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Solar Powered Soft Rockers (Video & Gallery) By MIT Professor & Students

Professor of the Practice of Architecture, Sheila Kennedy, and a group of Design, Architecture and Engineering students from MIT have designed solar-energy storing modern wood rockers on which you can lounge and chat or charge. Smartphones, cell phones, mp3 devices, laptops and other gadgets can be connected via USB. What's more, the soft rockers are designed with a solar powered ambient light that gives them a soft glow in the dark.

above: Image by SOFT ROCKER TEAM: Sheila KENNEDY, MIT Professor of the Practice of Architecture; James BAYLESS, KVA UC Intern; Kaitlyn BOGENSCHUTZ, KVA UC Intern; Wardad INAM, MIT PhD Candidate, Electrical Engineering; Jungmin NAM, GSD March I 2009, KVA Designer; Shevy ROCKCASTLE, MIT Smarchs 2011; Phil SEATON, MIT March 2012; Matt TRIMBLE, MIT March 2009, RADLAB; Adnon ZOLIJ, MIT BS 2010, Electrical Engineering

Soft Rockers description and video from MIT:
Recharge yourself and your electronics while relaxing with friends outdoors in Killian Court. The MIT SOFT Rockers are smart, clean energy charging stations disguised as outdoor rocking lounge furniture. Unlike conventional ‘hard’ urban infrastructure, The SOFT Rocker leverages its environment in a dynamic manner by using the human power of balance to create an interactive 1.5 axis 35 watt solar tracking system. Soft power electronics designed for this project charge the 12 ampere-hour battery and store solar energy harvested during the day. Put your body weight in play with an interactive, real time energy harvesting feedback loop that senses how you orient the rocker to the sun. Charge or run any USB device from speakers to cell phones and bring your friends to enjoy cool lighting loops at night for social gatherings.


The leaf-like loop form of the SOFT Rockers explores how standard softwood panels can be mass-customized to adapt to the latitude and sun angle of any site using parametric design software and automated fabrication with a lightweight Kuka robotic arm. The SOFT Rocker combines hi-tech and low-tech design strategies: it produces electricity but engages the body and works like furniture “by hand”; it mixes sun tracking and social dynamics; it is a site specific object and a flexible form family of ‘soft’ wood construction. The SOFT Rocker blurs distinctions between pleasure and work and recasts power generation as an integrated and distributed public activity rather than a centralized, singular off-site project of ‘engineering’.  

SOFT ROCKER TEAM: Sheila KENNEDY, MIT Professor of the Practice of Architecture James BAYLESS, UC MArch 2014, KVA Intern Kaitlyn BOGENSCHUTZ, UC BS Arch 2013, KVA Intern Wardah Inam, MIT PhD Candidate 2015, Electrical Engineering Jungmin NAM, GSD MArch 2009, KVA Designer Shevy ROCKCASTLE, MIT SMarchS 2011 Phil SEATON, MIT MArch 2012 Matt TRIMBLE, MIT MArch 2008, RADLAB Adnon ZOLIJ, MIT BS 2010, Electrical Engineer Vicor, Inc. MIT gives special thanks to: • Vicor, Inc. Applications Engineering provided power electronics support. Picor, a subsidiary, provided Cool-O-Ring controllers for battery/load interfacing. • Global Solar, Inc. Technology Development Team provided advance samples of Gen II flexible photovoltaics. • LightTape, Inc. Assisted with manufacture of custom electroluminescent lighting materials • Peter Murray at Fine Finish, Inc., in Waltham, MA.  

images and info courtesy of Arts at MIT

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