Look, Ask, Learn, Try- Justin Maroney, Ben Nandin, Daisy Nolz, Shomit Barua

For our project, we observed an urban public space on campus to try and understand better how our green building technology would effect pedestrians within a city.

Look: For the look portion we used the “fly on the wall” approach. The area we observed was surrounded mostly by buildings with some landscaping. One interesting observation we made was the number of bugs just from having some simple landscaping in the area, as well as people’s aversions to areas with more visible bugs. Mitigation of pests in environments constructed mostly from plants is definitely something we need to consider when thinking about our project.

Ask: We decided to elicit feedback on our general idea from normal people in the area we observed by simply telling them our project idea and asking for any opinions or thoughts they had on it. Most people gave general, brief feedback. Most of the answers were along the lines of “that sounds really interesting”. However, one person took a bit more interest. He was mostly interested in the structural integrity of the technology. Having this conversation made use realize our lack of answer for this question. This is something for us to take into consideration. however, our understanding of this facet of our project is definitely considerably limited my our lack of expertise in that area.

Try: Based on some of our observations from our Look activity, we wanted to personally experience being in the different microbiomes within the area we were observing. We tried sitting in areas near more obvious bug populations and in areas seemingly void of bugs, as well as areas of more and less dense plant population. Something interesting we experienced was a noticeable drop in air temperature in the areas more with denser vegetation.

Learn: based on our observations from both our look and try methods, we learned more about the impact our technology could have on outdoor public spaces. It could be beneficial by providing shade and cooler environments, however it could also invite unwanted pests to the public areas as well, causing people to be less inclined to conjugate in those areas.

These were the three main sports we observed.

Project Pitch and Proposal- Justin Maroney, Daisy Nolz, Shomit Barua, Ben Nandin


There are many motivations that inspired us to pursue this project. Our initial motivation was to determine a use for the solid waste created in the brewing process. After some research, we decided to pursue the idea of implementing this waste in the creation of a new, sustainable building material. This idea snowballed as we pushed ourselves to imagine more novel, innovative applications for our proposed material. We pulled inspiration from a number of other pre-existing projects and experiments to expand on our project and speculate on how we could combine all of these isolated ideas into a single, real-world vision for the future.

Related Work:

Green Roofs: https://greenroofs.org/about-green-roofs/

Brewing Waste as a Base for Clay Aggregates in Green Roofs: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5459013/

Self-Healing Concrete: https://www.epo.org/learning-events/european-inventor/finalists/2015/jonkers.html

Density-Sensing Pycnometer: referenced in the Brewing waste aggregate report

Living Root Bridges: http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20150218-indias-amazing-living-root-bridges

Our Idea:

Our proposed product is an organic construction material made from the waste material that results from the brewing process which uses the natural tensile strength of root systems as an adhesive. This material would be implemented in tangent with an embedded density-sensing technology that would allow for detection of wear and fatigue in the material. This data, along with the natural growth process of the root structures would allow for a completely automated preventive maintenance system. We speculate initially implementing this technology to build a brewery which uses its own waste products to sustain the building. Our long-term vision is to implement this technology on a larger scale in both urban and rural construction. Many of these same ideas have been explored separately in previous projects and technologies, but our project would bring all of these ideas together into a single technology with a tangible real-world application.


We see our project having a possibly large impact. Environmentally, instead of dumping waste into our naturally occurring resources and changing or ruining them, the effect we envision is re-using that material to enrich buildings they come from thus attempting to actualize a self sustaining system. The goal is to switch engaging with the leftover material from waste to building materials for other uses. Ethically, the challenge will be convincing people that using what was once deemed “waste material” to construct or create new things is safe.

The impact on people will be a good one in that a system like this offers more jobs in the facility. It also creates a cleaner, more sustained environment for people to live in. Culturally, we are aware that the US still is not fully as accepting of drinking culture and alcohol has a stigma to some groups. The fact that people don’t agree with it does not change the fact that producers and consumers need to be responsible for the waste and impact it creates.


