The Pasta Cycle

Jason Krugman

A kinetic sculpture that both highlights the joy of pasta and pleases the most refined aesthetic sensibilities.


Classes Living Art,Mechanisms and Things That Move

The Pasta Cycle gets its name from an early prototype in which magnets rotating on its surface pushed elbow maccaroni around to form concentric circle patterns. The Pasta Cycle's 2 x 2 foot box contains a rotating wheel covered in rare Earth magnets. As the wheel is spun around by a motor, it creates varying magnetic fields on the surface of the box, allowing the user to place magnets on it which get dragged along by the magnets on the wheel. The user can then place various materials on the surface of the box that get interfered with by the sliding magnets. Marbles and elbow maccaroni are the two materials of choice at this time.

Originally, I was investigating hanging magnet installations and rolling ball magnet toys. I intended to make a sculpture that included many hanging magnets that would repell one another. In order to do this, I determined that I would need to mount the magnets on dowels. However, an ITP student made a very similary sculpture two years ago that I became aware of during my investigation process. I decided to figure out another project relating to magnets. I knew that I would have to afix the magnets to a rigid structure to prevent them from flipping over and sticking to one another. That was where the rotating wheel idea came from.

Everyone. I have made 2 versions of this project. The original version involves elbow maccaroni and the newer version involves black marbles. The maccaroni version is geared towards younger users, while the marbles version is more of an art piece, based on a more refined aesthetic. I can easilly switch between the two by lifting off an extra layer of glass on the top and replacing it with another. The maccaroni and marbles sit on top of the glass layer.

User Scenario
The user is intrigued by moving objects and appealing aesthetic when they are looking at the piece from afar. They cannot tell what is making the marbles (pasta) move and it intrigues them. As the magnet is dragged along the plexi surface of the box, it lifts up one marble at a time. The magnet is dragged around in a circle, pulled by one the magnets fixed to the rotating wheel within the box. It thus creates a circular pattern as it lifts the marbles. There is a large knob on the box that the user can manipulate to change the speed of the wheel.

The picture associated with this project is an early prototype - the newer one is painted and the marbles and pasta are not on the top together. The piece is 2 x 2 feet and 1 foot tall. Its exterior is made of painted pine boards. It has a large black knob on one side. The top is covered by a piece of plexi. There is a removable 2 x 2 foot mirror that can be placed over the plexi and a second removable piece of plexi. The marbles will sit on the removable plexi sheet and the pasta will sit on the mirror. There is a wood rim that sits on top of all of it, preventing the marbles or pasta from spilling off of the box. The interior of the box contains a DC motor whose speed is controled by a potentiometer attached to the knob. There is also a breadboard and an Arduino afixed to the inside of the box. A 18" wheel is mounted on an axel within the box. The motor is coupled to the axel and turns the wheel at varying speeds.

I learned a lot about the way magnets interact. Also, I had to rebuild the interior of the box several times. I started out using plastic gears from a printer. It was very difficult to get the motor to transfer torque through the gears to spin the wheel. As more and more magnets were being pulled around by the wheel, the friction increased a lot and the torque quickly got too much for the mechanism to handle. Similarly, when I coupled the motor to the shaft with pins and a coupler, I repeatedly sheared the pins because of the high torque. To solve this, I moved the plexi further away from the wheel and used less magnets.