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Madhav Tankha – Final Project

For my final project I wanted to make a total of five (5) bioplastic masks and then hook them up to LEDs and arduinos and then to max/msp to create some synchronized light/sound blips, algorithmically generating patterns every x seconds. I made a mold out of clay and cast the bioplastic in it.  Sadly only 3 masks came out in a semi-usable state, and even they were not too great. (Since then, on Aisen’s suggestions, I’ve begun making more masks using multiple thin layers of bioplastic, and the results seem encouraging. Using more vegetable oil / vinegar seems to reduce shrinking and cracking.) I tried a bunch of tests with coloured bioplastics (using acrylic paint) but they all cracked and disintegrated very easily. I also made some stuff with wheat paste in case the bioplastic ones didn’t work out. They’re sturdier but don’t have the nice translucent texture)

The final recipe:

2 tablespoon corn starch

8-12 tablespoons water (12 seems to work nicely with the mould…you don’t want it to be too thick)

1/2 tablespoon gelatin

1/2 tablespoon vinegar

1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil

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The bioplastic texture, especially when lit, does indeed look very nice. But perhaps stronger LEDs are required,


The video isn’t too great, but basically I wanted the masks to form patterns out of sounds and light. I intend to continue working on this project throughout the summer. My aims are:

1. To create 5 (five) sturdy, wall-mountable masks

2. to acquire stronger LEDs

3. To re-record the audio and do some research on syllables and language,  so that the combination of sounds suggests some sort of song-speech.

4. Finally, to perhaps hook everything up to a raspberry pi with speakers instead of running it off my computer.


With the encouragement of my instructors, I am confident that I will overcome all obstacles.

Update: Final Project

*For original photos please refer to my first post:*

So I was asked to post some updates on how my material was drying/evolving/changing/etc. Over the following days/week, the bio-plastics I made were drying from the outside in, and splitting apart from the still wet core, creating plastic chasms along the surface.

These photos were taken 3 days after our last class:MatSpec_Update_AMatSpec_Update_BMatSpec_Update_B2 You can also see that bacteria was beginning to grow. I’m guessing that was due to the moisture still present.

These photos were taken a week after our last class:MatSpec_Update2_AMatSpec_Update2_A2MatSpec_Update2_B3MatSpec_Update2_B2MatSpec_Update2_B4Based on these results, at the moment bioplastic is not a viable option for creating more skull replicas. I am still interested in how to combine the different materials but I have some questions to consider:
1. How do I dry the plastic completely and efficiently as to not allow mold to grow and the cracking to occur, and to make sure there is no trapped moisture? Baking? Then what issue might occur during baking?
2. The plastic that I had created that I thought was too soft and just poured back out of the mold ended up drying hard as a rock–is there a way to utilize that mixture and maintain it in the mold while it dries?

Thanks for reading, Melanie I know you had asked for an update specifically so I hope this helps/interests you!


Artificial sausage casing and natural sausage casing


For final, I tried to explore the difference between artificial sausage casing and natural casing.

In the beginning I didn’t notice the differences between these two. The first time I bought only one box of sausage home and took the casing off, and thought that was nature casing. But the second time, I bought two different brand sausage back. When I took the casing off, and suddenly noticed that actually they are two different types of sausage casing. The one I used in the first trial, was the artificial casing. The new one I got, is the natural one. In the photo, the pinkish ones are the natural casing, and white ones are the artificial casing.

I did some research about the artificial casing, and found out actually some of the artificial casing are made by plastic as well.  It also could be made by collagen and cellulose. It’s pretty amazing for me to know that what we eat everyday actually are artificially food. I hope to research more about the advantage and disadvantage about them.




So I made two lamps with these two different materials. First two photos are the artificial casing. It’s very smooth, but not very strong. Very fragile when it dried up.

IMG_0350  IMG_0353




The next lamp was made by the natural casing. Compare with the artificial casing, the natural  casing is much more strong and  elastic.  After it dried up,  it’s still hard to break.IMG_0361IMG_0362IMG_0363IMG_0364  IMG_0366


For the next step, I want to explore more about the artificial casing. It’s very interesting to do some research about food safety. It’s also interesting to see how people make artificial food that taste exactly tastes like the natural food.


