The Changing Room—final performance

My residency at The Cube concluded last month with the opening of my piece The Changing Room.

How would you like to feel? What if you could make it happen with a touch of a screen? What would you do with complete control over your own emotions and those of the people around you?

The Changing Room is a custom software installation and performance that allows participants to select one of hundreds of emotions, evoking that emotion in them and everyone in the space through a layered environment of light, visuals, sound, text, and interaction exhibited over a multi-level, many-sided display. Dealing with themes of surveillant architectures, social technologies, and smart homes, the piece simultaneously invades and cares for the emotions of passersby.


Upon entering the main space, you are confronted with the question, “Do you want to feel?”, and you are given the opportunity to select the emotion you’d like to experience.


The Changing Room then gets to work trying to make everyone in the space feel that emotion as intensely as possible.



Every zone of The Cube becomes active with different instructions, graphics, and activities that it guides passersby through. In one zone, your voice is interpreted as animated objects moving around the screens. If you touch them to pop them, a command is released instructing you to “hug the person next to you”, or “curl up into a ball”.


People in the booths are confronted with a monolithic block that slides back and forth roulette style, randomly choosing a booth to light up with an instruction intended for that group.


On the second floor, your body position is analyzed as you’re guided through a series of positions and contortions. The process of assuming the various positions is designed to  evoke the emotion that’s been selected in the main space.


In another zone, ambient sound and voices are picked up by a series of microphones distributed throughout the area and analyzed. Depending on the currently selected emotion, you are instructed to adapt yourself to “share your feelings”, “calm down”, or “express more joy”.


The opening was accompanied by a special performance and dinner during which participants were fully immersed in The Changing Room. Performers took cues from The Cube and worked to amplify the emotions and guide conversation around themes of surveillance and social technology.


The evening concluded with a series of toasts to the future. While participants felt a mix of hope, fear, and ambiguity, I think we all left with a sense of open curiosity and questioning.

The Changing Room was created in collaboration with Sean Druitt, Ryan Bargiel, Allan Bishop, Samuel Collins, Daniel Fisher, Simon Harrison, Brian Jeffery, and the rest of the QUT Cube Team, and Andy Bates and Yu Kao. Performers included Viv Coburn, Brittany Hurkmans, Jacob Nye, Tiffany Symons, and Jackie Taylor. This project was completed as part of a TRANSMIT³ Residency at The Cube, QUT. The residency is presented by Ars Electronica and QUT.

Thank you QUT for having me and supporting this project! I am back in the states now and missing Australia already.

Photos by Kyle McDonald

Learn about gravity in the Physics Observatory

Unity Personal (64bit) - Observatory.unity - PhysicsPlayroom - PC, Mac & Linux Standalone DX11_7

I recently went to the doctors, (nothing serious, just a check-up but thanks for asking), the doctor weighed me, he then read out a number and entered it into his computer. The number was 70. What does 70 mean? 70 what? Well kilograms apparently; but what does that mean? I know it’s the same as 70 bags of sugar, but what is the bag of sugar equal to? What does weight actually mean?


Weight, as we know it, could more accurately be called force, it is the force in which your body or mass is being pulled towards the scales by the gravity of the Earth (don’t try telling your wife it looks like she is putting on a little force, it’s still rude… apparently!). The number we call weight is the result of multiplying our mass by gravity, therefore, if we want our weight number to be less we can reduce our mass or the gravitational acceleration of the Earth, which is easier than you may think!

If I were in a plane flying at 35,000 feet, the gravitational effect of the Earth would be less and the scales I have strapped to my feet would show 69.72kg (yay, it’s working!). If I were to then jump from the plane the scales would read 0this is because the scales are also falling and have nothing to press against to make a reading so I’d still weigh 70kg (boo!). But when I hit the ground my weight would shoot up to 428 kg for a very brief time then cease to be an issue.

If I wanted to lose a little weight I could just move to Denver, Colorado. In Denver, I would only weigh 69.92 kg however in Helsinki I would bust the scales at 70.13 kg. This is due to the irregular surface of the Earth; altitude, local topography and geology all play a part in how gravity affects us and our weight.

If mass and gravity are the factors we calculate weight by, what happens if we crank up the numbers? The Sun, with its huge mass, has a gravitational pull 28 times higher than Earth’s so if I were to stand on the surface of the sun, I would weigh nearly 2 tonnes (wow!). Although my gargantuan weight would be the least of my issues!!!

Unity Education (64bit) - Observatory.unity - PhysicsPlayroom - PC, Mac & Linux Standalone DX11_3

In the Physics Observatory, the new screen project at The Cube, users can adjust the gravity of the room with the gravity board. Visitors can slide the gravity changer all the way from 0g to the same gravity as the Sun. All of the objects in the observatory are affected by the gravity change, even the water flowing from the lion’s mouth and the swinging pendulum; it is lots of fun flinging hundreds of blocks around the room in 0g!

