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This research covered many aspects of Design in relation to Energy Harvesting. The idea that products, fashion architecture becomes independent of external energy is very attractive. In a layered structure of energy harvesting it should become realizable in the future. With layered structure is meant a combination of sources (wind, solar etc) and storage, from very small to local scale. Added to this should be a careful choice of interactivity and availability of the behavior.
The research question is about relevance and possibilities for applying energy harvesting knowledge and application for projects of WdKA bachelor students.

Bachelor students

The research question was to investigate if some notion of energy harvesting is important for students of the WdKA.

In general the philosophy of the school is to mix design concepts with technology. General projects and graduation projects are becoming more and more interactive, which means energy and electricity is needed.

Normally either the mains (220V) or batteries are used. Sometimes many batteries are needed and this "waste" really asks for a more "intelligent" and environmental friendly approach.

To answer the main research question differentiation is needed between general courses and final year projects.

In practice the demands in the last year of the study from the domain of specialisation (eg product design, spatial design, fashion) are already very high.

If "saving energy" is not a main topic of the graduation proposal, making the final design independent of external energy by energy harvesting is an added and rather technical demand.

Sometimes it is possible to make use of energy harvesting, but for most projects this would mean an enormous complication of the final project in technical aspects, which are not the prime focus of the WdKA design studies.

For courses in years 1-3 Paul Cox has experimented with a reduced target of making a wind turbine all by yourself. This approach should be succesfull, see a later paragraph.

Comparison with MA projects

Comparing the WdKA bachelor project with MA projects presented at DDW2014 can shed light on the complexity that is asked for applying energy harvesting principles.
Two examples are studied briefly:

  • Solly of Roes,[1]

This is a gaming situation where children are learning the principles of energy harvesting.

  • Nightlight of Rik Blaauw [2]

A lamp for children, which can be charged by pulling the lamp down.
It can be perceived that even for MA students energy harvesting in all it's technical implications is a difficult, added aspect. Solly for example is not optimized in using energy, while paradoxically it will promote energy harvesting. In a conversation with the designer Roes he acknowlegded this weakness but told me he will ask a technical expert for this. Even his MA level does not imply mastering even simple energy optimalization techniques. He is more concentrating on Design cycles, user experience and financing his project.


Even if the right technical application of energy harvesting principles are complex the subject matter is certainly relevant for the WdKA projects which involve concepting around a human approach to nature, society and development.
Given the relevancy of questioning energy consumption it is no surprise that there are WdKA students who are conceptualizing ideas which involve energy harvesting.
The minor and the graduation projects of Otske Penin can serve as an example. In the minor she envisioned a bicycle which generates energy for a WIFI connection to keep the youth outside in a quarter busy and concentrated . In her graduation project she employed different sources of energy for independency of a square around a swimming pool in the city. She added not only technically sound ideas with solar and wind energy but also an emotinal category "spiritual" energy. This category can be interpreted as the generation of energy by getting involved and motivated for the community. Combining technical and emotional sources of energy is recognized to be the unique approach of the WdKA bachelor student. It makes the audience think about "being human" in a new and fresh way.

Applications of the artistic research results

In some student projects the use o the Ljusa kit was contemplated, in one project it was actually used. The Victory over the Sun has been displayed in Bremen at the Hochschule für Künste Bremen and will be displayed at the e-textile summercamp 2015 at Paillard. This artistic research result is too complex for the average student but interesting for it's internal diversity and application of different techniques.
The Flash-Knit swatch will be part of the Swatchbook 2015
These results will have its effects, but it will be limited and energy harvesting will certainly not be applied in a majority of bachalor projects.

Energy Harvesting Introductory Course

As a part of this research an introductory course was developed and tested.
Due to circumstances the number of students attending the course was low. On the other hand, the communication failed, later on students told me they had been interested.
As a part of a yearly curriculum and the minor sustainability, this introductory course will be useful.

An alternative approach: Making a 12V wind turbine

A specific approach to the subject of energy harvesting was taken by the teacher Paul Cox. He constructed a sturdy wind generator totally DIY. His approach is hands-on and his course consists of making this 12V wind turbine in all its components. A lot of experience is gained in building and making the parts yourself.
IMG 20150625 152835.jpg
In this study the application of energy harvesting was combined with last year projects and a lot of background information. In this perspective energy harvesting becomes an extra challenge on top of the final year projects. But building a wind turbine in one course (three months, 10 weeks, weekly lesson) is possible. The subject of energy harvesting is isolated and reduced to one application (wind) and the main focus is on building it totally yourself (DIY).

Application of the Ljusa kit

For gathering experience by applying energy harvesting principles in a current project the Ljusa was chosen. It proved to be easy to hack and generated enough electrical power for small projects.
A basic hacking kit was developed consisting of illustrator files for parts which can be lasercutted. These parts facilitate storing the components after the hack in a prototype.
The basic kit was used for the "Victory over the Sun" artistic research result.
Hacking the Ljusa was done by three students, two attendees of the introductory course. One graduation student applied the Ljusa hack in her final project - Otske Pennin.
IMG 20150625 151559.jpg

......(work in progress)