The wearable piece that we worked together ( me and Enrica )to foster equal access to public space and to use the technology to augment the potential of women bodies. Natural weapons are physically a part of a creature. Plants use different systems to defend themselves from insects or other herbivores consumers, different systems. Some are mechanical systems: they have parts that they use as a weapon to defend themselves. Taking inspiration from nature and from the self defense technique that animals and plants have, can we build a fashionable protective shield for women? Can we use technology to improve women’s life and limit the idea that women should rely on men to defend themselves? Can we make the women body appear more powerful?

This wearable inspired by nature. Hedgehogs have natural defense mechanisms. If a hedgehog feels threatened, it uses own spines to protect itself from any threats. We develop our mechanism inspired by this animal’s defense system and apply onto our wearable for women to protect themselves when they feel threatened during their nighttime walks. Mechanism has electronics that includes microcontroller, servo motors and distance sensor. If the distance sensor detects a stranger gets closer more than 1 meter, 3d printed spikes start to move up and down to protect the wearer.

The defense system serves as a metaphor which highlights a method of appropriation where the human body is enhanced through the process of bio-mimicry.


Bioplastics Journey

I personally did not like the idea of bioplastics because they didn’t seem sturdy or very flexible. I would never go through the effort of making my own plastic if it was significantly worse in every way (and to add not water resistant). But as I heard my classmate’s experiments and tried some of my own, I was surprised to see that with the right mix of ingredients, a sturdy plastic was possible. At first I didn’t have the right amount of ingredients, so I had to improvise. Instead of using glycerin, I tried to use Crisco. My first recipe was:


1 Tbsp Corn Starch

4 Tbsp Water

1 tsp Vinegar

1 tsp Crisco

mixplastic mixplastic2

This led to a somewhat hard plastic that had either cracked right away or had an oily sheen and looked in danger of cracking. It also reeked of vinegar. So overall this recipe was no good.


Next I decided to try a recipe with slightly less vinegar and with tapioca starch instead of corn starch. I also added in glycerin. I tried this a few times, varying in length of cooking time and drying the batches in the oven at a steady temperature or on the counter. For these recipes I tried:


7 Tbsp water

1 tsp Vinegar

1/2 tsp glycerin

1.5 Tbsp Tapioca Starch

Some Blue food coloring

blueplastic blueplastic2

I made a couple batches with this recipe. Each time I tried to spread them as thin as possible with the spatula. The result was a thin and flexible plastic that doesn’t easily tear. I considered this recipe pretty successful because I got both features I had been after. It also created a really cool effect that allowed you to easily see through it until it was placed closer to your eye. This could be used to make some interesting visual in a project and with the added food coloring it makes it even more interesting.


Another couple of batches I tried were the eggshell batches. These were my favorite. I used crushed eggshells (although I wish I had gotten them to a more fine grain) and also some cotton. I wanted to try both separately but felt some strange impulse to try them both in the same batch. I was hoping to have some sort of granite type feel to it where instead of having a fine mix, it’s more of a gritty mix molded smoothly together.


The first recipe I tried was:


4 Tbsp water

1.5 Tbsp Tapioca Starch

a drop of vinegar

1-2 drops of glycerin

crushed egg shell (towards the end)

cotton (on the drying paper)


I hate the smell of vinegar and will do what it takes to make sure I have as little of it as possible. and I think the glycerin takes away a bit from the hardness.




eggplastic eggplastic2

I warned you. It turned out fabulously though. It actually took effort to crack it and where the cotton was, was a bit more flexible and still pretty difficult to break. I feel like this would make nice building blocks (literally) in a project that may need it.


I tried the recipe once more without the cotton and finer eggshell bits. It was a similar outcome.


Overall it was great experiencing this bioplastic journey. If I were to continue (which I should because I still have a lot of ingredients) I would keep trying with different ingredients like wood shavings or sand or crushed shell. Who knows. I just like the idea of a useful bioplastic.


