Solar Power Stations In Disguise: MIT’s Soft Rockers

There’s more than meets the eye to these amazing-looking pieces of garden furniture: They’re actually solar power stations.

Unveiled at MIT’s 150th Anniversary Festival of Art, Science and Technology, they’re the brainchild of Professor Sheila Kennedy and her team, who dubbed them “Soft Rockers”. The “rocker” part is self-explanatory, the “soft” one not so much so here we go: Not only are they made with MDF softwood planks, they also represent somewhat of a statement against “hard urban infrastructure.”

Sheila and her collaborators took note of a dilemma existing within the bulding industry nowadays: The parts available for construction are almost entirely mass reproducible, but at the same time there’s a growing need for each new item made to adjust its form to its performance. In other words, we demand uniqueness and specificity of things that have been serially manufactured. The Soft Rocker constitutes itself as one possible answer to the conflict. Its leaf-like loop form “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 chairs were installed at Killian Court, in the MIT campus. They’re capable of creating an interactive 1.5 axis 35 watt solar tracking system by taking into account human power of balance. That is to say, whenever someone climbs into one of these babies, their body weight is detected by the rocker, and it adjusts its tilt accordingly so as to better face the sun and collect solar energy. The energy is stored by soft power electronics (hey, yet another reason behind the “Soft” monicker), which also charge the rocker’s 12 ampere-hour battery.

If the whole physics aspect of the project isn’t your cup of tea, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty: Its practicality. A USB platform installed on each chair allows the occupant to take advantage of the harvested energy and recharge or run their cell phone, mp3 player, speakers, etc. At night, an electroluminescent lighting setting takes the rockers straight to TRON-land. This isn’t necessarily practical but it’s unbelievably cool.

Check out these other solar power-related articles: Solar Power Media Player, KPV: A Solar Powered Vehicle That Fits In Your Suitcase and Solar Powered Portable Speakers Design.

Via: Core 77

4 thoughts on “Solar Power Stations In Disguise: MIT’s Soft Rockers

  1. Flor Sg. Post author.

    @Uncle B: While I agree with you the American government must immediately tackle serious energy-saving issues, that is neither here nor there, seeing as this project is only showcased as an example of a cool green gadget … on a gadgets website, of all places, and not as the be all end all solution to the energy crisis. The team behind it was aiming for small-scale results, it was a very academically confined enterprise and it might be “useless” in the grand scheme of things but as a gadget it’s certainly worthy of interest. The creation of stuff like this at least means a concern about energy is present on people’s minds and I for one am glad about that.

    @mjolnir: A matter of taste 😉

    Thank you both for reading and providing feedback.

  2. Uncle B.

    Americans! So much to learn about basic survival needs, and in such a short time! Largest debtor nation in the history of the world, about to go bust! U.S. dollar replaced by Chinese Yuan in so many places, so many ways, world-wide, and as we speak! Spell-binding, astounding, spirit-busting, paradigm shifts occurring world-wide, about to change America forever. Burgeoning Asian Empire upon you, America! You are broke America! Solar alone cannot rescue you, and certainly not Solar on this scale! you need astounding amounts of oil each day, just to maintain your status quo! How will you pay for this? You manufacture very little, compared to China, Asia! You screw with your money so often, no body trusts it anymore! Even Siberia did a petroleum deal with China using Yuan as currency! This marks the beginning of the end of your U.S. dollar! Do you realize this? Play-ground Solar toys are useless in the face of the 21st century realities for Americans! Where are the ‘Manhatten Project’ sized, Solar, Wind, Wave, Hydro, Tidal, Geothermal and Bioomass projects?


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