Here’s how you can get your free rapid tests and N95 masks

Americans can now order at-home COVID-19 rapid tests for free through covidtests.gov, which launched Wednesday as part of a White House initiative. 

Orders — which only require your name and home address — come in a set of four individual antigen tests and are expected to begin shipping late January through the U.S. Postal Service. There’s a limit of one order per residential household.

The administration also announced Wednesday that 400 million N95 masks will be available at community health centers and retail pharmacies across the country for free starting next week as part of a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention effort to properly mask Americans.

The CDC updated its mask recommendations this week, in which it clarified that N95 masks, surgical masks and respirators “provide more protection to the wearer” than cloth masks.

Meet Lucas Ramirez, Mountain View’s new mayor

Lucas Ramirez first took an interest in politics because of the Caltrain. When he was a college student during the 2008 recession, there were concerns that budgetary constraints imposed on the Caltrain, which he took every day, would limit its service: the first time he saw the direct effect that local government had on his life. Now, as of last week’s council meeting, he’s officially the mayor of Mountain View.

“I was able to learn a lot about what city work does, and its importance on quality of life and just how people are able to live and work and play in their communities. It’s sort of stuck,” Ramirez said.

As mayor, Ramirez said that Mountain View will continue to tackle issues of housing and support the community throughout the pandemic. The council’s top priority is focusing on the goals outlined in its strategic roadmap, which consists of seven key areas, including intentional development & housing options, mobility and connectivity, sustainability & climate resiliency and economic vitality, according to Ramirez.

Lucas Ramirez. (via City of Mountain View)

Ramirez has worked with the City of Mountain View, his hometown, for nearly a decade now; he was first appointed to the human relations commission, then the planning commission, then city council, and at last being elected mayor. He served as vice mayor last year.

“One thing I like about local government [is that] anyone can get involved,” Ramirez said. “I’m not special. I studied music in college when I didn’t have any plans to go into local government. It just sort of occurred naturally because I had a particular interest in something.”

After college, Ramirez returned to Mountain View, where he became involved in community groups focusing on transportation, including the League of Women Voters, in which he said he “learned through osmosis.”

And while being mayor of Mountain View is his “night job,” Ramirez’s “day job” is also in local government — he’s on the staff of a councilmember in San Jose.

“I’m excited to be mayor, but also nervous; it’s a tremendous responsibility,” Ramirez said. “There’s a lot of work and I work full time, so it’s going to be challenging to balance both of the positions I have: my day job and then this role [but] I think it will be an extraordinary and amazing experience.”

Ramirez said he’s especially looking forward to addressing housing this upcoming year, in which a major component will be the housing element — a document that outlines city housing strategies for the next eight years.

“I think it will take a lot of thought and it’s very important to get community on that document that will shape our future, not just the next year, but the next 30 years,” Ramirez said. “So it will be very important to make sure all voices are heard and come up with some consistency about how the city will grow.”

Additionally, the city will shape two housing proposals in the North Bayshore and East Whisman locations. If implemented, these plans would create new communities and neighborhoods, while replacing suburban office parks.

Other significant plans noted by Ramirez for this year include implementing state laws — such as SB-9, which changes single family zoning — and considering recommendations from the city’s public safety advisory board on school resource officers.

“We have been beset by calamity after calamity,” Ramirez said. “The challenges that we’ve had to contend with are numerous and unrelenting. … In this difficult context, the residents of Mountain View have selected the seven [councilmembers] to represent them, to advocate for them, and to conduct the business of the city. Maybe I’m a little biased, but I think they’ve assembled a stellar team.”

A previous version of this story incorrectly stated Ramirez was a high schooler during 2008. He was a college student at Santa Clara University.

 

Mountain View High’s Dance Spectrum holds winter showcase after two years

A sea of students in coordinating pink shirts flooded Mountain View High’s football field Friday at lunch in Dance Spectrum’s annual winter showcase, the culmination of a semester’s worth of hard work.  

The annual showcase is put on by Dance Spectrum, Mountain View High’s “student centered dance program,” and consists of only student-choreographed pieces. This year’s performance featured approximately 150 students from five classes.

“Well, it’s our first one back from quarantine, which is really exciting,” said Allie Nguyen, Dance Spectrum President. “[And] it’s our first year having five classes instead of four, so the program has just got really huge [which is] also really exciting.”

