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An Interactive & Participatory Performance on Climate Engineering

In the face of an imminent global climate crisis and lack of global action, some scientists believe climate engineering is inevitable. In thinking of ways to mitigate the effects of climate change, what variables should go into risk assessment? Are technological fixes simply a manifestation of human’s perennial desires to control our environments? 

Popeye features an interactive machine with a SIM card and barometric sensor. The machine carries “rain-making bacteria” Pseudomonas syringae1, which is released if specific weather conditions are met and launch permission is granted through a voting app. Through participatory performance and discussions, participants are encouraged to reflect on the implications of climate engineering critically.

Public Showcase

The project is showcased on Governors Island on September 2, 2019 through an invitation by Triangle Arts Association. We also showed the project at the NYC School of Data Conference (part of NYC Open Data Week) in 2020.
Concept, Interaction & Visual Design, Physical Computing, Fabrication

Rui An

Arduino, Figma, InVision, Adobe Photoshop, JavaScript, HTML/CSS, MongoDB, 3D Printing, Laser Cutting

Process: Test-flight, Site Visits, Protein Extraction  

The first prototype was controlled through text messages and was flown at a park at lower Manhattan. In the second iteration, the machine is controlled via a voting app, data is stored in a database, and an RC camera is attached at the bottom. We visited Governors Island several times for site visits to test the connectivity of our machine and the live camera feed. The biggest challenge is to navigate the limited internet connectivity on the island. We also extracted protein from tomato plants — which Pseudomonas syringae commonly infect.

Winnie and Rui assembling Popeye the machine
Winnie flying Popeye the machine with a weather balloon

Protein Extraction with liquid nitrogen pouring over tomato plant
A child flying a weather balloon, guided by Winnie

Process: Fabrication 

The Popeye machine is built using found objects, laser-cut acrylic, and 3D printed parts.
Screen capture of 3D modelled element
Close up of the physical elements in Popeye the machine


  • Arduino 1500 GSM
  • Servo Motor
  • Lipo Battery
  • BME Humidity, Barometric Pressure, Temperature Sensor
  • SIM Card
  • RC Camera (Live Capture on Right)

Voting App Design

Weather data are sent from the sensor to database in real-time, once set condition is met, participants can begin to vote. The voting result, also stored in the database, is visualized in real-time.


In the workshop, I introduced current climate engineering technologies, as well as the precautionary principle debate2. I then asked the participants to vote on whether they will deploy the technology in different future scenarios.

"Who are these 20%, 100,000 people [who will be affected by the potential damage of the new technology] — is it just a random sample of human being? It’s probably going to be people who are already suffering. There’s a mathematical calculation that you can do but there’s also a social justice dimension."
— A participant’s reflection
Winnie giving a presentation on climate engineeringParticipants talking in the workshop


The Trust for Governors Island, Triangle Arts Association, Tom Igoe, Dr. Elizabeth Hénaff, Eugene Tan, Vince Shao, Shuju Lin and Ashley LeDesma.

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