Shy, by Hannah Gaskill and Ben Hammer, is a kinetic sculpture designed to explore the potential of inanimate objects to show human personality traits. It attempts to portray the personality characteristic of shyness using an inflatable plastic bubble, fans, motion sensors, and interactive Arduino microcontrollers. If an observer stands too close to one of the sensors, the particular fan associated with that sensor turns off — causing the bubble to retreat from the audience, as if it is shy.
Gaskill writes: “The code that runs the program to activate Shy is relatively simple and was very easy to complete. The process of physically creating this piece, however, took many hours of trial and error, mostly having to do with the fan placement. We initially tried to use less than eight fans, but found that they were too weak and the material was too heavy for the fans to uphold. Once we decided to use all eight of the fans, we did many test runs of what the best placement and position of them were, as very often we found some of them would blow out air while others would suck it in. Once we discovered the correct fan placement and positioning, we then had to figure the most effective area for the motion sensors so that people observing the piece would be able to interact with it.”
Shy was supported by a microgrant from the Frank-Ratchye Fund for Art @ the Frontier (FRFAF)— an endowment founded to encourage the creation of innovative artworks by the faculty, students and staff of Carnegie Mellon University. With this fund, the STUDIO seeks to develop a cache of groundbreaking projects created at CMU — works that can be described as “thinking at the edges” of the intersection of disciplines.
Hannah Gaskill and Ben Hammer are currently sophomores in the School of Art at CMU.