For awhile, I had been itching to expand my skills and create in mediums I was uncomfortable with. So, in late 2017, I enrolled in a 6-week course at the Gray Area Foundation for the Arts. It was a wild ride jamming with fellow geeks on things like projection mapping, web audio, AR and VR, and hardware.

"Balloons" was an experiential art installation I designed and built to be displayed as my final project.


The piece is an exploration in nostalgia and childhood. I wanted to bring back feelings and emotions that perhaps all viewers had experienced at some point in their lives. This commonality could create a powerful shared experience in the present.

The Process

This was my first experience working on a large scale with electronics hardware but for construction and 3D printing, I leaned on my industrial design experience.

In the concept's first iteration, there would be a field of balloons that would glow when touched. When prototyping this, I rigged a helium balloon containing a motion sensor and LED to an Arduino. The prototype was successful in triggering the LED when touched, however, the amount of wires going into the balloon allowed too much helium to escape. I decided to rethink the piece so that it wouldn't require wiring into the balloon.

One of the first prototypes: the balloon contained an LED and motion sensor - both connected to an Arduino

In the final concept, viewers would walk through a field of balloons - each rising and falling at random times.

To build this, there was a wood housing box for each row of balloons. The housing box contained the Arduinos which were connected to step motors that turned 3D printed spools . The balloons were each tied to strings that would increase or decrease in length as the spools were turned.

A test of the custom 3D printed spool mounted on a step motor