Lighting Engines


Our task for this assignment was to create a form that housed an electrical circuit of our own creation that when attached to a tilt switch caused a light to turn on or off. The form had to be made entirely out of white paper and the form had to include some type of interaction that would cause the tilt switch to activate/deactivate.


Our introduction to this assignment was a demonstration of how the circuits operated and the process of creating a simple circuit that was attached to an LED light-bulb and utilized a tilt switch mechanism. In order to build our lamps, we first had to understand the wiring that was powering the system. The construction begins with a battery. One wire connected to the battery represents the positive current (usually a red wire) and another represents the negative current (usually a black wire).

To interact with the LED light bulb, the positive wire connects to the longer metal lead that sticks out of the bulb. The negative wire connects to the shorter metal lead. If the tilt switch is required to be connected, the switch can intersect on either the positive or negative ends of the circuit.

If we wanted to make the mechanism longer we were able to use additional wires as extensions, and use aluminum tubing as connecting tabs.

First Experiments:

The first attempt I created was a form I thought of during the presentation of the circuit building. The design is a pyramid shape that is meant to sit upside down in a base. The structure is off when it sits in the base. When the light is picked up and flipped over the light turns on. In context, I think the light could be used as a sort of flashlight. The light does not move through the black paper, but travels through folded openings which are cut into each facet of the form. I created this structure before receiving the requirement that our forms had to be created out of white paper.

New Considerations and New Forms:

These forms were the first structures I created using the guidelines from the assignment sheet. Therefore, these are the first forms made from white paper.

This lamp was the first I made with the new guidelines. The form started with a folded piece of paper. I wanted to see how the folds moved. From there, I created the container by creating the other sides of the form. The lamp is off on the right and the interaction requires the user to pull the fold outward so that the tilt switch moves and turns the light on. Some problems I found with this structure was that the wires were too visible and the light was not diffusing.

This was my second lamp that I created for this step of the process. It was based off of this modular sculpture that I made last year. I wanted to used the same repeating shape to create a tiny environment that the light traveled through. The tilt switch was connected to one of the triangles, and that piece could be moved down (off state) or up (on state). This form faced several problems. One was that the wiring was highly noticeable and was finicky. Another problem I faced was that the material was too flimsy, so when I attempted to move the form in an intentional direction it would rarely hold its place. One success was the movement of the light, which I think shone really well through all the spaces in the form.


These forms were a result of me experimenting with paper and form. The one on the left was made using tape, so it was not a viable option for my final project. The one of the right is the form that eventually developed into my final piece. Again, I began by using the repeating shape of a triangle, and this time turned each triangle into a pyramid so that the object was more structurally sound. Neither of these forms were tested using the light.

Stretch to the Final:

This form is the last experimental structure I made before my final. I again used the repeating pyramids to create a more enclosed object. My goal was to have it fully enclosed, but the construction did not allow for that. The tilt switch was housed inside one of the pyramids, and that piece would move up and down to turn on or off the lamp. This lamp was the idea that I stuck with for my final, although the idea and construction greatly changed.

My Final Lamp — A Nightlight:

Off State of the Lamp

For this form I used the same concept as my last experiment, yet many construction aspects were changed. Rather than gluing together individual facets of the pyramids I used scoring to fold two sides of the paper into shape, and then used a small amount of hot glue to connect the final joint. This allowed for a much cleaner look and feel. Additionally, rather than gluing the edges of each pyramid together I used scored tabs within the form so that the joint was hidden and more flexible and adjustable. The form consists of three main parts. The first is the base structure, a piece of conservation board that is supported by four of the pyramids. This lifts the form off the ground some and allows easy access to the battery port that I provided so that I could turn my battery pack on and off. The next major part is the first set of six pyramids. They form the first layer of the lamp structure and it contains the battery pack and one of the LED lights. The last major piece is the second set of pyramids, which includes the topping piece containing the tilt switch. There is also a LED light within these six pyramids. The three layers were glued together. The light escapes through the sides of the pyramid and the spacing in between where the middle and top layer meet. I decided to paint my light blue as I intended it to be a nightlight, so I wanted the lighting to be soft and less bright than a gleaming white beam.

On State of the Lamp

The tilt switch is contained in the pyramid that is shown above. To distinguish that this piece was different than the rest of the structure I scored tiny triangles and folded them back to create the detail. When the pyramid is tilted down and the gray paper is visible, the lamp is off. When flipped into the form, completing the series of shapes, the form is in its on state. There is a magnet to keep the form connected in its off state. For the on state, a tab connects to a small opening in the end of the gray paper section. The movement is depicted below.

I believe that my form is best suited as a nightlight. It emits a soft, blue light that shines very little, but provides enough light to see near surroundings, and to also comfort the user. Maybe the user is afraid of the dark.

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