This year’s theme was “Destination Dance” and featured a sequence of routines — each created around a city, state or country — including a hip hop routine to “Miami” by Will Smith, a dance called “New York, New Dork,” (which Nguyen describes as “very pedestrian and, like, girlboss in the city”) and a Eurovision themed piece. 

Each of the five classes — intermediate dance, advanced dance, world dance, and two periods of jazz dance — had its own class piece, all of which were performed at the show in addition to one audition dance and the show’s finale.

“At the end, there’s our big Dance Spectrum hip hop number,” said dance teacher Lauren Kato, “Each class has their own little hop hop section for a minute, and then all of Dance Spectrum, all 150 members come together at the end and dance together.”

While the show was located on the football field this year, that’s not usually the case: typically the winter showcase takes place in the big gym.

“On the football field there’s the yard lines and the little ticks, and that makes it very noticeable when people are not in formations,” said Kato, “So spacing has really been a challenge and is becoming more important, as opposed to, in past years when we’re in the gym.”

And that’s not the only setback dancers have faced. Kato said the sheer size of the field has forced students to spread out and learn to become more expansive with their movement. Students who typically dance barefoot have also turned to jazz shoes to avoid “crumb rubber,” the black rubber pieces from turf. But there has been a silver lining. 

“I think that teaching, at least this semester with COVID has taught all of us, including myself, to just enjoy our moments together,” Kato said. “I’m trying to make it as wonderful for the students and as realistic as possible, even though we’re out on the field.”

Because students have needed more time to adjust to the field, the classes have been held outside for the past two weeks, instead of the usual few days of practice in the gym, which has “actually proven to be very helpful,” according to Kato. 

“I might actually implement that again next year because I feel like the students are more prepared,” Kato said.

According to Nguyen, coming out of quarantine and dancing in a large group has been both exciting and nerve wracking for the dancers, but because they’re all so passionate about it, the process has been rewarding and “everyone’s really enjoying themselves.”

“Just dancing with everyone back together again [has been exciting] because it’s so lonely doing it at home, like, over Zoom. So it’s quite nice having everyone back and we’re all cheering for each other and stuff,” Nguyen said.

“It’s not so much about the costumes and the glitzy glam that usually we sometimes think about with the show,” Kato said. “It’s more about the togetherness, enjoying each others’ company and just coming together to dance because everyone loves to dance and that’s why they’re here.”

First case of Omicron variant detected in Santa Clara County

Santa Clara County health officials on Friday reported detecting the county’s first case of the Omicron variant, which has been widely anticipated by health officials since the variant first made its way to the United States earlier this month.

The variant was detected in a resident who had recently returned from domestic travel, and while fully vaccinated, had not yet received the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine booster. The individual is currently in isolation. 

“The main message now is the importance of boosters — two initial shots are not enough,” said Dr. Marty Fenstersheib, the county’s vaccine officer. “Boosters have been shown to offer a great deal of additional protection from serious COVID-19 infection.”

Santa Clara County’s test positivity rate currently sits at 1.7% to the broader state’s 2.7%, a level that it’s hovered at since mid-September. During last winter’s surge, the county’s test positivity rate sat at around 9%.

79.4% of county residents in all age groups have been fully vaccinated, while 90.8% of residents ages 12 and up and 84.5% of residents ages 5 and up have done the same. All adults — and, as of Thursday, 16- to 17-year olds too — are eligible for the booster shot. Santa Clara County residents can schedule an appointment at sccfreevax.org.

Snoozing, parking, pooping and eating at school: All off limits thanks to new Instagram accounts

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably seen accounts like @lahs_sleeps, @mvhs_badparking and @palybathroomshoes pop up all over Instagram. It seems like these days, there’s not much we can do on campus without the fear of landing ourselves on the next Instagram post. (These days being literally, like, the last five days.)

Parking, going to the bathroom, snoozing in class, slouching in class, eating bananas and eating anything anywhere seem to be off limits if you’re hoping to avoid landing on the designated Instagram account (@lahs.bad.posture, @mvhsbananacam, @lahs_eatingcam, etc.). So all of this has got us wondering: Who’s behind these accounts? What’s the point? And what’s next?

Your favorite ardent student journalists — us, obviously — took it upon ourselves to find the answers.

