Category Archives: Assignments



My final project is called DIY BioBot. I’ve been really excited to experiment with bioplastics. On the other hand, I’m very curious about what else Kinect and Arduino can do to involve in this process. So I decide to use bioplastics as a way to make a robot out of household ingredients, and use Kinect and Arduino to vitalize it.


All ingredients I used to make bioplastics includes corn starch, water, corn oil, glycerin, food colors, wax paper, and vinegar. After mixing all ingredients in each batch, I put it into microwave for about 1 minute.


I tried different recipes based on the basic ingredients:
1 tsp corn starch
4 tsp water
1 tsp glycerin

Batch 1
1 tsp corn starch
1 tsp water
1/4 tsp corn oil(probably more than 1/4)

Before: milk white, sticky, moldable, stick together even after breaking them apart


After: flexible, rice yellow, more like a spring roll, looks delicious


Batch 2
1 tsp corn starch
1 tsp water
1/4 corn oil(probably less than 1/4)
1/4 vinegar

Before: chocolate vinegar color&smell, same as batch 1


After: less flexible than batch 1, dryer, probably because of the amount of oil


Batch 3
1 tsp corn starch
2 tsp water
1/4 glycerin
4 drops blue
1 drop green

Before: aztec blue, more water like


After: glycerin hasn’t made much difference yet, but the interesting part is this after cooking, there are two dry layers and the inside layer is more sticky


Batch 4
1 tsp corn starch
4 tsp water
1 tsp glycerin
2 drops red
3 drops yellow

Before: orange, water like


After: jelly like, seems like corn oil makes it more flexible, glycerin makes it more gelatinous


Batch 5
1 tsp sweet potato starch
4 tsp water
1 tsp glycerin(less than 1)
1/2 tsp corn oil
3 drops yellow
1 drop green

Before: lime green, water like


After: wax paper helps to keep the water, corn oil keeps it from drying when exposed to air and more important makes it more flexible, glycerin makes it jelly like, closer to the ideal material I want to use for my Biobot


Batch 6
1 tsp corn starch
4 tsp water
1/2 glycerin
1/2 corn oil
5 drops red(not mix)
1 drop blue(not mix)

Before: deep blue, water like


After: the wax paper box molds the liquid into a square shape and not keep the water from going away and more important easy to take out bioplastic, the texture is almost what I want, but the color is not satisfactory


Best Batch 7
1 tsp corn starch
4 tsp water
1/4 glycerin
1/4 corn oil
4 drops yellow

Before: corn yellow, water like


After: smells like corn, shrinks a little, all of these experiment didn’t shrink much


After trying all these recipes, I found that corn oil keeps it from drying when exposed to air and more important makes it more flexible, while glycerin makes it more gelatinous, and the proportion of corn starch and water decides the solidness of this material. This is the final look of all my experiments.

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After knowing the recipe to my Biobot, I started to make a fake body to detect the bottom line of what kind of human shape Kinect can detect. Firstly, I cut the typical square human shape and used wires to tie different parts but failed.

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Then I polished this shape a little and surprisingly it worked! Although Kinect can only detect certain parts of this body shape, it can be used as the basis of my Biobot.


According to the proportion of human body, I started to cook all main body parts of my Biobot and assembly into an actual human body. Unfortunately the torso was broken in the middle, so I have to cook it again. But the good thing is the texture of this broken torso can be used in other ways owning to its brittleness and solidness.

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Kinect is what I always want to experiment in different projects, but what Kinect does is mainly detecting human body and body movements. So the first thought was to use bioplastic to make a human shape robot. But later I found even if I can detect this human shape with Kinect, there was nothing else I can do with it. So I have to use Arduino to make it move. I originally want to make a Biobot that can play computer games, particularly to wear this Biobot a Kinect that can detect shape and color and also wear this Biobot servos to have it play matching games. Now I realized maybe just using bioplastic and Arduino is a good way to try. Also I want to make it a product that people with instructions can try themselves. So LittleBits can be a good replacement other than Arduino. Anyway, the experiment result is in the following video. The material turns out to be too thin and flexible to be put on servo so I can only put it on the ground and let it control the paper board which my Biobot has to be put on.