Come have fun with physics at the Physics Observatory. It’s officially opening on 17 September and there will be a physics-inspired holiday program in December/January Summer Holidays.

Unity Personal (64bit) - Observatory.unity - PhysicsPlayroom - PC, Mac & Linux Standalone DX11_3 (2)


Hi, Lauren here. I’m wrapping up my two month TRANSMIT3 Residency at The Cube and next Thursday 11 August will be the official opening of the new piece I’ve been working on with the team.


The event will feature an interactive performance installation in which we dine together in a near future where we change feelings like channels on a TV, swipe left for nostalgia, swipe right for glee, and follow each other as The Cube tracks us all.

Stay tuned for my last blog post which details how this event plays out.


Public Programs: the year that has been (so far)

Leighann & Yu - K8

Leighann Ness Wilson reflects on her role over the last six months, as The Cube’s first STEAM Education Officer.

My name is Leighann Ness Wilson and I’ve had the privilege of being The Cube’s very first STEAM Education Officer. With a Bachelor of Built Environment from QUT and over ten years’ experience in commercial Interior Design, it wasn’t until having my own children that I decided it was time to pursue my underlying goal to become an educator. My role at The Cube has allowed me to combine two of my passions: design and education. The practicums within my Graduate Diploma of Teaching and Learning, combined with my new role at QUT, have given me a profound sense of fulfilment. I find the combination of education and creativity both emotionally and professionally inspiring.

2016 so far

Training was first on the agenda for 2016 as we welcomed new and returning facilitators to our Public Programs Team at The Cube. (You can learn more about our methodology and team in the post, Hello 2016, Hello STEAM). Over multiple training sessions, our team were introduced to new technologies and toolsets and discussed how these might be used within the framework of STEAM education to deliver dynamic and interactive educational programs for our Education and Holiday workshops.

A highlight has been the diversity within the Public Programs team itself. I am fortunate each week to work alongside fellow-students and graduates from various QUT degrees across Engineering, Interactive Design, Education and Creative Industries. We bring our unique knowledge and approach to the workshops, which benefit not only our students, but also each other as we develop our skills as facilitators. In addition to onsite staff training, our team spent time with senior software developer and creator of Makkit, Anna Gerber at The Edge, SLQ to learn the basics of Arduino. In April, Brian O’Connell, PhD Student and Research Assistant at the Center for Engineering Education and Outreach, Tufts University, Boston, taught our team the fundamentals of the Rube Goldberg challenge and introduced us to the wonderful world of capacitive sensors.

An interactive firefly created by students at the K8 Symposium
Our Education program

A personal highlight occurs every Tuesday morning, when we welcome a new school group to The Cube. Once a week, during terms 2, 3 and & 4, The Cube hosts a day long STEAM Education workshop for students from grades 5 – 9. It’s great to see the students’ smiling faces as they make their way towards the Science and Engineering Centre to meet us. Students learn about The Cube as a digital interface, and enjoy hearing about the technology behind the screens, and how The Cube studio team research, develop, test and launch projects, whilst interacting with the projects.

Makerspace Professional Development Workshop at The Cube
Makerspace Professional Development Workshop at The Cube

From a facilitator’s perspective, within our STEAM workshops, I have been amazed by the students’ ability to collaborate, learn new skills and stay focused. Throughout the term, we have met technically savvy students and seen some truly creative solutions for robotic emergency response vehicles, inspiring interactive artworks and compelling ideas on how to make Brisbane a more age-friendly city.

Professional development & community outreach

The Cube regularly hosts professional development programs utilising design thinking and STEAM toolsets. This term, we have welcomed teachers from all over the state as part of the Education Queensland Makerspace Trial and recently ran an interactive design booth as part of the K8 Symposium in conjunction with the State Library of Queensland’s Asia Pacific Design Library for the Out of the Box Festival. At K8, we introduced the basics of circuity to a remarkable group of 8 year olds, as they reimagined the city of Brisbane for the year 2036.

Leighann & Yu - K8
Leighann and Yu at K8

As well as working with the students, I delivered a Professional Development session for primary school educators on using STEAM toolsets within the classroom. I’ve also had the recent opportunity of facilitating a hands-on workshop, for teachers at the Queensland Art Teachers Association conference, which focused on the possibilities of using littleBits in a visual arts classroom.

LittleBits Professional Development with QATA
LittleBits Professional Development with QATA

Reflecting on the past six months, I have realised the broader implications of my learning journey. While I have always been passionate about creativity and education, I am proud to say I have gone above and beyond my comfort zone–from creating touch responsive circuits using a bread board to designing and coding my own wearable technology Halloween costume. Learning through STEAM education has showcased the absolute benefits of learning from and alongside the students.

