Making Graffiti With Lasers: Art and Engineering



James Powderly, street performer and ex-NASA employee, describes himself as “somewhere between an artist and an engineer”. Well, after you see some of the amazing things he has done with projection mapping and his art, you’ll agree that he has both enhanced art with engineering, vise versa, and really showcases the power of STEM to STEAM thinking.

The image on the left is an example of Powderly’s art, using projection technology to map the surface of an object or structure, and both display computer imagery and live paint on that surface.  He has traveled around the world doing art shows for a few years now, quite a change of lifestyle since working with NASA on the Mars Exploration Rover and the Phoenix Lander.

His art is gorgeous to experience and brings the interactive art medium to a whole new level, but his truly inspirational work is something else entirely; something that truly shows how STEM and Art can combine to radically change people’s lives for the better. Joining together with members of the Free Art and Technology (FAT) Lab, OpenFrameworks, and the Graffiti Research Lab, Powderly worked with Evan Roth, Chris Sugrue, Zach Lieberman, Theo Watson, and legendary graffiti artist and writer/activist Tony Quan, aka TEMPTONE, to create EyeWriter.

EyeWriter is an open source, collaborative project to assist people suffering from ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis).  This project uses eye-tracking technology to allow people like Tony Quan, whose entire body is


Eye Writer

paralyzed with the exception of his eyes, to use a computer and be able to draw.  Powderly developed a graphic art program used with the eye-tracking technology of EyeWriter to allow users to focus on areas their eyes rest on to create points, and use marquee selection methods to create works of art.  Thanks to the combined efforts of engineers and artists, “Tony Quan wrote for the first time in seven years, using his eyes.”

To find out more about James Powderly, visit The Creators Project, a joint project between Intel and Vice to celebrate and bring notice to creativity, culture, and technology.