All posts by yuchenzhang



Team: Yuchen Zhang, Natasha Lewandrowski, Agustin Crawford (Nevaris)

SoundSorial is an wearable instrument that creates audioscapes based on particulate matter in the surrounding environment. Our goal was to create a portable device that would allow the user to sense air quality information in a way that promotes mindfulness. We utilized the form of a pair of headphones in order to keep the device inconspicuous. However, the function of SoundSorial is to turn the wearer’s attention toward the environment rather than to provide entertainment or distraction.

PM2.5 is a designation that refers to particulate mater that is smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter. In addition to health problems for humans, high levels of PM2.5 can cause haze and reduced visibility, acid rain, change the nutrient balance of coastal waters, and damage sensitive plants and animals including crops. Due to health and environmental concerns the EPA has set an annual PM2.5 standard of 35 millionths of a gram per cubic meter of air in a 24 hour period.

Air pollution is typically visualized in using graphs and charts. These mediums express air pollution as a long term issue. However long term visualizations can make the problem seem like less of an urgent threat. We posed the question, how can we help people to understand air pollution in a way that expresses the urgency, discomfort, and immediacy?

We were influenced by the idea of Dérive, a method of exploration popularized by Guy Debord of the Situationist art movement. A derive is a sort of drifting walk through the city in which participants attempt to let go of their usual motivations and allow themselves to be guided by the psychogeographic contours of the city. We were inspired by this because air pollution also creates invisible boundaries within a city. (image from
We were also inspired by the idea of meditating and mindfulness. In meditation the meditator seeks to become aware of the present moment in order to overcome the suffering that is caused by trying to hang on to past memories or focus on absent desires. Meditation is sometimes practiced through walking. We wanted to create a device that could be used during walking meditation to focus the wearer’s attention on the current state of the air around them.



Below shoes the tools that we have used in making this device.


Before we were settled on the final form of the device, we went through 3 rounds of prototyping with different materials.



In order to create a device that looks close related to nature, we decided on using wood as the enclosure of the product. Below shows how we laser cut sheets of wood and layer them on top of each other to create a three dimensional object.








Thanks to our guest artist Fabiola Einhorn for your contribution!

Paper Prototype of Mobile Lab

Goal of the project: to track the PM 2.5 level throughout our daily activity with a small portable mobile device.
Challenge: How to make this lab small, easy to carry, easy to charge, can test Pm2.5, able to be uploaded to a database and doesn’t look scary to carry around in the public.

Because I need to carry this device on my body on my neck level, around the city especially the subway system. Therefore I need a form of disguise for the device to not look suspicious. What we see very frequently is that, a lot of people wear headphones around their necks even when they are not listening to music. Therefore, I am going to create the mobile lab in the form of headphones.


Below is a simple paper prototype to see if all of my devices would fit in the headphone.



Infrared Optical Dust Sensor
Data Logger
Battery (portable cell phone charger)
3D printed head phone or an existing big headphone to hack.

This is Yuchen Zhang.


Hi I am Yuchen Zhang, currently in my thesis year at Parson’s Design and Technology program. I came from a design background. I am very interested in applying my design thinking with current technology. In this way I hope to use technology that is beneficial to us and our environment.

During my time visiting China, I realized air pollution does not only cause health problems and restrict people’s daily activity, it also affects people’s mood. On a bad day all you can see in China is world of grey. Outside this visible grey range is still more grey. This really made me feel sadness, despair and depression. Last month New Yorkers had their own smog experience. The pollution of air is something that we all have to face eventually on this earth.

In this class I hope to create a device or mobile lab that  anyone can use to detect the level of particulate matter that is smaller than 2.5 micrometres (PM 2.5) in their neighbourhood or city.  This project will also be open source where people can modify, change and expand upon the code and physical device. In some regions air pollution is not limited to particulate matter but also chemical contamination. I am interested in understanding and researching what chemical pollution is in the air and where these pollutants. Furthermore I hope to change people’s habits which produce air pollution and even help them find economic benefits in reducing air pollution.

These are two projects that I found impressive in how they solved problems which no one else thought were possible or doable.


The Ocean Clean Up” project is started by Boyan Slat, who started this project during secondary school. His project gathered people from all over the world to build a system that passively cleans the floating plastic bottles and pieces in the ocean. It utilizes the naturally occurring ocean waves to carry plastic pieces towards a wide barrier floating on the ocean. Then the plastics are carried up by a conveyor belt into storage, where later they are shipped to facilities to recycle.


The second project ,“The Silk Leaf,” was created by Julian Melchiorri who graduated from the Royal College of Art. This manmade leaf can perform photosynthesis like a real leaf without being planted in soil. This could not only help improve your personal airspace while traveling but also helpful for improving our air in office buildings and houses by incorporating this material in our ventilation systems.

Both of these projects gave me motivation and inspiration to create technology that turns something environmentally impossible to possible.