We are planning to do hands on work, attempting to separate the spent materials and use them on a smaller scale to prototype our designs. We also intend to speculate a larger model, right now the plan is to design the plan for a sustaining brewery that both produces and uses the spent grains used in its construction. We also intend to speculate various systems like government tax breaks for companies who use this strategy to be more environmentally conscious.  

Parts List*:

Plants (seeds and pregrown) 

Pots or trays to keep the experiment on.

One big bucket to try and purify water with evaporation (because its green).

Something that can compress our materials, or access to one.

*This is a rough list. Some more research is needed into our methods before we can solidify a more specific final materials list (See Timeline- Week 1)


Week 1(Apr 1-7): Finish experimental methods research, obtain necessary materials for starting construction, experimentation

Major Milestone: Have a clearly defined plan for experimentation process

Week 2(Apr 8-14): Start material construction/ experimentation

Major Milestone: Have samples of our material constructed

Week 3(Apr 15-21): Continue material construction/ experimentation, Start density sensing experimentation

Major Milestone: Have tangible result data for our preliminary testing

Week 4(Apr 22-28): Create final deliverable artifact, organize experimentation data

Major Milestone: Have our final deliverable completed and presentation-ready visualization of our experimentation data

Top 2 Concepts- Justin Maroney, Ben Nandin, Daisy Nolz, Shomit Barua

Brewing Waste Recycling/Repurposing

Related work on the subject:


Spend grains for bread, using grains to treat wastewater, Microbial Fuel Cell (U of Oregon), turning into compost, feed animals, using to feed mushrooms and worms, using as fish food. All of these deal with the grains. What about water and ethanol?


Using wastewater to brew beer, using grain waste to create biofuel.


(I skimmed because I have to get ready to go) but waste in brewing. How breweries can brew only with spent grain and recycled yeast?

Social, Political, Ethical Discussion:

As the article from craftbeer.com points out, sustainably creating beer can be organized and frames to support a community by providing jobs (particularly to disabled people in the article) and a community space as well as a product to show for it and to sell. Politically, this could change the perception of brewing with wastewater. Generally not accepted but being utilized in the craft beer world, using waste water or greywater to brew is becoming a more viable option in drought affected states like California. Eating the spent grains from brewing is another upcoming option, as some companies are trying to get it passed to legally sell foods out of spend grains for their nutritional content. Also some breweries are baking bread out of their spend grains. All of these are political because they have to get passed and regulated. Ethically, is it right to use waste water to brew beer we consume? I think so but that is debatable. Also if evaporating the water from the slurry is not efficient but it recycles the materials is it ethical to stop doing it? (See third resource.)

Story Board:

The idea of this project is to recycle and repurpose the materials that are left after brewing alcohol. The ratio of wasted water to liquid produced when brewing is extremely unbalanced so a lot of water is being wasted. The leftover grains from brews are being thrown out even though they are still high in nutritional content. Breweries (especially small ones) are taking steps to reduce and reuse and be responsible, but how does this fit on a large scale?  How can we improve this process?



Bioreactive plants indicate health of owner

Related work on the subject:


This team imagined a fictional yogurt one could drink that would change the color of the fecal matter of the user to indicate health of the user and the health of one’s gut.