For anybody that ISN’T aware of this stuff: High schoolers are creating Instagram accounts where they post photos submitted by other students who spot classmates engaged in the designated subject matter (sleeping in class, parking poorly, etc.). And usually they’re pretty hilarious. It’s all a part of a broader national trend, thanks to TikTok.

Of a multitude of hilarious accounts on the Paly, Gunn, Los Altos and Mountain View campuses, @gunnbathroomshoes is one of the oldest (started on Nov. 9). We weren’t able to reach them for comment, but we DID talk to @palybathroomshoes, which has been around for almost as long. It has 287 followers, and the Gunn account has 430.

The account’s dedicated to posting under-the-stall pictures — taken mostly by strangers, according to one of the anonymous account admins — of students’ shoes.

“I can tell what kind of person someone is by their shoes in a way,” one admin said. “Converse can be artsy or basic, and combat boots tend to be worn by goth people. People with dirty shoes tend to be in the bathrooms changing for sports.”

The idea was born when the three friends discussed it at a dinner and thought it could be a hit, especially following the creation of @gunnbathroomshoes, which was created by a friend of one of the Paly account admins.

“It’s interesting how close I am to other people in bathroom stalls but no one ever talks, so in a way it feels violating for no reason,” the admin said.

As for privacy, the account will take down bathroom shoe posts upon request, and the owners say they aren’t concerned about school administrative action. For now, it seems @palybathroomshoes will live on for “as long as people send us bathroom shoes.”

And the fun isn’t limited to just Gunn and Paly! The two most-followed accounts at Los Altos (which also has its very own bathroom shoes account), are @lahs_sleeps and @lahs.bad.posture, and you can probably guess what they’re up to.

“We’re fixing the posture of LAHS one post at a time,” said one of @lahs.bad.posture’s admins, both of whom are seniors. “Carrying the spine health of the student body on our back, if you will.”

The account, which already has 30 posts and 389 followers since starting this Tuesday, features photos of students in the library, quad, 400 wing and classrooms — basically anywhere — sitting with bad posture. Ruthless.

What kind of criteria do the account admins have for “bad posture?” Well, it sounds like there’s nothing too strict. But the only time two of them haven’t posted a photo is when somebody asked them to take it down — something that’s only happened once, and it was one of their friends.

@lahs_sleeps, which posts photos of students snoozing in class, has more strict submission criteria.

“I’ve only had the account for a couple days, but I’ve already gotten about 75 submissions,” said the account admin, who’s a junior. “There have been some pretty bad submissions, like when the person is not even sleeping or they’re obviously staging it. … I know it’s staged when I can see the person in the photo smiling or something like that. They’re still pretty hilarious, but for now I’m not posting them because it doesn’t seem as fun.”

And that formula seems to be working: Since starting the account on Tuesday, the account already has 45 posts and 537 followers. Both @lahs_sleeps and @lahs.bad.posture had thoughts on respecting privacy, and where to draw the line.

“Most of the accounts going around are pretty funny, but I feel like some of them do push the boundaries,” said @lahs.bad.posture’s admin, listing a couple accounts that we won’t link to. “I think going too far is making fun of people for something they can’t really fix right away.”

Posture, they noted, is something you can fix quickly: It’s “no big deal.”

“There have been some pretty concerning accounts which just ruin the fun of it,” said @lahs_sleeps’s admin. “I’ve seen accounts targeting people of color, special education students and a lot of other pretty mean stuff. Thankfully most of them get reported and suspended pretty quickly, though.”

We weren’t able to independently verify the existence of such accounts — probably because they’ve been taken down. 

“Since the start, I’ve made it clear that I’m respecting people’s privacy, so I’ve said in my bio that you can request a photo of you be taken down, which has happened already,” said @lahs_sleeps’s admin.

It should be noted that Los Altos also has a “bad parking” account, taking inspiration from its Mountain View equivalent, @mvhs_badparking, which first appeared in early October with its signature posts critiquing the parking jobs of students and sporting captions such as “Park more to the left next time” and “Yikes.”

The first of these accounts to emerge within local schools, @mvhs_badparking’s charm has allowed it to surpass 500 followers. While the account doesn’t shy away from capturing “Monday madness” (which is realistically a week-long occurrence), it does censor license plates in its posts. The account sadly did not respond to our interview request.

But luckily for us (and you!) @mvhsbananacam did respond. The account captures students, as the name might suggest, eating bananas, and has racked up 278 followers since late November.

