The Mobile Coaction Lab (MCL)

The Coaction Lab at the University of North Carolina Wilmington in collaboration with Open Lab Research at the University of California Santa Cruz has collaborated with Maine artist and wooden boat builder, Reed Hayden and the IMRC at the University of Maine to create a mobile art & science lab focused on water issues and ecology.  This lab was constructed using a combination of wooden boat building and digital fabrication techniques and is designed to house an array of art and science tools.  The Mobile Coaction lab (MCL) collects, visualizes and sonifies local water data and shares it through outdoor, multi-media, video projection mapping and light and sound based digital storytelling events.

Mobile Coaction Lab Summer 2019 maiden voyage / research trip:

Throughout July & August of 2019, the Mobile Coaction Lab will be departing on its maiden research voyage, traveling from Wilmington, NC to Santa Barbara, CA and all points in between.  On each leg of the research trip, the MCL will be collaborating with a variety of aquatic ecosystems, including oceans, rivers, lakes, watersheds and headwaters.  Each day, imagery, sound, data and live water samples will be collected and blended into a site specific evening performance, exploring our relationships with water and the life that it supports.

  1. Wilmington, NC – July 12th at 8pm
    Bon Voyage event kick off as a part of the Lumina Festival of the Arts:  Keenan Auditorium, UCNW campus – 
  2. Asheville, NC – July 15th 
  3. Chattanooga, TN – July 16th
  4. Lake Eufaula State Park, OK – July 17th
  5. Santa Fe, NM- July 18th
  6. Phoenix, AZ – July 19th & 20th
  7. Santa Barbara, CA – July 21st & 22nd – Algae Society projection and sound event at the UCSB Sedgewick nature preserve the evening of July 22nd –
  8. Santa Cruz, CA – July 23rd and 24th
  9. San Francisco, CA – July 25th
  10. Lassen Volcanic National Park, CA – July 26th
  11. Morley Nelson Snake River Conservation Area, ID – July 27th
  12. Grand Teton National Park, WY – July 28th
  13. Bad Lands National Park, SD – July 29th
  14. Great River Bluffs State Park, MN – July 30th
  15. Columbus, OH – July 31st
  16. Pittsburgh, PA – August 1st, 2nd & 3rd
  17. Wilmington, NC – August date tbd – Closing event at the Cameron Art Museum

The purpose and primary objective of the Mobile Coaction Lab (MCL) is to explore the collaborative possibilities that occur when Artists and Scientists engage the general public through innovative public experiences that occur outside of museums, galleries and science centers.  These types of experiences developed by the Coaction Lab have taken the form of outdoor art installations / exhibits / performances and large scale community events such as FLOW Fort Knox ( FLOW Bangor ( and Bloom Santa Cruz ( as well as a number of smaller interdisciplinary collaborative projects which can be seen on our website

Phase 1 of the Mobile Coaction Lab (MCL) project was completed during the 2017/18 academic year and was focused on creating the mobile art lab trailer system, using a pre-fab aluminum trailer base to support a custom wooden trailer constructed from Eastern cedar, fir and aluminum for their durability and low weight properties. The lab transports both art and science tools such as video projectors, an immersive audio system, a mobile wifi system, a microscope, a 3D printer and an array of air and water quality sensors.  The Mobile Coaction Lab will also be used as a deployment system for the current version of Oceanic Scales (, allowing this modular art & science exhibit to be transported and set up in a variety of outdoor locations.  The trailer is solar powered with a 250-watt panel on the roof and a 200-amp hour battery / Pure Sine Wave AC inverter power system inside.

Phase 2 of the project will include the design and production of a series of fold away / hinged tables and shelves allowing the lab to be transformed from cargo space to creative work space. This next phase will also include replacing the aging, 250 lb. lead cell solar battery with a light weight and more durable Lithium Ion battery system.  Lastly, the trailer will be outfitted with a wireless transmitting, water quality sensor system allowing the lab to collect water data (temp, PH, nitrates and dissolved O2) remotely and output it through both a high-lumen video projection mapping system and a built in RGB LED lighting system on the exterior of the lab. These visual data visualization and digital storytelling tools combined with an immersive audio system will allow the Mobile Coaction lab to translate data into a variety of multi-sensory formats, exploring the intersections between art, science and community.