SOFT Rockers (FAST)

The SOFT Rockers are smart, clean energy charging stations disguised as outdoor rocking lounge furniture. Unlike conventional ‘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 their form to the latitude and sun angle of any site using parametric design software and automated fabrication with a lightweight Kuka robotic arm. The project advances digital kerfing methods developed by Christoph Schindler with wood joining techniques which enable softwood panels to be formed into a continuous undulating wood surface. The interdisciplinary SOFT Rocker project for MIT’s FAST 150 event, led by Professor Sheila Kennedy and Jungmin Nam of KVA Matx in Boston, 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’.

Sheila Kennedy, James Bayless, Kaitlyn Bogenschutz, Wardah Inam, Jungmin Nam, Shevy Rockcastle, Phil Seaton, Matt Trimble, Adnon Zolij