Light Play by Robot Army


Exhibition Information
Location: Artspace Gallery on the CSN North Las Vegas Campus
Dates: Friday, March 31 – Saturday, April 29, 2017
Artist Reception: Friday, March 31, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Artist Talk: Friday, April 7, 9 a.m., Charleston Campus, Room N101
CSN Science & Technology Expo: Friday, April 28, 9 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Artist Statement

Light Play is an interactive hive of miniature delta robots which function as a mechatronic prosthetic for enhancing self expression. The movements of the individual robots are choreographed by a single participant’s physical gesture, resulting in synchronous motion and light patterns as feedback.
The experience of interfacing with the installation is meant to create a sense of empowerment, as if the machines were an extension of the body.

The installation consists of 84 miniature delta robots constructed primarily of 3D printed and laser cut plastic. Each robot has a micro-controller “brain” which computes real-time delta kinematics for movement. The robots are connected together over an RS-485 network using DMX512 protocol to control motion and light output. A master computer processes input stimulus (light, sound and 3D tracking) to send motion and lighting instructions to each robot.

The robots are housed on twelve hexagonal bases (palettes) that measure 38” x 38” (~96cm x 96cm) each in size. The bases can be tiled together in a fashion appropriate for the space they’re shown, covering a maximum of 15’ x 15’ (3 square meters).
The pallets are elevated and propped at an angle by two separate tiers of support structures that are also modular. There should be a 5’ minimum space around the perimeter of the installation for adequate distance between the robots and observers. Additionally, there should be an outlet nearby to provide power to the installation.

The installation is best presented in an area with complete darkness, having multiple wall facets to catch the shadows in motion cast by the robots themselves. Additionally, an interior space with an echo will amplify the 150+ motors of the machines, adding another potential layer of depth to the experience of controlling the robots.

The robots are meant to be exhibited as an interactive display, where observers are encouraged to control the collective with their physical gestures or hand motions. In situations where there is no input or an excess of stimulus, the robots will switch modes and independently perform choreographed patterns of motion.

The Light Play Project was funded by a crowdsourcing effort in 2014. This allowed supporters to own a piece of the installation in the form of an individual robot unit that could be assembled and used as a learning or development platform for personal use. Every delta robot kit that was adopted afforded an additional unit for the installation, which was produced in 2015.

Cheyenne Gallery, College of South Nevada ( upcoming, April 2017 ) Bay Area Maker Faire ( May 2016 )
Las Vegas Mini Maker Faire ( February 2016 )
Bay Area Maker Faire ( May 2015 )


Kinetic artist, Sarah Petkus and engineer, Mark Koch blend their complementary areas of knowledge in design and electronics to create interactive mechanical installations. Together they produce immersive kinetic environments, capable of responding to the presence of individuals within them. The resulting experience is meant to encourage a feeling of connection, control, or empowerment over the encompassing system in the surrounding space.

The duo was formed in 2014 prior to forging the business identity, Robot Army, for their crowdfunding campaign the “Robot Army Starter Kit”, where they released the design of their first robotic device as a product and DIY kit in order to fund the production of their first large scale installation, “Light Play”.

With a background in print-making and illustration, Sarah channels aspects of narrative and character development as the inspirational framework for her robots. It is her goal to create behavioral systems for her machines which express a sense of personality, and encourage a feeling of empathy in those who encounter them. By doing so, she hopes to expand the expectations of inanimate objects and coax reflection upon humanity’s own motivation for the technology we create, and the value of our own relationship with the technology which serves us in every-day life.

Mark is an electronics engineer with over 25-years of experience working in Silicon Valley at Sun Microsystems. He is currently a consultant for Blue Man Group in Las Vegas, where he is the goto man for designing circuitry and repairing all things electronic. Additionally, Mark helped seed the self motivated maker movement in Las Vegas by co-founding the first local hackerspace, SYN Shop.

twitter: @robot_army

twitter: @spetku

twitter: @MarkJKoch


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