For the upcycle project, I planned to create a visual theme inspired by aquatic or underwater elements. This project involves using clear plastic bottles filled with Orbeez and illuminated with LED light strips. The Orbeez inside the bottle helps to showcase the LED light in a way that resembles the glow of sea life in the ocean. I chose this project because there are many unused or discarded water bottles in households, and they can be easily repurposed with minor modifications. The reason for selecting this specific aesthetic is to utilize the transparency of the plastic bottles to create a hanging, illuminated effect. Orbeez becomes translucent and slightly transparent when hydrated. This quality allows them to diffuse light, creating a soft and captivating radiance. In the context of the aquatic theme, the translucent nature of Orbeez can simulate the way light passes through water, contributing to the overall illusion of an underwater environment. LED light strips, known for their color and intensity versatility, will be strategically placed to enhance the visual impact of the Orbeez. By opting for cool-toned colors like blues and greens, reminiscent of underwater environments, a lighting scheme that complements the overall aesthetic can be achieved. LEDs also provide a consistent and adjustable light source that can mimic the dynamic qualities of natural light in the ocean. The combination of translucent Orbeez and LED lighting can resemble the bioluminescence found in certain sea creatures, adding an extra dimension to the project.

Figure 1: LED strip used for illumination

Figure 2: Battery used for powering the LED strip

To use the LED strip, I began by cutting a five-meter strip to match the height of the bottle. Next, I created a double-sided strip by folding the strip in half along its length. This created a strip with LEDs on both sides, ensuring that the light would illuminate the Orbeez evenly from all angles inside the bottle. After creating the double-sided strip, I insulated it using scotch tape. This step was crucial to prevent direct contact between the strip and the Orbeez. Direct contact could potentially damage the Orbeez or cause them to stick to the strip, affecting the overall aesthetic and functionality of the project.

Figure 3: Blue orbeez

Figure 4: Green Orbeez

The two images above depict the Orbeez used to fill the bottles for the project. To assess the longevity of the Orbeez without water, I conducted a week-long test, during which the Orbeez showed no signs of deterioration. This test was crucial to ensure that the Orbeez would maintain their integrity and aesthetic appeal over time within the project. In addition to this test, I collected plastic bottles of various sizes and shapes. This collection served the purpose of determining which bottle would be most suitable for producing the desired visual effect. By experimenting with different bottle shapes and sizes, I aimed to find the optimal container that would enhance the illumination and overall appearance of the Orbeez and LED lighting combination.

Figure 6: The resulting light pattern produced using blue orbeez

Figure 7: The resulting light pattern produced using green orbeez

The above images showcase the outcome of the project. In terms of its functional objectives, the project can be deemed successful. However, regarding its artistic aspirations, the same cannot be claimed. The wavy or ripple pattern, which I had envisioned, is not as prominent as anticipated. This outcome was a result of overlooking the importance of the LED brightness, which ultimately impacted the artistic goal. The LEDs turned out to be too bright, and the limited number of Orbeez surrounding them exacerbated this issue, resulting in an overpowering light that overshadowed the intended wavy pattern.

Moving forward, to achieve the desired aesthetic, my next step would involve controlling the brightness of the LEDs and increasing the diameter of the bottle to accommodate a higher number of Orbeez. This adjustment should help create a more balanced and visually appealing effect, ensuring that the wavy pattern is more pronounced and visually captivating.


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3 Comments. Leave new

  • […] Upcycle Project: Aquatic Light – Aesthetics of Design ( […]

  • Cole Metcalf
    May 8, 2024 11:54 am

    Really cool idea and concept. I have always loved seeing caustics in the pool and I never thought of it as an aesthetic. Love it with the orbies as well.

  • I think the inspiration for the aquatic under the sea aesthetic was perfect. I am rather surprised your method didn’t work for this project. Expanding the project to 10 gallon jugs might yield better results but the same issue could arise. I wonder if the round orbeez focus the light like a lens. Where as in the ocean the water can move around freely, not in these perfectly spherical shapes. This could potentially be responsible for the effect. I really think you could easily make the light dimmable with a few electronics and a bread board. Overall, great work and I hope you have a cool final project as well.


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