SOFT Rockers Combine Solar Panels

SOFT Rockers combine solar panels and moving furniture to charge your gadgets and also these curved, solar-panel-covered seats rotate on an axis to keep them facing the sun, generating additional energy from the rocking motion created when people climb inside. The teardrop-shaped charging stations were created by professor Sheila Kennedy and a team of students for the Festival of Art+Science+Technology (FAST)………….


Solar powered furniture is nothing new, but this crazy looking rocking lounge chair created by architecture students at MIT, MIT Professor Sheila Kennedy and her team at Kennedy and Violich Architecture recently debuted SOFT Rockers as part of MIT‘s 150th-anniversary Festival of Art+Science+Technology (FAST) celebration. The team arrived at a sleek, solar-powered energy recharging station, disguised as a comely piece of public furniture, as a response to hard urban infrastructure.The SOFT Rocker leverages its environment in a dynamic manner by using the human power of balance to create an interactive 1.5 axis 35 watt solar tracking system. Soft power electronics designed for this project charge the 12 ampere-hour battery and store solar energy harvested during the day. Put your body weight in play with an interactive, real time energy harvesting feedback loop that senses how you orient the rocker to the sun. Charge or run any USB device from speakers to cell phones and bring your friends to enjoy cool lighting loops at night for social gatherings.


The leaf-like loop form of the SOFT Rockers explores how standard softwood panels can be mass-customized to adapt to the latitude and sun angle of any site using parametric design software and automated fabrication with a lightweight Kuka robotic arm. The SOFT Rocker combines hi-tech and low-tech design strategies: it produces electricity but engages the body and works like furniture by hand; it mixes sun tracking and social dynamics; it is a site specific object and a flexible form family of soft wood construction. The SOFT Rocker blurs distinctions between pleasure and work and recasts power generation as an integrated and distributed public activity rather than a centralized, singular off-site project of ‘engineering.’Professor Kennedy explains the piece in a (unembeddable) video on SOFT Rockers‘ MIT page, in which she limns the various challenges that the team sought to address. Regarding the final form, she mentions TRON, the obvious reference point; personally, I think it looks like a speech bubble… insert joke about SOFT Rockers as a design ‘statement.’




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