The Elemental Origin Tracer

“The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of starstuff.” - Carl Sagan

This project attempts to visualise the expansive concept of our elemental origins, and the origins of our environment. When a given object is placed on the Elemental Scanner, it analyses its chemical composition and throws up the result, displaying its major element and the potential star that element originated from. The scanner demonstrates the cosmic chance by which these elements formed to create the earth and everything on it, and persuades us to imagine the wonderful phenomena of nucleosynthesis (the formation of elements in the nuclei of dying stars) which has empowered us to fashion the objects around us.

Exhibited at the Kalpaneya Yatre 2010, commemorating the International Year of Astronomy, The Tracer was a simulation, which incorporated an RFID sensor and LED Arrays. Minute RFID Chips were embedded into given objects, such as a cast iron pan, a lump of coal, a copper tumbler and a soda can, which when placed on the scanner triggered the scan event and the display of information.

The installation was immensely successful among the children who visited the Festival and there were incidents where some even tried to take the objects home believing they were magic! The Exhibition ran from November 26th 2010 to December 5th 2010 with Near 8000 Visitors Daily. Further, The Tracer was prototyped as a low cost educational aid, and also exhibited at IGNITE 2010 organised by the National Innovation Foundation for grassroots innovation, held at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad.

Through this project we were also able to open a channel of collaboration between Srishti and NIF which resulted in the Grassroots Innovation Design Studio (GRIDS) at Sristhi

Article in The Hindu

Article in the DNA

Article in The Times of India


  • 2010


  • Sandeep Mathew, Prayas Abhinav, Me


  • Concept, Design & Development


  • Housing: 1/4" Plywood base, 3mm Aluminium Sheet walls-powder coated white, Milky white Acrylic top.
  • Electronics: Custom Designed PCB Holding ID20 RFID Sensor, Reactionary LED Arrays and Arduino circuit
  • Interface: Signals from the PCB interfaced with a Custom Designed Processing Sketch.