The levels of engagement in our workshops are testament to the vision and open source approach of The Cube’s Public Programs team. Together we share a passion and belief in the value of creativity in education. We work within a broader community full of like-minded professionals and regularly engage with experts to enhance our approach to ensure we are responding to the needs of 21st Century learners…and it’s also lots of fun!


Turning The Cube into an emotion machine


It’s been a busy few weeks at The Cube. I started with a few workshops with kids thinking about ‘homes of the future’. Participants imagined the toys they’d play with, clothes they’d wear, rules they’d follow, and robots that would serve as caretakers. They learned to code using p5.js, a platform for building interactive artworks online, and built their own rooms of the future which we combined into a one big apartment building.


The students' output of the rooms created with code in p5.js
The students’ output of the rooms created with code in p5.js

While reflecting on things learned in the workshops, I also worked with The Cube team to rig up The Cube space with extra sensors and create a system that links all the zones of the space with the data being collected as people move through it. We started with some basic tests to see how it felt to control the movement of objects on the screen with our bodies.

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After some experimentation, I landed on the idea of turning The Cube into a sort of emotion machine. People will be asked to determine how they would like to feel, and The Cube will get to work molding the feelings of everyone around it into the desired emotion.

We began with some tests of the interface to select emotions. I want it to have the feeling of an ice cream store with hundreds of flavors. Each one you pick brings on an entirely different sensation.


In the next few weeks, we’ll be developing the content and interactions much further and I’m planning a final performance that will happen over dinner at The Cube next month.

Hello and welcome, Lauren McCarthy


Hi! I am an artist from New York, in residence for the next two months at The Cube. My practice involves looking at our social interactions, the rules and expectations that govern them, and the effects of technology. I have always been a pretty socially awkward person, and my projects are often attempts to hack my way to better relationships.

A few years ago, I went on a series of dates with people I met on an online dating site and crowdsourced my dating life by paying workers online to watch a video stream of the dates and tell me what to say and do. (Social Turkers, 2013,

Thinking about algorithmic enhancement of relationships, together with Kyle McDonald, we made a Google Hangout app that would monitor your speech and facial expression and provide real-time prompts to “enhance” the conversation. (us+, 2014,

Most recently, I created an Uber-like app and service where you could hire a stranger (I was actually the Follower) to follow you for one day . I’d tail the person based on their GPS data, keeping just out of sight but within their consciousness, leaving them at the end with just one photo from sometime during the day. (Follower, 2016,

For this residency, I am focusing on the idea of the Smart Home and Internet of Things, and all of the promises these offer. I am going to turn the Cube into a smart home for QUT students and community, gathering data through its many sensors, and interacting with the people in the space through ambient instructions on the walls. The point is to question and critique the idea of a surveillant space that guides you mindlessly, while also exploring more interesting possibilities.


Often the idea of a smart space or AI is represented by thermostats that adjust themselves and either the complete lack of any human feeling, or a sci-fi fantasy female character.


I’m planning to dig deeper into the process of socialisation. Who are the human authority figures that teach us how to behave and relate to others. Maybe it is your mum or dad, an older sibling, teacher, or friend, or role model. How do these people watch over us and influence us. Could this social intelligence be captured and embodied in an artificial intelligence?

These are some of the questions I aim to explore with this project. I’ll be starting research with a series of interviews and workshops open to the public. Stay tuned for more details if you’d like to participate!

The Physics Observatory (aka Physics Playroom 2.0)


The Cube team have been hard at work this year re-developing The Physics Playroom, one of The Cube’s first screen projects. This new iteration The Physics Observatory, is due to be released sometime in the next six months. In this series of blog posts The Cube’s Digital Interactive Designer, Simon Harrison, will share with us some of the teams’ learnings about physics.

When we decided to update this project to make it even more relevant to high school students, I stumbled upon some interesting facts and became fascinated by tales of physicists, great thinkers and even watchmakers of times gone by.

The original Physics Playroom featured an interesting rotating mechanical solar system. I discovered this device is called an orrery – a clockwork representation of the orbits of the planets that make our solar system. Using only cogs and gears it was possible to accurately simulate the motions of distant planetary bodies, incredibly this was achieved over 300 years ago!


The orrery from the original Physics Playroom

The first orrery was created by a pair of very talented watchmakers from London called George Graham and Thomas Tompion, It was presented to Charles Boyle, 4th Earl of Orrery in 1704.

Our orrery has been lovingly crafted using the latest in 3D simulation software and up to the minute data from NASA, however, it looks almost identical to an Orrery from the past. I bet George and Thomas would love to come to The Cube and have a play with ours!

