Tensile Structures

Prroject Brief

Carson Rich

The purpose of the Study Pod is to create a small study space in the library. This project aims to make the library a more study-intensive area when it is filled with people.

Inspiration for this project was taken from the google sleep pods. These pods are meant for sleeping, yet still offer a secluded, quiet place. The downside to the google pods is their heavyset chair bases which make them immovable. By suspending the pod from the ceiling,  a much more comfortable, swinging effect is created. The pod is also made to adequately fit one large person or two medium-sized people inside. 

The original model was made to represent a pod that is 4’x6’, but after building a few smaller-scale models, we decided it would be better to increase the height of the pod? Explain why models were structured with stretched cloth and rubber bands. 

After creating two cardboard prototypes, we decided to change multiple parts of the study pod’s overall design. While our original models adequately represented what we wanted the full-scale pods to look like, they lacked material quality. The crude models were made of stretched cloth, rubber bands, string, and cardboard cut by hand. After gluing the felt to the thick rubber bands we use as support rods, the project got messy quickly, and we had a hard time measuring the proper amount of felt to wrap around the pod walls. These early models represented the pod we had in mind, but the materials were too low quality. In addition to stepping up the overall quality, we wanted to add more detail to the project as well. 

We wanted to make sure the model had functional features that we intended to add to the final product. This included an entryway that could also serve as a dimmer or window to control light.   The next step was to laser cut a 4’x6.5’ prototype. Two support rings, one on the bottom and a smaller one for the top, were made in a design software called Rhino. Laser cutting them allowed them to fit perfectly. After assembling the barrel-type structure, five holes were drilled through each arm of the pod. We then lined those holes with string and stretched our fabric throughout the strings. The front entryway was left open to create a door.  Our next plans to make a door that will allow the user to choose how much room is able to be seen, and how much of the pod is private. We plan on doing this using a drawstring mechanism similar to a house curtain.

Project Brief

Thomas DeMouy

The parking structures team has designed a retractable structure that provides shade for the parking lot.

               In the summer months, the sun often heats cars to unbearable temperatures. The primary goal of the project is to keep the temperatures in cars at a moderately comfortable range. In the beginning, the designers also looked at ways of giving it a secondary function, such as rain collection or solar power. In the end, they decided to focus on the primary goal of our project because of the multiple engineering challenges already associated with shading a large area.

               Once the team decided on this concept, they devised multiple initial sketches. These included a caterpillar style tent, a triangular canopy, and a large square tent with a rain hole which could cover four spots. The latter was the basis for our first prototype. It was surprisingly simple to produce, but the supports presented a potential hazard for many of the less experienced drivers at this school. After the triangular canopy was produced, the team was not satisfied with the amount of shade it provided. The design committee ultimately decided to further explore the retractable square canopy.

               After meticulous prototyping, Dr. Jiang realized that the project had a critical flaw; the amount of torque required to raise the canopy. At first, this issue was perceived as a fundamental flaw. However, after a few days, a preliminary solution was in sight. This was to attach the rigging to the opposite end of the canopy beams. This made it possible to raise the canopy, but it was not ideal. Then, the designers added extensions to the ends of the beams at perpendicular angles. This provided the optimal angle for the force applied to the rigging. The combination of portability and effectiveness of the parking canopy makes it an ideal solution to the heat problem present in the school’s parking lots.

Project Brief

Andrew Gould

This project proposes a shade system for cars in the school's parking lot. It is unique to the way that it can be designed to cover as many parking spots as possible.

We created this because whenever you get in your car after a long day of school/work, the car is extremely hot. Not anymore, because we’ve designed a parking shade that will keep your car cool.

We built a new type of weight that will hold the structure down. We also are thinking of unique ways the involve the car with this structure. The idea that we thought of is a pressure plate that will move the structure on it's own. We also have two poles that will have a cloth connecting both sides to provide the shade

With the combination of these two structures, we have created a unique shade structure. We also designed it so where it can be built bigger to cover more than 1 parking spot. Overall, our goal is to help getting into car less painful. I think we’ve accomplished this goal. 

Project Brief: Acoustic Canopy

Tomohiro Niwano


Acoustic Canopy is a tensile structure designed to reduce the noise level in the studio space by absorbing the deafening sounds created by power tools.

High volume levels in the shop are dangerous. To solve this problem, this project reduces the possibility of getting hurt by reducing the level of distracting noise in the space. In the studio, people often use a wide range of machines such as power drills, the bandsaw, and the laser cutter. Combined, this equipment causes the communication in the lab to become more difficult and thus, lead to potential injury. Acoustic Canopy is designed to absorb sound and reduce the noise level, making it easier for people to communicate in the lab.