One might ask: Why bananas? While the admin gained inspiration from TikTok, there’s a second, surprisingly logical reason: They’re already all over campus at brunch.

“[The account’s] probably going to last until people stop sending in pictures or when the brunch ladies stop giving out bananas,” the anonymous admin said.

The account has posted all but one photo that it has received: a photo of “just a banana [with] a fork in it.”

“No clue what’s going on there,” the admin said.

Nearly all of these submissions are sent in by “random” other students, with only a select few knowing the admin’s true identity. So, how is the admin feeling about it all? And what’s the account’s secret to gaining followers?

“[I was] a bit [surprised by the number of followers], but we spam requested like 150, so not too much,” the admin said.

What do students think of this? Well, the general consensus seems to be that the accounts are hilarious. But some are probably thinking twice about doing things that they might’ve otherwise done if it weren’t for these accounts.

“The bathroom feet one honestly makes me so scared to even use LAHS bathrooms at this point,” said @lahs.bad.posture’s admin.

“Honestly yeah, [I’m terrified], because I have terrible posture and I eat like an idiot,” said Los Altos sophomore Katie Skaggs.

State Street Market introduces new “after school special” menu

STORY BY NAINA SRIVASTAVA, PHOTO BY TOMOKI CHIEN

State Street Market, an upscale food hall in Downtown Los Altos, is launching a new “after school special” menu catered toward students.

The menu consists of pizza, sliders and drinks ranging from $5–$10, and is available from 3 to 5 p.m., Wednesday through Friday. It is a permanent feature of the food hall, although items on the menu are subject to change.

“I think in order to have a real community hub, we need to make sure that the food hall is affordable for anyone who goes there, especially students,” said Robert Hindman of Los Altos Community Investments, who launched the food hall project five years ago and oversees its ongoing development.

While Hindman observed many students hanging out in Downtown Los Altos, and highlighted its close proximity to local high schools, he said he saw a lack of places for them to sit down and do homework (or even make TikTok videos, he thoughtfully noted).

“We’d like to create an atmosphere where students could feel welcomed, and also have an affordable after school lunch or meal,” he said.

According to Hindman, the food hall was created with the goal of facilitating a sense of community in mind and he hopes the new after school menu will play to that goal.

“We wanted the food hall to be a community hub,” Hindman said, “People connect over food and drinks, right? And especially coming out of the pandemic, that’s really important.” 

The food hall itself opened in early September and Hindman describes it as “still in opening stages,” with six of the 12 “concepts” (restaurants) currently open. 

According to Hindman, Los Altos Community Investments and the team behind the food hall have additional plans to implement programs in 2022, like cooking classes to be hosted in the hall’s “teaching kitchen” beginning early next year.

“This program, I think, will be one of many to roll out and they’ll all continue to evolve depending on the appeal of the programs and the feedback that we receive from customers,” Hindman said.

Mountain View bans plastic foodware starting 2023

STORY BY NAINA SRIVASTAVA, PHOTO BY ARYA NASIKKAR

Starting 2023, all restaurants in Mountain View will be banned from providing plastic foodware per the city council foodware ordinance.

The council unanimously passed the ordinance on Nov. 9, which requires all restaurants to provide compostable fiber-based or aluminum containers — or opt for reusable options — and bans all plastic, compostable plastic and foam containers. The ban also encompasses accessories such as straws, stirrers and toothpicks that are made or packaged in plastic, with an exception for individuals who need plastic straws for medical reasons.

“I’m hoping that restaurants will see this as a positive thing and will maybe even embrace it earlier than they have to,” said Councilmember Alison Hicks.

Hicks stressed the environmental and health benefits, but also a potential increased customer base for restaurants who choose to adopt policies earlier than required.

According to analyst Erin Brewster, who presented the ordinance to the council, single-use plastics compose two thirds of all litter in the Bay Area; the council aims to combat this issue through the new ordinance. The city is following an “education-first” strategy, administering citations as a last resort and enforcing the ordinance based on complaints.

“The goal is to assist businesses in coming into compliance with the regulations.” Brewster said at the meeting. “This has been a successful approach to enforcing the existing foam foodware regulations and the reusable bag ordinance.”

The ordinance builds on several existing restrictions, including Assembly Bills 1276 and 1200, which limit single-use accessories to only upon-request, and ban food packaging with toxic PFAS, respectively. It also builds on with prior city actions such as the Zero Waste Plan, passed in 2019 in anticipation of Senate Bill 1383.

