MICA - WdKA International Collab
3-Day Project Sprint

Soft Powers

interaction design, biology, electronics

Tools Used

Tesla coil, circuitry, Illustrator, Photoshop


I attended a workshop at Willem de Kooning Academy in Netherlands as part of a joint project between MICA and WdKA. As part of the workshop, we had to produce a fully-working concept and prototype in three days.

Gizem Oktay - Soft Powers

The workshop group that I was a part of, Soft Powers, utilized a "Joule Thief" to steal energy from dead batteries. As for the conceptual wrapper of this circuit, we used the relationship between enzymes and substrates as metaphor.

Just like the joule thief which uses dead batteries, enzyme-substrate relationship uses as little energy as it can to operate.

To visualize the joule thief, we created a set of garments that when connected together, lit up. The formal decisions for these garments followed the principles that govern the enzyme-substrate complex that occur during a chemical reaction.

In three days, we produced a working prototype which included a set of garments that had origami sleeves, a working circuitry, a poster and a presentation.

Project Members: Xi Yu, Grace Kwon, Katey Noone, Samantha Vassar, Gizem Oktay, Iren Cooper

an ontology dinner

The Joule Thief uses a simple self-oscillating Tesla coil and a dead battery to steal energy from it. It can use nearly all of the energy in a single-cell electric battery, even far below the voltage where other circuits consider the battery fully discarded (or dead).

The enzyme-substrate complex that inspired the formal decisions behind the garment structures follow a similar principle. When an enzyme binds its substrate, it forms an enzyme-substrate complex. This complex lowers the activation energy of the reaction and promotes its rapid progression. After the substrate leaves the active site, the enzyme stays the same and a new product after is produced. Just like The Joule Thief, it uses as little as possible to create change.