The initial designs differ significantly from the latest canopy designs. The first idea was to create a tensile structure that is placed on the ground, surrounding the machines that produce loud sounds. However, as prototyping for initial design began, there were concerns that placing a large tensile wall in the work area could cause another problem. Since there were many people moving around the lab, it was not very efficient to put a large object in the middle of the path. This issue led to another design which proposed placing the tensile structure above the workspace.

This new design covers up the entire ceiling in the room, therefore decreasing the overall noise level. However, there were few challenges while designing this structure. Firstly, it was difficult to get an accurate measurement of the ceiling trusses. This problem made creating the digital model more difficult than expected. Although the measurements is were one of the main challenges, the largest problem was testing different sound-absorbing fabrics. The first material testing didn’t go as planned since there were many factors that were not considered prior to the testing, including noise from the surrounding environment and the overall setup of the experiment. These issues led to inaccuracy in our data. Several days later, a new experiment was conducted in the controlled environment of a practice room, where there was almost no noise from the outside. The sound source that emitted a specific frequency was placed in a bucket, which would then be covered with different types of fabrics to test the difference in decibels. This new experiment revealed that the material most suitable for blocking sounds in the Acoustic Canopy is upholstery.

Project Brief

Bryce DeBourg

A suspended pod that isolates, relaxes and engages a student in order to enhance their work habits and benefit their studies.


The concept for this project came to fruition when two students realized the library was not tailored toward intensive studying or working. A library is meant to be a quiet place of work but somewhere there was a disconnect. Helpful feedback supported their realization and provided evidence that students were yearning for a change. Wanting to an environment where a student or two could sit and study with little to no distractions the idea for High Above was born.

It all started with the developing of sketches and evocative imagery the two classmates experienced during research. With many avenues to explore and a plethora of methods to use to construct their project, it took a while to settle on one specific design. Structural advice and guidance were given by Dr. Jiang and multiple Nuvu Coaches that helped them along tremendously. A notion to break away from the normal symmetrical build and make something original was prevalent throughout the entire design process. The two students achieved their goals by modeling a suspended, egg-shaped pod with the capabilities to compress in length, retract and deploy shade and provide isolation.

High Above’s greatest challenge was finding a frame that not only worked but achieved all of the goals stated during early development. Ideas ranged from using PVC Pipe to metal rings and wooden arms. Experimenting with all materials, the two decided that PVC is too hard to work with and wooden arms were the best alternative. The decision to go with wood allowed for a more lightweight frame allowing for the assembly process to be more pleasant for the user. A stretched fabric woven through the wooden ribs of the frame provides the enclosed environment the team strove for. A rotating base allows the arms to retract, exposing the user to the outside entirely, and deploy, enclosing the user entirely. Small features such as a laptop fold down, back support and LED lighting, provide a room like quality but with added comfort.

The final product is unique in its design, superior to its counterparts and beneficial to students. With a less than adequate library to use as a workspace High Above could ensure the library is used properly and efficiently. 

Acoustic Canopy - Project Brief

Adam Reid

Acoustic Canopy: A cloud-like wave structure designed and tested to provide comfortable noise levels in the machine shop. The canopy effectively uses wasted ceiling space while also minimizing the annoying and unsafe sound levels that result from the use of heavy machinery. 

Sound exists everywhere. It is constantly present in our world. On many occasions, its presence is quite unwelcome. Any studio that makes use of machines of some type will no doubt be familiar with the more annoying aspects of a constant sound. The steady drones and screeches of heavy machinery in use, coupled with flat walls and reflective ceilings, made the need for a sound dampening system all the more apparent. Specifically, the Engineering Studio suffers from a lack of sound deadening to counteract the noises produced by its machinery. The problem is only amplified by the presence of a ceiling largely un-shielded from any type of disturbance. 

The Acoustic Canopy aims to circumvent this issue. Inspired by the fluid, wave-like motions of the clouds above, the canopy was conceived to act as a shelter and as a barrier to the noises produced by the heavy machinery and to protect the ears of the rest of the studio. Currently, the design features a series of disconnected, two dimensional, three sides shapes that overlap and are placed randomly through the ceiling area. Breaking with tradition, the model has no set specifications. The intention was to provide a flexible model that could be altered to best suit the needs of the situation or the design of the building ceiling itself. With this, it is hoped that significant reduction of noise level intensities within the Engineering Studio can be measured and directly experienced.

Having gone through several variations, the design and purpose of the project have changed. The first, unnamed model of what would become the canopy consisted of a tensile screen that would wrap around sources of sound like a towel and provide sound protection. Coming to terms with the impracticalities of a moveable screen anchored on the ground, the attention of the projects shifted upwards and away from any potential ground hazards. Ever since, the focus has been not on dampening individual units but dampening the space as a whole. The design covers most of the ceiling area, the areas left uncovered only like so due to safety concerns. Plans are set to incorporate a system of falling screens to accompany the ceiling elements and to provide an additional layer of ground buffering. Currently, tests are being carried out to find the best material for use in the job. Should everything go to plan, the first iteration of the Acoustic Canopy should be up and functioning soon.

