Immersion Wheel Final Report Part 1 – What and How


The project objective was to create a dynamic object, something that changes throughout time. When thinking about something that actually changes, I began questioning if a physical object could actually change, or was change simply an optical illusion? Sure things could be moved around, added or subtracted, but do thing s actually change? Obviously there are objects that do physically change, but I became intrigued with the notion of visual change created my static objects. More specifically, what I had in mind was a Moire effect, where 2 identical (unchanging) patterns create a dynamic visual effect when moved again one another. To think that flowing geometric patterns are hiding in plain sight of something as mundane as perforated sheet material was compelling enough to design around. Below is a rough prototype I created of a Moire effect using polka dots printed on transparencies:

I did not consider a Moire effect on its own to be a specific aesthetic. Instead I set out to create an object that would fall within a psychedelic aesthetic. Psychedelic in the sense that the object could induce transcendence when experienced; not just hearken back to flower power motifs of the 1960’s. Psychedelic aesthetics can take on any number of forms- whatever mind bending shapes, colors, or experiences may facilitate an expansion of consciousness, for example is the Lucid Dreams genre of YouTube videos such as this one:

With the goal to couple the Moire effect with a psychedelic aesthetic, I titled the object “The Immersion Wheel”. My hope was that people who encounter this art would benefit from a deep mental journey and perhaps a little escape from reality. While researching visual elements of transcendence, I came across numerous accounts of sacred geometry. Sacred geometry is basically any shape worth reverence. Hexagons stood out among examples of sacred geometry for several reasons. Hexagons are present in nature, as seen in bee hives and snowflakes. They among the strongest shapes, and therefore utilized in widespread engineering applications. They are easy created by superscribing a single radius. Hexagonal patterns are present in different religions over the ages, which suggests that the shape itself has facilitated a connection to a greater power. And they have been to used to depict drug induced hallucinations, which by some accounts enable one to see the underlying nature of the existence.

The plan was originally to use two perforated steel sheets that would produce a hexagonal moire pattern. These steel plates would be painted in a vibrant CMYK color scheme to contribute to the visual stimulus. The wheels were to roll on bearings concealed within the base as to keep the center of the wheel free of a visual distraction and be more immersive. Below is an  illustration of the original design intent:


This design intent was pursued almost to the point of completion with the procurement of the perforated sheets, welding the circular frames, and painting the plates with vibrant high contrasting colors. The result was interesting to observe. However, I was not pleased with the fit and finish of the metal plates. The paint job had the blatant appearance of spray paint. The weld marks were hard to conceal around the edge of the wheels. And perhaps most importantly, I felt that the Moire effect was not as strong as I had envisioned. Below are images of the actual object I created:

Hexagonal Moire Effect
Hexagonal Moire Effect


Feeling somewhat disappointed in the direction the project was heading, I did not pursue the technical challenge of getting the heavy steel plates to stand up and roll smoothly on bearings. I also felt that the object I had created was lacking a certain level of design work, because it was primarily utilizing found objects. So I went back to the drawing board with the original inspiration of Moire effect, psychedelia, and sacred geometry.


I set out once more to design a more original piece of art which I could call my own. Rather than using a dot pattern to create a hexagonal moire effect, I chose to work with parallel lines rotating across each other. For the sacred geometry, I created a unique pattern based on a common radius. The hexagonal pattern was elaborated to create a type of blue print appearance of six sided pedal formation. And for a psychedelic effect, seven color LED lights were used to illuminate the geometric pattern. Interestingly, I found the new design to have a distinct Art Deco aesthetic to it, which was totally unintentional. Here is an example of of an Art Deco for conparison:

deco example 05

The pattern was made in Solidworks and exported to CorelDraw to prepare for laser etching. There are two main layers that have the same pattern: the stand and the wheel. Below is the CAD drawing and short animation of the new Immersion Wheel pattern:

deco wheel1

The profile was laser cut and pattern laser etched in the ITLL. Here is the new Immersion Wheel lit up before the final assembly:

Immersion Wheel lit up
Immersion Wheel lit up

The hub assemble consists of a 22mm  ball bearing epoxied into place in the center of the wheel, a 5/16 bolt, washers for spacers, and nut. The stand assembly consist of a 2′ long 1’x6′ board with angle aluminum to hold the acrylic sheets in place. The lights are 7 color LED in a rubber strip and a handy dandy remote control.

final wheel

Budget vs. Cost:

The cost of this entire project ise $350:

$100 in steel material, $50 in cutting and welding service

$150 for acrylic (cut to fit into the laser cutter)

$45 in material for the base and hub: wood, axis, ball bearings, bolt.

