Iowa State students create interactive sensory pavilion

The pavilion features hundreds of tiny lights that interact with the movements of festivalgoers.
The pavilion features hundreds of tiny lights that interact with the movements of festivalgoers. | File photo

Iowa State University students created the Flux Pavilion, which offers a sensory experience of music, light and color as well as shade and seating, for the 80/35 Music Festival in Des Moines.

“We work with several artists and designers each year to have some sort of artistic element at the festival,” 80/35 Project Manager Amedeo Rossi said. “The pavilion sounded like a neat design element that would push the envelope. The festival grounds are right next to the sculpture gardens, so in a lot of ways, it will be similar to the sculptures with which people already interact.”

The pavilion features hundreds of tiny lights that interact with the movements of festivalgoers, mimicking their steps, and the surrounding music, whose rhythm the lights will reflect. It consists of plywood and Tyvek boxes, a microcontroller board and LED strips, and was designed via computer to optimize the structure in terms of structure, shade and seating.

“The pavilion is fully scripted, meaning every piece was developed via code on the computer,” recent graduate Kyle Vansice, who worked on the project before earning his Master of Architecture degree in May, said. “There are 6,500 pieces. No tab and groove are the same. Everything has to be numbered and oriented properly according to the computer or it doesn’t get assembled correctly. We had to trust the system.”

After the festival, the pavilion will be broken down into modules and donated to high schools throughout central Iowa, allowing their technology classes to learn from it.

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