Batley Girls’ High School

Project:  Light Dresses
Science topic: Light
Participants: Year 8 students
Artist: Jim Bond

We will be working on a series of small-scale dresses (‘armatures’) which will eventually be illuminated as part of a light sculpture. We’ll experiment with different fabrics, papers and lights and each dress will be completely different so as to express something individual about its maker. Our dress structures will be created using wire, then covered with our chosen material. We will be programming BBC Micro:bits to control the light sculpture itself. During this process we’ll be exploring the change from light to dark and our ability to control the intensity of light, as well as learning how computers interface with components. We will also learn about voltages and resistance, and how to solder wires onto LEDs. Finally we’ll assemble and test-run the sculpture to see what adjustments are needed to make it ready for the exhibition.


Session 1: 1st February 2017
Today we started the Change project and met Jim who is a sculptor and Tiphaine who is an engineer working for Cummins Turbo Technologies. Jim showed us images of his work including examples of kinetic sculptures and optical sculptures. We wanted to know where he makes all his sculptures – he has a studio in Mirfield but he said that his work goes all over the world. Tiphaine explained what she does in her job and that she has travelled to Brazil and Sweden for her work. We asked her if she has made any mistakes and she told us that it’s OK to make mistakes as long as you learn from them. We will be building a light sculpture for the exhibition at Batley Art Gallery. Mr Slechter, one of our science teachers, talked to us about how we see light and colour and the way our eyes perceive combinations of different light waves. We started designing dresses which is what our sculptures will be made of – lots of little dresses which will light up. In future sessions we will be learning how to programme the lights using BBC Micro:bits.

“Light is a big thing and how it works surprises me”

“I have learnt that you can make white light and other colours from the 3 coloured lights”

“I like my design for a wire and paper dress and enjoyed thinking about how it is going to come together”

Session 2: 8th February 2017
This week we started working with wire. We had to bend and twist it to make frameworks for our dresses so they would be 3D and stand up. It was really hard and hurt our hands, although we were able to use pliers which made it a bit easier. Jim taught some of us to solder wires onto LED’s. That was difficult too but it was amazing how the solder melted and made smoke. Tiphaine showed some of us how to programme the BBC Micro:bits to say our names. The whole class was busy with, wire, solder and computers – it felt like we were in a crazy laboratory. Great fun!

“I have learnt how to cut wire and also how to program the Microbit. I found sculpting with wire was hard. My hands are hurting a lot!”

“Today I soldered a LED light and programmed a Micro:bit”

“I am pleased my wire model stands up but found cutting and shaping the wire very difficult”

Session 3: 1st March 2017
Since our last session with Jim & Tiphaine we have worked with Miss Chambers to start covering our wire frames with fabric and mesh. Jim showed us a model of a cloud sculpture he had made which had flashing LEDs that could be programmed on a BBC Micro:bit. We plugged it into the school laptops and were able to re-programme it to flash at different speeds. Once one of us learned how to do it we taught each other. We also continued to solder wires to LEDs then plugged them into Micro:bit and programmed them to flash. The LEDs will go inside the dress models so that they light up.

“I have been experimenting with different materials to control the amount of light from inside the model. I am using opaque paper, translucent tissue and transparent clingfilm”

“I enjoyed working with Tiphane on the computers to programme the Micro:bit to sequence the lights. She showed me how to do it properly”

“Jim showed us how to use the soldering iron and I made the LED connect to the Micro:bit for our sculptures. It was fun but a bit scary”

“I found working with the tissue very fiddly. I have had to change my design when I work with the wire”

Session 4: 15th March 2017
At the start of the session Miss Chambers showed us some films of flickering light shapes. It took us a while to realise that they were our dress sculptures filmed in the dark. We had a lot of finishing up to do today to get our dresses ready to exhibit. We worked hard gluing and pasting white tissue details. In pairs we carried on soldering our LEDs with Jim and then we took them to Tiphaine to programme them using the lap tops and BBC Micro:bits. The soldering was difficult and it smelled weird but it was amazing when what we did worked and the LEDs started flashing. We were able to make them flash faster and slower just by changing the programme. Miss Chambers said we will go on a trip to see our work in the gallery, which will be a great way to finish the project! In the meantime there will hopefully be plenty of opportunities in other lessons to continue developing our knowledge about Light and apply what we’ve been learning during the sessions.

“Today I programmed my Micro:bit and completed my model. I programmed my LED to flash quickly and I had to attach the wires with the soldering iron”

“I used mesh to allow the light to pass through easily”

“The models looked amazing because of the different materials and styles. I can’t wait to see them in the gallery”

“My plans for the dress changed as the weeks went on. I have drawn how I wanted the dress to look and how it looks now and written about the differences. There are many”

“Today I was experimenting with opaque, translucent and transparent materials. I have also learnt that science is in everything”

A few final words from our teacher

“Our Cummins buddy, Tiphane, was great with the girls. She spoke about her career path and inspired the girls to ask lots of questions. She took responsibility for the programming element which the girls would not have known how to do independently without her expertise.” Karen Chambers – Art Teacher