The ordinance also addresses potential financial concerns, including increased expenses for compostable items.

“After extensive research and comparison, we found that for most foodware types, there are compliance items in a similar price range as non-compliant items,” Brewster said.

Mountain View council declares “Stage 1” water shortage emergency

STORY BY NAINA SRIVASTAVA, PHOTO BY ARYA NASIKKAR

The Mountain View City Council unanimously declared a Stage 1 water shortage emergency at Tuesday’s council meeting, a move that builds on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s July declaration of a drought emergency.

The city’s water shortage plan consists of four “Stages of Action,” which demand reductions of 10%, 25%, 40% and more than 40%, chronologically. These conservation quotas are tracked at a system level as opposed to being enforced on the individual level.

Stage 1, which is the first level of the plan, focuses on increasing public outreach for conservation and water waste. An outreach plan is soon to be implemented as staff work with Valley Water, Bay Area Water Supply & Conservation Agency, and San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

“I think that this is a very necessary step and it’s something that I’m strongly supporting,” said councilmember Sally Leiber at Tuesday’s meeting. “I’ve actually been contacted by a number of constituents who have asked why this step wasn’t already being taken … our community in Mountain View is very conscious and I think this will be a very helpful step in increasing that behavior.”

According to Water Resources Manager Elizabeth Flegel, the majority of Mountain View’s water usage is allocated to residential uses and large landscape irrigation.

“What we’re asking customers to do right now is to reduce irrigation,”  Flegel said. “We’ve had a wet couple of weeks, [so] people have turned off irrigation, but if that doesn’t continue, we encourage people to be mindful of their irrigation.”

The city website lists conservation programs that allow citizens to measure the water usage of their appliances and ways that they can conserve, including rebates and water audits.

If the response to the Stage 1 shortage is inadequate or higher levels of conservation are required, the shortage will progress to Stage 2 and residents can expect restrictions and prohibitions on several non-essential water uses: irrigation would be restricted to certain times and days, and washing paved surfaces and vehicles as well as filling decorative fountains would be prohibited, among other measures. 

“Staff will continue to monitor conservation savings and precipitation levels this winter as well as possible actions taken by the state and the city’s wholesale water suppliers to determine if additional action becomes necessary,” Flegel said.

“My favorite part of Monday”: Red Rock Coffee’s open mics are back

STORY BY NAINA SRIVASTAVA, PHOTOS BY ALLISON HUANG

In a cozy nook brimming with laughter and music, Red Rock Coffee’s weekly open mics have for years drawn the attention of musicians and visitors alike.

And after a long pandemic-induced pause, the independent coffee shop can proudly say that the open mics are back, now taking place on Monday nights from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. 

“I think it’s just great to have people being together again,” said Jake Wichman, open mic host of six years. “It’s good for the artists to be around other artists and get inspiration from them, and also just for people to have a sense of normalcy again. It’s my favorite part of Monday.”

Red Rock has been hosting open mics on its second floor since 2005, but for a time, the future of its open mics was uncertain; the pandemic had left the coffee shop on the verge of shutting down entirely. However, an anonymous buyer purchased the cafe, with the intent of preserving its place in the community.

“There were a few weeks where we thought we might lose the open mic,” Wichman said. “I still have no idea who purchased Red Rock, but when we found out it was [purchased], it was a huge breath of fresh air.”

Red Rock’s secret savior may even be camouflaged among crowds of other open mic attendees, perhaps enjoying a cup of coffee while listening to the lineup of performers. 

The open mic holds a special place in the hearts of many customers for the sense of community that it provides. 

General Manager Jean Boulanger affirmed Red Rock’s importance to the community. 

“People can come and be a part of something, be seen and be heard … we provide that ‘third place’ after home and work,” she said.

Every Monday night, the open-mic room houses an eager crowd; performers, from shy newcomers to roaring regulars, take turns under the spotlight. 

“We want our open mic to be a place for anyone of any age or skill level to feel like they can come and have an attentive audience,” Wichman said. “We try to have a good sound system, good lighting, so people can really feel like they’re getting a full show experience.”

A wide range of songs — from covers of popular songs to unique originals — ensures that listeners are never bored.

Wichman encourages anyone who is thinking about performing to take the leap and visit an open mic.