Final Project Brief

Hayes Hofman

The Tenammock is a tensegrity hammock placed outside of the school library. Fabric and materials like tarp and rope will be strung between the structural members to make a comfortable and cool-looking hammock. 

Building hammocks outside of the library we would add much-needed seating to this area of the school grounds. This would allow people eating lunch outside or resting to be able to sit in a comfortable hammock, rather than on one of the crowded benches or on the uncomfortable ground.

The design changed greatly over the course of the semester. The original design was just a simple hammock between two of the pillars in front of the library. However, having a one-person hammock wouldn’t add the amount of seating area the school's library needs. The design then changed to include a third pole, thus giving it a wider, more triangular shape that would allow more people to sit on it. It would also be dual layer, creating a space for people to sit on top of the hammock in the sun while providing students sitting below with shade. Luis, a NuVu coach from Cambridge, introduced the concept of tensegrity to the project. After researching tensegrity structures a bit more we decided to incorporate this into our hammock.

We started by constructing a basic three-pole tensegrity model using rubber bands that ran from the ends of each stick. Rubber bands kept the poles in constant tension, allowing them to maintain the model’s three-dimensional shape. We ended up making two of these models, one with the poles made from circular dowels and one made with square dowels. This allowed us to see how the cross section of the poles affected the way they moved when we applied pressure to them. Then by running fabric on the outside of the model in different fashions we were able to create several different hammock structures. We then tried to make even more seating area by weaving some string across a different part of the model. Our final model is ¼ scale and is made from PVC and steel wire. These materials give the design more stability but sacrifice some of its flexibility. Although we never fully completed it, our designs prove that we could build a full-scale hammock that we see as not only being a comfortable place to sit, but also as a cool design that will be an overall benefit to Episcopal’s campus.

Project Brief- Acoustic Canopy

Tomohiro Niwano

Acoustic Canopy is a tensile structure designed to reduce the noise level in the studio space by absorbing the deafening sounds created by power tools.

High volume levels in the shop are dangerous. To solve this problem, this project reduces the possibility of getting hurt by reducing the level of distracting noise in the space. In the studio, people often use a wide range of machines such as power drills, the bandsaw, and the laser cutter. Combined, this equipment causes the communication in the lab to become more difficult and thus, lead to potential injury. Acoustic Canopy is designed to absorb sound and reduce the noise level, making it easier for people to communicate in the lab.

The initial designs differ significantly from the latest canopy designs. The first idea was to create a tensile structure that is placed on the ground, surrounding the machines that produce loud sounds. However, as prototyping for initial design began, there were concerns that placing a large tensile wall in the work area could cause another problem. Since there were many people moving around the lab, it was not very efficient to put a large object in the middle of the path. This issue led to another design which proposed placing the tensile structure above the workspace.

This new design covers up the entire ceiling in the room, therefore decreasing the overall noise level. However, there were few challenges while designing this structure. Firstly, it was difficult to get an accurate measurement of the ceiling trusses. This problem made creating the digital model more difficult than expected. Although the measurements is were one of the main challenges, the largest problem was testing different sound-absorbing fabrics. The first material testing didn’t go as planned since there were many factors that were not considered prior to the testing, including noise from the surrounding environment and the overall setup of the experiment. These issues led to inaccuracy in our data. Several days later, a new experiment was conducted in the controlled environment of a practice room, where there was almost no noise from the outside. The sound source that emitted a specific frequency was placed in a bucket, which would then be covered with different types of fabrics to test the difference in decibels. This new experiment revealed that the material most suitable for blocking sounds in the Acoustic Canopy is upholstery.

Presentation

Dyani Robarge

Project Brief

Alex Harlan

The Front Lawn Canopy is a deployable structure designed for students to use on the front lawn when waiting for their parents to pick them up. This would eliminate the traffic jams that are created by students not being close enough to the street to see their cars arrive.

Why would students wait for their ride far away and out of sight of their car when they can be ready to leave when their car arrives. This would not only eliminate the traffic jams but also increase the rate at which people can leave and go home. 

The first idea that we had was a basic structure thus the name The Fruit Stand Model. The Fruit Stand Model was created to allow us to have a multipurpose permanent structure. The idea was that we would have a structure that would rely solely on the hill.

Our new model named the A-Frame model is a structure built off of an A-Frame wouldn't be a permanent model but would instead be a more deployable structure. The idea that would bring in the tensile membrane was that the shade and seat would be a tension membrane. At the top of the structure would be a Hypar that would create enough cover to get into the car or at least on to the sidewalk.