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100 Clapping Machines

Sirovich Family Resident – Taylor Levy
STEAMplant Faculty Members – Che-Wei Wang & Helio Takai

“100 Clapping Machines” is an indoor installation of a hundred individual clapping machines, sometimes clapping in unison, sometimes seemingly randomly. Visitors are encouraged to interact with the installation by making sounds (clapping or stomping). 

Each clapper claps on a time interval, but will also adjust its phase (i.e. time delay) as it listens to match its neighbors’ claps, similar to how some species of fireflies synchronize their flashing. Each clapper has a small microcontroller, a piezo (acting as a microphone), a motor with a cam, and a spring to actuate two blocks of aluminum that hit each other to clap.  

This project highlights the beauty of and the science of sync. As visitors walk around the installation and disrupt the synchronization of clappers they can see how syncing works and how we can become part of it or become disruptions in the system.

Images courtesy of the artists.