I can’t call this experiment a success. But this can be a start for my future improvements, particularly in regards to making this piece a real product that family members can create and play together, which involves from using household ingredients to make a eco-friendly robot, to using existing products like Arduino or LittleBits to control the movements of this robot.



I want to model a chair that embodies traditional Chinese culture. In ancient China, this particular chair is called “Jiaozi”, the same pronunciation with dumplings. There have to be four people underneath to support each tip of two bamboo poles on each side of this chair. Also, there is an umbrella above this person’s head to protect him/her from exposure to the sun. This chair was for people with powers and rights!

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After modeling the chair, I’m not satisfactory with the umbrella I made to protect from the sun. So I decided to make a real umbrella this time.

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Objective: To make//find an aesthetically pleasing, translucent material – both hard, “glass-like” and flexible – latex-like in its properties. Can be used decoratively, like lacquered onto sculpture or poured into moulds as a potential resin replacement, or used as sheets for projection – projecting on or projecting through. Again, the filter of the filter. Also experimenting with colour – natural versus unnatural, stained glass hues. Most importantly, the bio-material must be durable, strong and inexpensive.


materialfinal10Some of my initial tests above ended up cracking – very brittle (like my life, haha jokes). So I decided to crush them into rock-like fragments that I thought could live life as interesting crystal fragments or re-constituted as another material. The flat colourless sheets were super wrinkled but were quite durable and translucent.


With the help of the Green Plastics book, I decided to attempt to make bio-glass and bio-latex. Let’s just say that the first was a failure in the sense that I never made anything hard enough to be constituted as glass. The main issue is that it is so hot and humid and it takes so long for the plastic to dry that it begins to mould, so I have to throw it away before it gets to the final stages. However, with these experiments there was little shrinking and with the flat sheets, no cracking at all. In fact, I managed to create a series of different sheets of bio-latex like material that could be used interestingly in a variety of artistic applications.


My first “bio-glass” recipe that created, in fact, flexible thin plastic:


Pure Gelatin

  • 4 tsp gelatine (Knox)
  • 1 cup of 1% glycerin solution (that means 1% glycerin to 99% water)
  • 3 drops of blue food colouring

For this recipe i mixed all the ingredients thoroughly before turning on the heat and cooking the plastic on the stove until simmering, then poured (like liquid) into containers or spread on foil. After 3 hours, it was jelly like and hardening.


I also baked a quarter of the same batch with no food coloring at 400 degrees F for about 15 minutes. After 3 hours there was little to no change except a slight jellification (is that an actual word).



  • 1 tsp potato starch
  • 1 tsp gelatin
  • 1 1/2 cup 1% glycerin
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 drops red food colouring

I cooked this again on the stove (it turned pink). After 3 hours there was absolutely no reaction… still completely liquid-like.

So I decided to add more potato starch.


  • 1 tablespoon potato starch
  • 4 tbspoon water
  • 1/2 tsp glycerin
  • 1 tsp gelatin
  • 1/2 cup 1% glycerol solution
  • 2 drops red food colouring

After 3 hours, it was jelly-like, moist, translucent and rather pliable. Definitely turned out more like my initial experiments than the liquid batches above.

I decided to try one more batch that was a bit more creative though. I read online that the inside translucent film of egg shells have been used – their extracted protein at least – to make bioplastic. Obviously I didn’t have the resources to do that so I decided to just try… dumping in little bits of film from the inside of an egg.


  • 2 tbspoon potato starch
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 tsp water
  • 1/2 tsp glycerin
  • 1 tsp gelatin
  • 1/2 cup 1% glycerol solution
  • Film bits from an egg
  • Mica powder


I added salt because in the Green Plastics book it said if you worked purely with starch the salt would help (somehow… I stopped paying attention when the scientific explanations started getting diagram-y). I added mica powder towards the end after simmering the solution on the stove because I thought – why not? I use a lot of mica powder to make a pearl-like finish on my polymer clay and I thought this would give the material an interesting sheen as well. Which it did.


