Smart material actuated angel wings for live theatrical effect

Henry Koon, Sean Dalton, Jennifer O’Malley, Julianna Abel

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

2 Scopus citations


The University of Minnesota Mechanical Engineering Department, in collaboration with the Theater Arts & Dance Department, designed and built smart material actuated angel wings for the theater production of José Rivera’s play Marisol. The design challenge coordinated aesthetic, structural, mechanical, and electrical requirements for a successful theatrical effect. The aesthetic design drew influence from Baroque Catholic art and 90’s grunge fashion for dramatic effect. The wing structure was inspired by the skeletal structure of swan wings, which resulted in the design of a Nickel-Titanium (NiTi) shape memory alloy (SMA) actuated mechanical linkage that mimicked the shape and motion of swan wings. A hidden electrical circuit with a simple pushbutton switch provided the actor with control over the wing movement. The unique design constraints that came with designing a mechanism for theatrical use, along with the close collaboration between the two departments, led to a successful wearable mechanism with dramatic stage effect.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationISWC 2018 - Proceedings of the 2018 ACM International Symposium on Wearable Computers
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery
Number of pages6
ISBN (Electronic)9781450359672
StatePublished - Oct 8 2018
Event22nd International Symposium on Wearable Computers, ISWC 2018 - Singapore, Singapore
Duration: Oct 8 2018Oct 12 2018

Publication series

NameProceedings - International Symposium on Wearable Computers, ISWC
ISSN (Print)1550-4816


Conference22nd International Symposium on Wearable Computers, ISWC 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2018 ACM.


  • Avian wing
  • Shape memory alloy actuator
  • Theatrical costume
  • Wearable technology


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