wood visualizer


September 2017
10-day design bootcamp

skills utilized:
+ microcontroller
+ sketching
+ CNC Routing
+ woodworking
+ laser etching
+ 3d printing
+ Adobe Illustrator

In the first week of my graduate program, my cohort and I were tasked with each making something for ourselves, which also reflects what the phrase "into the wild" means to us.

I chose to focus on a more abstract "wild" - the headspace created by listening to music. My love of music's ability to create environments of calm, anxiety, and everywhere in between inspired me to make a physical visualizer that could give audio a physical presence.



Concept generation

The summer before starting my graduate program, I took great interest in ambient music - "beatless" music that focuses on creating an environment. With this project, I wanted the music to create a miniature, dynamic landscape. In my idea generation, I wanted to test my developing skill in Adobe Illustrator by generating a logo and identity for my device.

My goals for the project included improving my microcontroller programming skills, familiarizing myself with the Adobe suite, and making something I would be proud of.


Coding, wiring, printing, routing, etc.


The network of motors that controlled the tiles from inside the box was given first priority. After prototyping with a Teensy 3.2 microcontroller, a microphone unit, and a stepper motor, I was able to modulate the speed of the motor in conjunction with the spikes in the music. Throughout the prototyping process, I ran into several challenges that involved isolating errors in circuitry and coding by testing the program with given frequencies of audio, and adjusting the parameters of the code accordingly.

In creating the physical box, I utilized the CNC router to create the tiles and the top face of bord. I also was able to raster my logo directly into the wood, keeping with the natural aesthetic. I mounted the motors on 3D printed mounts and prepared for final assembly.


Results & Next Steps

After troubleshooting jumpy motors by connecting to an external power source, bord responded very well to spikes in the music's intensity! The laser-cut cams provided excellent random movements that paired perfectly with "Glory Gongs" by Forest Swords (check out the video!), which I played in presenting the project to my cohort and future professors.

I hope to take the experience I gained in this project, and scale up to a room-sized installation someday.