Final – Bioplastics

I continued my experimentation with bioplastics, aiming to find something that imitated the material properties of kelp, creating a thin translucent sheet material, that I could use with light.

My most successful initial piece had used Trader Joe’s all purpose gluten-free flour, which is an unknown proportion of rice flour and tapioca and potato starches:

trader joe

From the initial pieces I had created, I could see that the brown color in this piece probably came from the rice flour, and they were not as durable nor interesting visually. After a few weeks they were brown and cracking.

I did a little research about these starches and the different roles of the vinegar, water and glycerin in the plastic-making process. I found that tapioca and arrowroot had higher starch contents than many of the other starches I had tried or seen used and decided to choose these to experiment with.  I also decided to try guar gum, as it’s a substance used in a lot of gluten-free cooking to create pliability and binding.

The vinegar helps in breaking down starch chains, so making them more usable and the glycerin helps the starch chains slip over each other, giving more pliability. Water helps to mix it all up and make the ingredients workable.

In this further stage of experimentation, I created plastics using only one starch, cooking the following recipe on the stove until it thickened, like gravy:

2 tablespoons starch
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons glycerin


Arrowroot was very pliable and smooth to work with, and spread out readily, but it wasn’t very strong:


Tapioca was quite strong and “gummy”, but did not spread as easily into a sheet:


Guar gum was very hard to work with at all stages of the process, and made a very thick stiff ball of plastic:

guar gum

During this stage I was also experimenting with different ways to work with and dry the material. I found that air drying was not much different to drying in an oven at low heat (165 degrees Fahrenheit) for an hour or so. I also found a reliable way of making a sheet material was to place the hot cooked plastic between two sheets of baking paper on which I had spread a release agent (liquid castile soap), and then rolled it out immediately.






I decided to combine pliability and strength of the arrowroot and tapioca and the proportion (by volume) I found that worked best was one of 5:1 arrowroot:tapioca, with proportions of 8:4:2 of water, vinegar, glycerin:

5 teaspoons arrowroot starch
1 teaspoon tapioca starch
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon vinegar
2 teaspoons glycerin

I tried some white vinegar in place of apple cider vinegar, and it seemed to only alter the appearance:


I also tried using little amounts of the guar gum together with the tapioca and arrowroot, and this wasn’t particularly successful, as it tends not to mix well.   



It does seem to add some extra strength to the material though so I was interested in finding a way that guar gum might work better. I tried combining it with vinegar before water, but this wasn’t successful once I added the water. I did finally manage to combine it successfully with a larger amount of water (1 cup to 1/4 tsp guar gum) and then mix that with the other ingredients, although this recipe didn’t seem to work out well in the oven, which wouldn’t be promising for working with light that emits any heat:



It is a very interesting texture however.

I also tried embedding other objects in the plastics to see if I could create some hybrid materials. This was somewhat successful, but it needed to be done before rolling the material out or applying any release agent – otherwise the material didn’t bind at all, and some materials still had no affinity – a fruit bag mesh just popped out of the plastic.


My most successful pieces of plastic came from the addition of black tea and coffee in place of some or all of the water.

With 2 tbsp black tea instead of water:


With 2 tbsp black coffee:


With coffee grounds and 1 tbsp water / 1 tbsp coffee:


The tea and coffee seemed to add some ingredient which made the plastic feel more substantial and pliable, even when working with them hot, and yet they didn’t shrink. My guess is that this has something to do with either oils or tannins.

I was able to laser cut a piece with tea, and it took a surprising amount of power to cut. The material had varying thickness, and at its weakest it didn’t stand up to being transported but it was generally quite resilient.


I tested the tea plastic with a 5W LED bulb which doesn’t emit much heat (it’s cool enough to touch after an hour), and the plastic was fine:


The coffee pieces were even more resilient, and the piece to which I added grounds was definitely the most successful piece in many respects, and was very interesting visually.

coffee grounds2

Many of the pieces I made had a lingering smell (even apart from the coffee which is very strong initially) and after seeing some other presentations, I wonder if my recipe could use less vinegar.

