Nijhout Sand Table Makes Its Own Art!

Everybody gets a little stir-crazy in lockdown, and Duke faculty are no exception.  Professor Fred Nijhout used his enforced isolation to create moving art from some sand, scrap, and “an old 3d printer.”  His creation uses magnets to move a steel ball across a flat sand table, leaving intricate designs in its wake. 

Fred took his inspiration from artist Bruce Shapiro, who programs computers to control sand tables, bubbles in water pipes, and fabric banners to create “kinetic art pieces.”  Shapiro also started a company, Sisyphus, that sells smaller sand tables for the home.

A community of programmers and “makers” has evolved who share open source designs and code for machines that make patterns in sand.  Thus, the project has given Fred new friends and a new hobby to play with while waiting for the shutdown to end.

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The art of motion control