$25 for LEDs.

$30 paint, gas, and other incidentals.

The project ran abotu $50 over budget, which is acceptable considering that two completely different Immersion Wheels were created. In the end, both objects are quite interesting to play with and I’m considering bringing both to Expo.


One thing that bug s me is that when I try to clean the acrylic, it scratches. The other thing I wish I could change is that the wheel doesn;t catch much light, so the Moire effect isn;t that strong. I have ordered small battery operated LEDs which I hope to use to illuminate the wheel, but they have yet to arrive.

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8 Comments. Leave new

  • […] Immersion Wheel Final Report Part 1 – What and How […]

  • The steel prototype turned out great! It’s sleek by nature and has a great natural effect. I enjoyed hearing about your design process and issues with originality, it brought out the best aspects of your project and final direction. It’s a shame the new lights have taken so long to get here, shipping from china can be a real pain. I think once those new lights are installed it will look fantastic. Also if you want to get rid of the tipping, you might consider installing a low profile needle bearing. They’re made specifically for that purpose.

  • Peter Brunsgaard
    April 27, 2016 12:28 pm

    The wheel really shows the Moire effect and looks great! You talked about motorizing the wheel itself, which I think would be awesome. If you were to put a motor on it, you could have a button to turn the motor left, a button to turn right, and a button to auto rotate in order to keep it interactive but have the option to have it auto run as well. Good work!

  • Ryan Yankowsky
    April 27, 2016 12:27 pm

    The piece had a great look and draw at the expo, knowing the second disk is to be lit as well, the final acrylic design is sure to wow. Super interesting how just changing the patterning changes the aesthetic completely. Great transition through each design to a final product. Using a small motor to drive the disk, thinking small rubber wheel to friction drive would be easy to hide in the base. Good luck in creating a finalized project.

  • Elyse Skinner
    April 27, 2016 12:27 pm

    This was such an amazing project. I think it was really interesting to look into the idea of sacred geometry and how the pieces all fit together. Your iterations were really cool and I think they were very successful in it of themselves. I appreciate how your aesthetic changed throughout your process and I think it ended up very beautiful and somewhat more interesting than your earlier prototypes. The LED lights really give it a great effect and I love how the light makes the project come alive and display the effect you were going for better. I think it would be really neat to include lights in the other plate to illuminate it as well. I also think if you wanted the project to be more of a sculpture piece it would be great to have it motorized, but if you wanted something that people interact with, I think your original design works really well. Great work! It is simply beautiful!

  • Joseph Yoshimura
    April 25, 2016 3:44 pm

    Seeing this at the expo, this was one of my absolute favorite projects in terms of looks and aesthetics! When that wheel gets spinning, I love the effect that it gives off. I know that we discussed using a motor to regulate the speed of the rotation, is that still a potential option. That way the effect could always work and you wouldn’t have to worry about the wheel spinning too rapidly. I wish you had brought the other immersion wheel as well, although they look cool in the videos, I’m sure that they look even better in real life! I know the acrylic one did.

  • Laura Bonney
    April 24, 2016 1:27 pm

    Jason, I like how the final project turned out. While the steel sheets didn’t provide quite the contrast and effect you were striving for, they were a nice stepping stone to the more colorful and engaging end product. It is a bit difficult to appreciate the full effect by watching the video, and I’m not sure if that is due to the medium or the lighting. It may be solved by the LED lights you have ordered. I think the design itself is elegant and deceptively simple. Nicely done!

  • Thomas Brunsgaard
    April 23, 2016 10:08 pm

    It looks like the steel plates still did a nice job of generating geometric patterns, even if it wasn’t exactly as you had imagined the experience to be. I really admire that you took a step back to refocus and take on the aesthetic spirit of the project. After we noticed that the moire effect was significantly more pronounced when looking at it from far away, I was wondering if it may have something to do with the fact that you are looking from a head on perspective. It would make sense that if you are looking perpendicular to both spinning plates, both images would align on top of each other better. If this is the case, you could force the user to experience the maximum moire-ness by mounting it at eye level against a wall. I would love to see if the battery powered LEDs give better contrast between the two plates. It would also be interesting to experiment with lighting the plates up in different color combinations to emphasize the contrast.


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