Design Review Report – Reactive Branch Divider

For this project, I’ll be constructing a woven branch dividing wall that will be featured in the set of “Quantified Self”, a theatre production that some friends of mine are producing here at CU. The play takes place in a dystopian near future, and the aesthetic of the set is largely centered around something we’re calling “rustic futurism”- a modern aesthetic that feels vaguely futuristic, but incorporates lots of natural materials. The theater piece is immersive, meaning the audience is essentially “on stage” with the cast, interacting with them over the course of the drama.

As a first impression, I want to provoke a curious reaction- from a distance, I picture the dividing wall (which will measure approximately 8′ tall by 12′ long) to be a beautiful but confusing object- one in which the natural materials in it are immediately apparent, while also conveying a sense of artificiality. As the user approaches, lights from below will illuminate the section of the wall nearest the user. If they walk along it, the lights will follow their movement. The branches will be painted with glossy enamels, further distancing the branches from their initial, organic form. My hope is that the observer will find the interaction visually pleasing but slightly unsettling, as the piece tracks their movement via hidden sensors.

In my previous blog post I discussed my inspirations for this project, but I feel like this image gives further context to what I’m working towards:


This is a similar panel, albeit slightly smaller, that I constructed and painted last year for a ceiling piece. This wall will hopefully mimic some of the more successful aspects of that project, while also functioning as a dividing wall for the set.

The most difficult part of this project will likely be one of the most critical elements- the reactive lighting portion. Although I’ve done some small experiments with this sort of interaction in the past, I’ve never done anything at this scale before. I anticipate this means mounting individual LED bulbs in some sort of footer compartment below the branches, and then setting up IR proximity sensors to drive the reaction. I am working on prototyping this sensor setup, but I have yet to successfully execute it.


  • Branches: Free (In my yard)
  • Paint: $30
  • IR Sensors: 12 x $7.95 – $96
  • Lights: 24 x $3 – $72
  • Wood framing- Free (from scrap I have)
  • Wiring, components, microcontroller, MOSFETs- ~$30
  • Final estimate: ~230 dollars.


Week of March 7th- Semi-final drawings, plans and shopping list complete. Submit Amazon order for components.

Week of March 14th- Interaction prototyping, design circuit, solidify IR sensor/light interaction.

Week of March 21st- Spring Break. I aint doin’ shit.

Week of March 28th- revise and complete construction of illuminated footer box(es).

Week of April 4th- cut branches and weave panel(s).

Week of April 11th- prime and paint branch panels. Assemble for final testing. Final documentation.

Week of April 18th- present to class.

April 24th- Install in ATLAS Black Box for production run of Quantified Self.

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2 Comments. Leave new

  • Nicholas Flood
    March 4, 2016 12:50 pm

    This is an interesting idea for a divider. I’m not familiar with immersive theater, but it sounds pretty neat. Good luck!

  • Gardner Nichols
    March 4, 2016 12:46 pm

    Interesting aesthetic, I don’ think I’ve seen it before. I look forward to seeing this final piece!


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