“I would love to just continue to see more people come and experience [the open mic] because we’re a place where you’re not going to be judged, you’re not going to be critiqued for your performance — we’re just here to have fun,” Wichman said. “We want to enjoy art and support each other and lift each other up.”

Red Rock Coffee is located at 201 Castro St. Mountain View, CA. This open mic takes place on its second floor on Mondays from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Code:ART festival brings interactive installations by local artists to Downtown Palo Alto

STORY BY NAINA SRIVASTAVA, PHOTOS BY EMILY YAO

Interactive displays scattered the streets of Downtown Palo Alto with ambient music and colorful lighting in Code:ART, an “interactive new media festival.”

The festival, which ran from Oct. 7–9 and consisted of seven displays, was hosted by the City of Palo Alto Public Art Program in an ongoing effort to reimagine public spaces through art and technology. 

PALEOALTO (MARPI STUDIO AND COLOUR FEEDERS)

“Paleoalto” was the the anchor of the festival. The piece, displayed in Lytton Plaza, is a collaboration between Marpi Studio (led by creative technologist and artist Marpi) and system designers and installers at Colour Feeders. The interactive installation transports visitors to the Paleolithic Era, filled with unconventional creatures which they can interact with and mesmerizing music.

“From a design perspective, it was kind of like a portal through a digital ruin back to Paleolithic times, which is why this is [named] ‘Paleoalto,’” said Kevin Colorado, architect and co-founder of Colour Feeders.“It’s an imagining of creatures that may have been here at the time.”

Colorado said the final product makes countless hours of planning and setup worthwhile. 

“The best part about it is that when I’m doing it for myself, it’s fun, not work … [and] seeing people’s reactions to it and knowing that the concept is actually understood by other people makes it all worth it,” Colorado said.

Especially with digital art being less mainstream than traditional mediums, Colorado praised the festival for allowing increased visibility for the emerging art medium. 

“I think that digital art is still a pretty nascent industry, and because of that public exposure is very limited,” Colorado said. “So I’m really thankful and impressed that Palo Alto invited us here. And it gives [an] opportunity for people to finally begin to take the medium seriously.”

COLOR CURRENTS (CORY BARR)

A projection of colorful ripples in Cory Barr’s  “COLOR CURRENTS” plays with the ideas of motion and color space. 

“Every dot that you see moves that way because someone has moved that way,” Barr said. “It remembers how people have come up and viewed it and moved around in front of it.”

The installation has two modes which alternate every seven minutes: one fluid and one static, although both share the same general idea.

Barr’s piece ties movement to the color wheel: when participants move to the right, it creates red, and when they move left, the complementary color of cyan is created. Up and down movements create yellow and green, respectively.

“It’s interesting seeing people use it in ways that they didn’t really think of. Some people will really like [the static] mode because they’ll try and be very conscientious about sculpting,” Barr said. “After a while they’ll be like ‘Oh, it’s remembering.’ … And [it’s interesting] when people understand they’re leaving behind their motion.”

This piece in particular only took Barr around a week to create, though it’s based on other similar projects which use the same camera-based interaction that he has been working on for several years. 

“Code offers a lot of possibilities,” Barr said. “Versus some traditional medium, it’s really good if you’re an artist who likes to use repetition and rhythm and things like that; it’ll set you up to explore some patterns and visual languages that you couldn’t with your hand.”

COSMIC CANNON (JEFFREY YIP)

Inspired by the natural world of geometry and spirituality, the pyramidal “COSMIC CANNON” by Jeffrey Yip allows visitors to collaborate through art and sound.

“I wanted to do a public intervention and essentially create a sense of play,” Yip said. “In public places, we often just get from point A to point B and there isn’t [much] play emphasized in our everyday lives.”

Creating a piece for visitors — ranging from friends to family to strangers — to interact with each other through sound was also a priority to Yip. 

“Each of the buttons do a different kind of fixed thing, so one does a bass, one does a sound effect and one does a melody,” Yip said. “If people are putting it together, it can create music.” 

“It was definitely a lot of trial and error; [I] learned a lot, made some mistakes [and] corrected them,” Yip said. “I still don’t have it at 100%. There are still things I want to tweak with it now that I have it up and see that it’s going.”

Still, displaying his installation at Code:ART has been a rewarding experience for Yip.