I would also like to continue further experiments with agar. Even though I was not initially trying to achieve a fully waterproof plastic, I feel it would be more useful to have a product which is a little more resistant to moisture. I soaked some of my tea plastics in boiling and cold water for a day, and while they weren’t completely destroyed, they did become very brittle once they dried out again. This however could be a useful property where the plastic life needs to be very short because it would break down much more readily.

Bio Sculpture Foundation – A Dialogue With Tuber Plants

For my 3D print I though to expand on material interaction and basic system cycles. I am interested in expressing cycles in work, I am not sure why, I use to work in business and although cycles exist in this space most of them are single throughput cycles. There is no regeneration of materials, post use scenarios are not considered. Since post use scenarios are not factored into many designs we live in we have to deal with the consequences of post-use design scenarios, also known as externalities, a nice way to box all  problems that are not of direct consequence to our actions into a single word. Although inherently this piece is not even a pure representation of the idea, it does convey the idea of a post-design scenario, where the work keeps existing and interacting with it surroundings.

Much like a plastic bottle we throw away interacts with a multitude of different systems, my thoughts on a plastic bottle:

“Something that comes to mind is that many of us forget that a piece of waste, in this case a bottle or a can continues to design even after it’s intended use. What I mean by this is that the bottle passes through various systems after it’s initial use, man-made systems like garbage disposal and non-human systems like the ocean. The bottle continues to impact and design the space around it. For example a bottle might enter an ocean, the bottle might perform a number of different actions in the ocean such as floating, sticking with other agents, interacting with living creatures or even breaking down and manifesting itself beyond a singular existence of just being a bottle. Sometimes bottles change form back into something more of a polymer structure break itself down to hundreds of millions of little bits and starts to design on a micro level. Can you imagine a coca-cola bottle designing on the micro level?! Not many things have the ability to change form and operate on different scales but plastic bottles do. The bottle starts interacting at the base of the chain and ecosystem. However it’s design impact is plentiful and efficient harnessing ocean currents these polymers are able to spread and diffuse where ever the power of the ocean takes them. In many cases these polymers diffuse within the ocean food chain. However we don’t know what that will mean for us humans who may not see the effects of bio magnification till our children are born. We do reside at the very top of the foodchain despite our inclination towards other top predators. Since we are at the top of the food chain the magnification of the polymers/petrochemicals in a diet that consist of more seafood could be disastrous. I think understanding the implications of a bottle’s journey and its ability to continue designing and impacting spaces even after it has finished it’s initial task that we designed it for could be a story that may change a persons perspective after they’ve seen the systemic impact of just one bottle, let alone hundreds of millions of plastic bottles.”


In class we experimented with two types of board making.  Aisen hacked inkjet cartridge with a nano-technology silver ink to print circuits.

IMG_0202 IMG_0205

However the process I used was the sharpie and acid to create my board.



Using the diagrams on the board I drew my board out, soaked it for about forty minutes and began to solder my components.

There were a few issue with my board especially with thin circuit lines, but they were easily fixed with solder.


One issue I had was that instead of the distance between my finger tip and pencil tip changing the pitch, the pitch grew slowly higher regardless of the distance until it went silent/supersonic. I’m assuming something with the capacitor not releasing the charge, or maybe something solder backwards? Regardless, it does work sometimes… I’ve since used it in Japanese class.

Flying Saucer Ash Tray

For  my 3D print I wanted to build some sort of appliance that I would use. My roomate had kept bugging me about how we needed an ash tray because we didn’t have one and we kept using bottle caps and cups. That same room mate and I share a love for science fiction so I decided to model a flying saucer ash tray.

Screen shot 2014-04-28 at 11.19.04 PM

There were a few features I tried to include in my model. First and foremost I wanted it to look like a flying saucer so I modeled the disk shape first  and added  engine shapes top the underside. 

Screen shot 2014-04-28 at 11.19.05 PM

Then I pulled a section of the underside down so that I would have space to bring a dish down into. Using the same symmetry I put in the dish and a few dipped ‘holder’  sections. I pulled the dips inwards to provide a bit more surface area for the un-identified smoking object to rest on.