As you can see, after about four days the thin bits of film were totally dry but a lot of my plastic was still very moist. This led to mould appearing instantly around the fourth day and I had to keep picking it off (blargh). So bio-glass remains a future option to experiment with, possibly with a faster drying option like an alcohol bath or maybe even experimenting with tapioca starch/arrowroot/coffee as Karen was doing – as some of her experiments were pretty dry in a few hours.


I managed to make actual fully transparent bits of pliable, flexible plastic, which is incredible. Also latex-like material of different colours. Adding green and blue food colouring together made a black piece of plastic which is super interesting.


The most interesting pieces of plastic was the one I could peel perfectly from the aluminum foil (don’t use baking wrap unless you have some kind of release) and it imprinted words onto the plastic – so definite potential resin/imprinting abilities. And also the mica-powder experiment I did last because of the shimmer the mica powder gave it.


Overall, I can say my experiments were definitely successful to an extent and I have every expectation and intention of incorporating bioplastic fully into my artistic practice in the future as a bio-material to support my projection and video work and as an artistic medium of its own right. I will perfect my technique – towards the bio-future, as our computer overlords might say.

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Bioplastic Cutlery

Fascinating Material

After watching the presentation in class, I was very interested in the idea of home-made bioplastics, and the possibilities for household use. I began watching several videos regarding corn starch-based and milk-based homemade bioplastics recipes. At the same time, I was considering what I might make.

What Purpose?

I began searching around for what sort of things could be made of this material, but i kept coming across items like jewelry or utilitarian items like storage crates, blended-material bags, and other things i didn’t find particularly useful to me. So, then I thought, I should create something I need. And suddenly I had my idea.

Need To Eat

I’m moving soon, and my roommates have already moved out, taking nearly everything with them. I have one pot, a cookie sheet, a wooden spoon, and absolutely no cutlery. So, instead of going out and spending a bunch of money I don’t have on a new set of cutlery, I’ve decided. to create my own, designed how i want.

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It didn’t take long to find a good amount of video instructions on how to mix various bioplastic recipes. After looking around, I found this one pretty easily. I think it has also been linked here in another post.

How to Make Corn Starch Bioplastic

I chose this method because I had tried the milk-based method and, well, it didn’t go well. Actually, it caught fire and ruined a pot. I decided to not take pictures. Besides, it’s more complicated and not necessary for my project. So, for my next attempt, I’ll be trying the cornstarch method.

Fun with Bioplastics

My journey into the world of bioplastics has been a mad experience through an alien landscape. I went to the grocery store and I got me some cornstarch, thermometer, food colouring (ALL COLOURS BECAUSE I’M ~*PRIMARY*~), milk, vinegar… and went to the local pharmacy to get me some glycerin.

Here are some websites I was looking at: Instructables & Make Your Own Bioplastics by Greenplasticsnet

I still haven’t had time to do casein (milk) bioplastic yet so I decided to stick to corn for now. I’m really interested in chitin, algae, tapioca, potato, gelatine, sunflower seed, soya bean proteins, yam, banana skin, etc or more or even combining different polymers with fibres like flax and hemp. Bioplastics Party, anyone…?

bioplastic3do you take sugar with your bioplastic

bioplastic2I am an art student and my food colouring is very artistic 


bioplastic16my science lab

Experiment 1: using the Instructables base ingredients and recipe.

  1. 1/2 cup cornstarch
  2. 1/2 cup water
  3. 1 tsp canola oil
  4. 3 drops of blue food colouring

Experiment 2: using Instructables base ingredients and recipe but adding MORE water to make more pliable.

  1. 1/2 cup cornstarch
  2. 1 cup water
  3. 1 teaspoon canola oil
  4. 3 drops yellow food colouring


+ HEART: I had some extra left of experiment 2 after I poured the mixture into the aluminium foil cupcake moulds so I decided to add a drop of blue food colouring to a single heart-shaped mould and let it mix by itself with the yellow mixture.

Then I reached a plateau because I was like, wait.. I don’t have a microwave. I considered this for a bit and then decided to just bake my mixture for an undetermined amount of time. It was 1:09 PM. I baked the mixture (all of the above together) until 1:25, a total of 16 minutes. Then I took it out and let it cool down.

bioplastic11 bioplastic13 bioplastic10This is what I do in my spare time. Much art very wow

Experiment 3: Using Greenplasticsnet’s recipe and ingredients

bioplastic5Random unrelated thought: is cheese a bioplastic?

