Urban Fractal Tree


Jules Gouvin-Moffat and Jack Mullen
1 / 1


Jules Gouvin-Moffat and 2 OthersDylan Smyth
Jack Mullen
1 / 8

Under encouragement from the City of Cambridge's Department of Transportation, we created an urban fractal-inspired "tree" as an artistic bus stop installation. The overall purpose is to illuminate the environmental benefit of riding the bus, rather than riding in a car. The installation, designed from the essence of what we consider an urban tree to be, grows and dies in response to the number of passengers waiting for the bus (the more people there are, the more alive the tree is; and vice versa). We used an ultrasonic range finder (distance sensor) in tandem with a stepper motor and pulley system to activate the tree. The branches, reminiscent of natural fractals such as ferns, were constructed out of segmented triangular prisms, connected with nylon. The trunk acted as a base for the project and storage space for the sensors.


Jules Gouvin-Moffat and 2 OthersJack Mullen
Dylan Smyth
1 / 14

We were challenged by the city to make an average bus stop interactive by inventing creative ways to bring people together. Our group decided to make a semi-interactive art piece that morphed depending on how many people rode the bus. The more people take the bus, the less cars there are on the road, resulting in less pollution being put into the atmosphere; therefore resulting in the bus being a more "green" mode of transportation.

Our project is meant to bring people to the bus stop to experience how our project moves and reacts according to the amount of people riding the bus. Our project would wrap around the sign post, with the inner workings attached onto the sign post for structural support. We themed our project around the urban environment, as well as fractals. A fractal is a pattern, commonly found in nature, that splits off from itself infinitely. An example would be a fern, and we took thi idea and tried to incorporate it into our branches. We make our branches triangular, as well as the trunk, because we anted to capture the essence of a tree, rather than mimicing one.

To make our branches "grow" and "die", Jules programmed an arduino to rotate a motor. This motor is gripping onto a cord tht runs through all of the segments on our branches. When this cord is pulled taut by the motor, the branch will "grow" and straighten out. This will reflect the motion of a tree growing and wilting. 

We went through an elongated process of planning our idea and conceptualizing which lead to a severe time crunch, which made it difficult to fully create our project on time. We ran into some problems towards the end of the project that, if we had extra time, would have risen earlier, resulting in a more functional and complete project. We discovered that the motor didn't have enough torque to be able to pull the branches completely tight, so we added a counterweight, and even then, was struggling to pull the cord. We perservered and eventually, came up with a project that looks good and also functions at a decent level, which hopefully will bring people to the bus stop.