter. It was artistically designed specifically for Lake Nona to represent how the community is traditional and community-oriented, and at the same time modern and new. Featuring embedded sensor plates, visitors can interact with the sculpture to create LED light displays and musical sounds. Visitors will also be able to know the time with the shadows created by the gnomon (the triangular shape within the circular base) and also with the LED lights which serve as a clock. The subtle colors featured in the gnomon represent sunrise, high noon and night. The sculpture will self-generate the energy it requires with circular solar panels.
High Five (runner up)
This team wanted to create a sense of immersion while still remaining a non-obstructive, open-air structure, focusing on the use of simple repeating shapes that symbolize unity and equality. The project subtly conveys the message of solar-powered technology through its highly interactive nature.
High Five is five pillars standing tall and bright (at full scale the tallest pillar would stand 15 feet), collecting solar energy while displaying a dazzling array of LED-lit panels that change colors and patterns based on how people interact with it. During the day, the LEDs will be bright enough to see clearly. Each pillar is topped with an angled solar panel to showcase how the sculpture is powered. At 49 degree angles, the panels maximize the efficient collection of sunlight. At night, people will enjoy seeing how just one day of solar keeps the lights running freely and smoothly throughout the night.
Visitors interact with the sculpture with built-in motion and proximity sensors. Different numbers of people in different locations around and between the pillars will elicit different light reactions. This is an aspect that can bring the community together and educate about solar energy.