Social, Political, Ethical Discussion:

 We imagine a life where an individual’s well being can be shared with plant life; If you are in good health, so is the plant. We imagine a person who has to be health conscious for allergy/disability purposes. Some people must monitor aspects of their health with tools and equipment, or pay a specialist to monitor of them. We imagine a person receiving these bio-reactive plants to monitor different aspects of their health. For example, one plant could measure blood sugar levels. Another plant could indicate if there are allergens in the air or quality of air in one’s house. Another one could indicate if you are deficient in specific vitamins or minerals. One would get these plants and choose what they want to monitor. For anyone who has owned a plant that has died, it feels bad to have that happen. When these plants are looking a little down, this should indicate that certain type of care is needed for the individual. It has been proven that gardening and taking care of plants have therapeutic qualities. Ith these plants we would also like to cultivate a culture of self-care, where the person who owns the plants learns how to take care of themselves and monitor their health in their own customizable way.
Story Board: 



Brainstorming- Justin Maroney



  1. Art installation that visualizes the negative effects of overusing antibiotics
  2. Chemical sensor that can sense when a chef’s knife or other kitchen surface needs cleaned
  3. Antibiotic electroshock clothing sterilizer (Waterless clothes washer)
  4. toxin-sensing dye for testing water cleanliness
  5. AR installation that uses color-coded graphics to visualize the abundance of bacteria in a space
  6. Mycelium camping toilet
  7. Organic bioBattery cell
  8. Mycelium paper
  9. Resizable mycelium mattress
  10. Yard waste compost bin with mycelium catalyst
  11. Ambient sound synthesizer based on mood
  12. Nutrition tracker that senses nutrient levels in the body and recommends foods
  13. phase-cancelling tinnitus ear plugs
  14. biometric pet implants that tell us what they want/ need
  15. body-temperature-sensing thermostat control
  16. pollution-sensing automatic air filter system
  17. Mycelium no-flat bike tube
  18. Sensor/ software that will curate musical playlists based on what emotions you experience when listening to a song
  19. Brainwave-sensing alarm that wakes you a peak restedness
  20. Mycelium padding for backpack/ guitar straps
  21. Large-scale living art installation that uses bacteria to show negative effects of air pollution on living things


Mycelium Prototype (Sort Of)- Justin Maroney, Ben Nandin, Daisy Nolz, Elora Mastison

For this project, our plan was to make an octopus clock that would smile when you touched its head.

Our original plan was to create a mycelium octopus that would have a capacitive sensor in the head and an lcd screen in place of its face. Unfortunately, our mycelium cast wasn’t structurally sound, so we built a prototype using a box and a cardboard octopus façade. Normally, the lcd screen serves as a clock and just display the current time. However, the lcd screen changes to displace a smiley face when the capacitive sensor value goes above a certain threshold, indicating someone is touching the top of the box.

As far as sustainability, creating this type of consumer product out of mycelium or other similar sustainable, biodegradable materials would help to reduce the amount of non-biodegrabale plastics the public consumes.

Arduino Code:

#include <SoftwareSerial.h>
#include <CapacitiveSensor.h>

SoftwareSerial lcd = SoftwareSerial(2, 3);

CapacitiveSensor cs_4_2 = CapacitiveSensor(4, 2);

int hour = 11; //set current hour
int minute = 36; //set current minute
int second = 0; //set current second

void setup() {


void loop() {


second ++;

if (second == 59){
minute ++;
second = 0;
if (minute == 59 && second == 59){
hour ++;
minute = 0;
if (hour == 23 && minute == 59 && second == 59){
hour = 0;

long start = millis();
long total1 = cs_4_2.capacitiveSensor(30);

if (total1 >= 1000) {

//clear screen

lcd.println(” O O “);
lcd.print(” ____/”);

else {


lcd.println(“The Time Is”);



CapSense Print- Justin Maroney, Lisette Borja, Ruonan Liu, Geran Pele, Chris Nicholson

For our CapSense print project, we created a capacitive crossfader based on the two main shapes in our print.

One blob represents the speech audio file, and the other blob represents the drum audio file. The raw capacitive sensor data is sent from Arduino to Max via USB serial communication. The capacitive sensing values are then mapped to control the gain of each respective audio playback. This allows for a wide range of playback control. For example, the user can directly touch both blobs and get full playback of both files, they can touch neither and both tracks are muted, or they can slide a single finger between the two and get a crossfade effect.