Screen shot 2014-04-28 at 11.18.38 PM

When deciding how big to make the dish compared to the saucer I tried to make enough space around the edge of the dish to allow for falling ash. I hate when people get ash all around the ash tray but not in it. This happened a lot when we used bottle caps.

Screen shot 2014-04-28 at 11.18.32 PM

I divided the saucer ring into the same symmetry but rotated, slightly dropping each section so that they themselves were somewhat of a tray.

photo 1

My first attempt to print was ruined because I had a check-marked supports, but no rafts. Because of this the supports had nothing to sit on except the makerbot’s base, and since I had extreme overhangs it wasn’t having it.

photo 2

I re-printed it with a raft and it went much smoother. My print time was about seven hours. There were many supports and the disk was thin so it was quite difficult to remove all of them, took me a few hours and still wasn’t perfect. Next time i think i would print it vertically on it’s side instead of flat so that there would be less supports to remove.


I have yet to cast my tray and recreate it with plaster, but in the mean time it’s been pretty useful…


If I were to reprint my tray I would make the jet engine features on the underside bigger so that they touched the table (even with the bottom). When you touch the outer edges it wobbles a bit.

Duration – Final Project

Duration :: putting Forward Notions of Time-space Relativity through Life Forms

Duration is created with the single cellular organism Euglena. The aim of the piece is to artistically convey the notion of time and it’s relatedness to Cartesian rhythms, juxtaposing the anthropocentric point of view with the greater notion of life on earth.









Time measures space. As beautiful as it sounds, logic always only relates to a given point of reference, leaving out – in order to be ‘pure’ logic – all the other points of reference. Of course, one might continue to set one reference against the other…
Our world is entering a chapter in which we can avoid the dichotomy between man and nature. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, certainly.

As life goes on, we accumulate experiences of space related to the material conditions and events that our human sensors detect. These we keep as memories. Also influenced by light conditions. In clear daylight I can estimate the dimensions by eye. In the dark, I am lost. I can only try to feel my way across a space, but the obstacles I encounter make the space bigger because they enlarge the time-span that I need to cross from one point to another. So duration offers a much more complex tool for measurement.


Duration is pseudo-utilitarian object, inviting the viewer to broaden their perspective of time as an absolute, and invite humble thoughts regarding the time scale of other life forms in which we stem from. Time is a flux, and humanity has chosen to measure it in relation to space – the shadow of the dial moving graciously and systematically around the Euglena reminds us of our artificial constructs, which notion is pushed further as the object emits light nighttime. We have always made a stark distinction between night and day, and








A self-contained object that makes things inclusive rather than exclusive, generate energy, light and space. When you look at this object you seem to be looking at the bigger picture. We are attempting to anticipate the object’s possible impact on the atmosphere and how it will be to live with and around it. It is a balance between nature and technology. It tells time through life and central to the object’s life is a single cellular organism: Euglena.

As organisms that go through photosynthesis they put forward the idea of a self-contained living ‘thing’ that blends with its environment and responds to the cycle of life. The object lives outside during the ‘day’ creating shapes and patterns of Euglena conglomerations over time, visible to the naked eye through the green color. The coupling of the sundial aesthetic and function with the solar energy system create an interesting and direct allegory to the nature of the Euglena. It functions similar to the living matter.

IMG_3443The 12 miniature solar cells grab the energy from the sun and store it into lithium ion rechargeable batteries to use it during nighttime. The circuit enables the powering of the light feature and therefor lights up softly during the night to keep the Euglena happy and well. Nature and technology are in osmosis and live in this spatiotemporal piece, putting forward notions of time-space relativity by creating a self- sustainable timepiece. The technical aspects where designed to be subtle, shining through the translucent Plexiglass; they evidently demonstrate their purpose without distraction.

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Time lapse video – vimeo :: this video is a time lapse of the project shot on the rooftop of Genspace : New York City’s Community Biolab

in collaboration with Fabiola Einhorn