“[I love] just seeing people’s smiles and seeing the reactions on people’s faces and the kids — it’s been really nice to see them interact with it now,” Yip said.

CODED ARCHITECTURES (AMOR MUNOZ)

Tiles of black and white run down the side of an alleyway forming “CODED ARCHITECTURES,” an interactive mural by Amor Munoz, who aimed to create a connection between technology, architecture and society through her piece.

The combination of black and white is inspired by binary code from computers.

Visitors of the interactive mural were provided with a binary alphabet postcard, which they must use to decipher the encoded message. The displayed message changes daily. 

Editor’s note: We unfortunately weren’t able to get an interview with Munoz.

HYDRALA (DANIEL TRAN AND NICK SOWERS)

“HYDRALA,” a sculpture which emits audio based on visitors’ movements, is suspended between four magnolia trees in front of City Hall. The installation deviates from the typically solely visual experience of a sculpture in favor of an “immersive, ambient experience.”

The collaborative project between Daniel Tran, a sculptor, and Nick Sowers, an architect and sound artist, who have known each other since architecture school was the result of months of planning.

“[Tran] came to my sound studio and we tried plugging in a transducer, which is part of a speaker that creates the vibrations,” Sowers said. “And when we put that transducer on the sculpture, it turns the whole sculpture into a speaker. ”

The final installation contains four transducers, which play sounds reacting to people underneath the sculpture. 

“I chose some instruments which are specifically designed for his sculpture that are using the frequencies which are naturally resonant in the material,” Sowers said. “That was quite a process — quite a wonderful process really [of] just trying to hone it down [and determine] what sounds good inside of the sculpture.”

“I’ve seen like two-year olds playing this thing — they’re playing with these little dishes and then [see] the joy when they hear that something that they just did has created a sound,” Sowers said. “Kids and old people, a lot of people have gotten delight out of this, but I get the most joy by seeing their joy.”

I/O (BEN FLATAU AND OTHERS)

The installation titled “I/O” (input/output) by architect Ben Flatau (and various architects, designers and technologists) provided visitors with a challenge: to find the correct pattern of symbols and reveal a hidden message. The puzzle consisted of spinning boxes, which visitors moved to create the correct pattern, and input and output sides.

“It’s a piece of technology that’s meant to highlight the good and the bad of technology — that technology can be a powerful force, but it can also be a force that divides us,” said Scott Bezeck, a software engineer who worked on the project.

The planning process for the installation began in late 2019, but picked up in the recent months leading up to Code:ART. 

“Ben reached out to me kind of randomly since I tinker with display technology like this in my free time, with the idea for this piece and then we were working together remotely during COVID to plan it,” Bezeck said. “And then finally in the last few months we were able to put our different pieces together and come together to build the final thing.”

The entirety of the display was made up of 4,320 individual flaps, the result of a myriad of contributors.

“It’s just been cool seeing people’s excitement and interest and in playing and working together on finding the solutions to the puzzles,” Bezeck said.

LUMINOUS GROWTH (LIZ HICKOK, PHIL SPITLER AND JAMIE BANES)

A large scale projection and sculptural installation, “LUMINOUS GROWTH” by artists Liz Hickok, Phil Spitler and Jamie Banes, allows visitors to explore the uncharted territory of a model city slowly being covered with crystals.

Hickok served as the crystal and photography expert, Spitler produced the 360 degree video and coding and Banes built the cityscape.

“We built a model and then we loaded it with crystals and the crystals grew all over it,” creative technologist Spitler said. “We put a camera in the middle [and] filmed it over two weeks… [which is] what is being projected.”

Using an iPad, visitors can navigate the installation and control where they are looking.

“The inspiration was partly with climate change and just this city being taken over — the crystals grow over this city and take over and we don’t have any control over that,” Spitler said.

A unique aspect of the project that Spitler found joy in was the unknown. 

“With this [project], it was a chemical reaction, so we didn’t really know what was going to happen,” Spitler said. “We filmed it over a two week period but we didn’t really know what we were going to get until we looked at the footage. It’s that kind of surprise moment that’s really gratifying.”

After nearly two years of conceptualizing the installation and three attempts to perfect the crystal growth, it was finally displayed.

“The kids are just like ‘wow’ because they’re so used to seeing things that are made digitally … but then to actually see the sculpture here … the surprise and delight in that has been really rewarding,” Spitler said.