  1. 1 tbsp cornstarch
  2. 4 tbsp water
  3. 1 tsp glycerin
  4. 2 drops of yellow food colouring

bioplastic6Please don’t ask me why

This recipe asked for the mixture to be heated on the stove. However, it did not specify what temperature, how long, when I should start the heat so I mixed all of the ingredients before turning on the heat and continuing to stir until it looked kind of kneadable and jelly-like. I tried with no food colouring and then a second batch WITH food colouring (red and yellow). I guess the second batch turned out slightly more malleable and clay-like probably because I still had remnants of the first batch at the bottom of the pot (…because I was lazy…)

bioplastic7Guess the Biofruit

bioplastic8I tried


  • Oven-baked cornstarch bioplastic is a lot more gelatin/jelly-like than the stove-cooked bioplastic. The latter is a lot more malleable like hot, soft clay when fresh.
  • Both CRACK and shrivel (shrink) when dried. This is problematic… I need to figure out how best to tackle this problem. Would refrigerating help? What about pouring resin over it before it dries?
  • I’ve read that the pliability of the bioplastic depends not only on how much cornstarch/water you put in but also the amount of glycerin. If you put in a lot of glycerin, there is the likelihood that the plastic will never dry, which is interesting.
  • How to stop the bioplastic from biodegrading as much as possible even if it endures heat (for example, an LED light…?)
  • The corners of the oven-baked bioplastic are interesting; they’re translucent/transparent and very plastic like.
  • I’m not sure the canola oil helped with anything except to form these interesting oil spot textures on the surface of the oven-baked bioplastic.

bioplastic17Cheese platter?

And that’s the end of this episode of Fun with Bioplastics. Tune in next time for further kid’s serious lab experiments.


So the first recipe I tried I had found in the Green Plastics book. I was curious about using algae in bioplastics, but it was a challenge to find Agar, as well as sorbitol. I found Agar flakes which I’m not sure played a part in this recipe not working whatsoever.



¼ tsp gelatin

¼ tsp agar

½ cup glycerol solution

¼ cup water

The directions were pretty unclear but basically said to throw all the ingredients in a pot over medium heat. After stirring for 10 straight minutes, the mixture wasn’t solidifying so I added ¼ tsp sorbitol … still nothing happened so I added ¼ tsp starch. It did nothing to help create the plastic so I abandoned this batch.


For my second experiment, I followed a youtube video exactly. I got ok results except I think either I used a pot that was too big or the recipe maybe should have been doubled. It completely evaporated after I let it dry.


For my third experiment I went back to the Green Plastics (


¼ tsp sorbitol

½ tsp starch

¼ tsp gelatin

¼ tsp agar

½ cup glycerol solution

(2 x + ¾ cup water)

This didn’t solidify again so I tried first adding 1 tsp vinegar. No luck. Then added 1 tsp straight glycerin. Nope. Then I tried adding another ½ tsp starch. Didn’t work.


For my fourth and final experiment I followed this instructable –

The result is more gel-like than plastic but I was afraid of microwaving it for too long.


Intimate Science Review


The Intimate Science exhibit !


This project by Markus Kayser (the Solar Sinter Project) was interesting to me because it speculates about the future of manufacturing and energy harvesting. Utilizing the sun as a primary source of energy has been at the forefront of energy conservation for a while now. In this video, Kayser demonstrates sand being converted into glass using the Solar Sinter.


I was particularly found of the projects part of the PostNatural History center. It presents interesting ideas about the future of not only certain species that have been altered through biotechnology, but also the future of documenting these new organisms.


All the mushroom architecture were beautiful, but I’m allergic to mushrooms so it made me nervous to be around all that fungus.


IMG_1532What I liked about the Machine Project’s work, was that it added a different element than any of the other projects at the exhibit. Their project used both performance and participatory techniques that (like Genspace) aim to bring DIY technology to the public in an interesting way.