Getting Started by Peter Coyle
In the times before Covid-19 lockdown... I started looking at Honey’s amazing Power Tree idea. It has so much potential, I was really pleased to get the chance to try and make it real. I was initially thinking about how it could be a huge, power generating tree or a smaller, desktop charging device. I realised the thing I make could help us explore both of those possibilities. I decided to explore how we could make the power tree generate electricity. Honey’s original sketch has leaf shaped solar panels. I found that solar panels can be made into lots of different shapes, although they are only readily available and mass produced in squares, rectangles and circles. This means I will have to think about how we can use standard solar panels to make leaves. One of the aspects of Honey’s original sketch, I really liked was how she sectioned the tree so we could see the wires inside. We often do this with drawings and sketches when designing things, to help us explain how things work. For the make, we can achieve a similar effect by making the branches clear, showing colourful wires travelling down the branches to the generator. I was also thinking about how a large power tree would probably be made from tubes like a wind turbine, using as little material as possible. So. For the power tree model, I'm going look at transparent sheet material, rolled into tubes. I then wanted to know what a tree would look like made from tubes, so I decided to make some prototypes. Prototypes are early, less detailed versions of the thing we'll finally make. They can be as simple as a sketch, or almost as complicated as the final thing. I initially made a computer model where all the tubes were the same size, with a repeating pattern (each branch splits twice). I think this shows that with enough branches and panels, we can make quite an interesting looking tree. I then made a paper model, where the branches/tubes get thinner as they get longer. I also thought this worked quite well. At this stage, I thought it was a good idea to bring what I'd be looking at into the Octo Design Studio, to share with the team. There were lots of good ideas to help me make Honey’s ideas. I particularly liked the idea of using an existing plant pot as a base, and how we could create the generator in the trunk of the tree, like Honey’s sketch. I'm hoping to add something to the generator that will show when the tree is generating electricity. Reviewing Honey’s idea in the studio, was actually the last thing we looked at as a team in the studio before the lockdown. I believe it’s still on the whiteboard now! Since then, I had to focus a little bit on getting things setup to work from home, but I’m now moving things forward again. I'll save those developments for another blog post!