PrtScr capture_3
The new orrery during construction

The new orrery features all the planets (including Pluto, we can’t let it go!) and a selection of planetary moons, all rotating around the sun. If the planets were to rotate at real-time speed, it would take 90,560 days for Pluto to make a single complete orbit, that is almost 250 years! So we have included a speed control to help accelerate and visualise the orbits.

As always we strive to lace our interactives with STEM related curriculum links and the orrery is no exception, our team of STEM teachers and researchers will be creating school workshops and programs linking the orrery to elements included in both the Science and Mathematics learning areas of the Australian National Curriculum. More details about school/holiday programs coming soon.

Unity Education (64bit) - renderScene.unity - PhysicsPlayroom - PC, Mac & Linux Standalone DX11_9
The final orrery in the observatory

And next time we’ll discuss how we managed gravity and how much an elephant may weigh on the surface of the Sun.


Is there an official cut off date for welcoming in the New Year? I say, in this instance, living by that old adage ‘better late than never’, is not such a bad thing to proclaim. It also helps us to keep in mind that we’ve been fabulously busy since the New Year: delivering over 35 holiday and professional development programs, hosting a visiting fellow from the Centre for Engineering Education and Outreach (Tufts University Boston), co-hosting the official Australian launch of LEGO Education WeDo 2.0, developing six new school workshops, and training 15 new and returning staff (including our very first STEAM Education Officer).

So, without further delay, in this Cube Chat post I’d like to take the time to pause, reflect and introduce you to our STEAM facilitators, our tools, and an overview of how we apply these tools through a STEAM framework.

Our team

What do interactive designers, mechatronic engineers, visual artists, electrical engineers, and educators have in common? They’re QUT students, who hail from across the University’s Faculty of Education, Creative Industries Faculty and Science and Engineering Faculty, and play an integral role in making what we do possible. Say hello to this year’s STEAM facilitators.


Our tools and how we use them

We use digital technologies that accommodate multiple access points for learners to engage with, pull apart, reassemble, prototype with, evaluate and be creative with. We believe that in today’s ever-changing digital landscape, it isn’t enough to simply consume technology. Learners need to know how to create with technology.

Our approach to STEAM

We believe that to contribute and identify creative solutions to contemporary challenges demands diverse perspectives. We apply this approach throughout our programs by designing for open-ended solutions, and connecting people with ideas that can be explored through complementary ways of thinking, and processes common, or particular to, the disciplinary lenses of STEAM:


It’s important to recognize that nothing evolves in isolation. We are a hub within a broader learning ecology that is made possible through the connections we make with others: locally, nationally, and globally. To remain relevant, we must remain responsive and open to input from this broader learning web.

By Jacina Leong, Public Programs, The Cube

The Cube acknowledges the influence of our friends, Design Minds, for the inclusion of our ‘Inquire’, ‘Ideate’, ‘Implement’ STEAM phases.


Join the conversation: How are you applying STEAM within the classroom? Tell us via Twitter using #STEAM & @QUTTheCube

Happy 3rd Birthday (part 2)


To continue our reflection of the year that was, this week we hear from our Public Programs team, Jacina Leong and Elise Wilkinson, with some more of The Cube’s highlights from 2015.

  • In May we welcomed educators, curriculum writers, pre-service teachers, and a group of enthusiastic school students from Kelvin Grove State College to Creative Lab: 21st century learning, our partnership program with the Queensland Museum. Participants were introduced to a diverse range of ways to connect students with STEAM using new technologies and systems (games) thinking. Relive the program by watching the Creative Lab video



  • And, in keeping with our love for all things robotics, last but not least, is FIRST LEGO League! Last year’s challenge saw teams of students developing solutions for a sustainable, greener future. We also welcomed the Hon Leeanne Enoch, Minister for Innovation, Science and the Digital Economy and Minister for Small Business, to the event to hear what students had developed. Find out more in this First Lego League blog post


So, what do we have in store for 2016? Plenty. This year, we look forward to:

  • Introducing a new set of weekly workshops for Grades 5 – 10 in Terms 2 – 4. View the 2016 Education Program on our website
  • Welcoming Brian O’Connell, from the Centre for Engineering Education and Outreach, Tufts University, Boston, to facilitate some of our holiday programs
  • Building on our collaboration with Brisbane City Council Library Services through a train-the-trainer model. Stay tuned for more details coming soon
  • Hosting the official Australian launch of the LEGO Education WeDo 2.0

But most of all, we look forward to deepening our connection with the community, welcoming new visitors to The Cube, and continuing to provide inspiring, thought-provoking and engaging STEAM learning experiences for everyone.

Thank you for your continued support and commitment to our programs. You’re all superstars!