Empowering Student Innovation for a Clean Energy Future

The Floating Islands

Pine Crest Engineering

Maya T (8th grade), Lauren H (8th grade)

The Floating Islands

The Floating Islands are two islands held up by waterfalls. On them are various means of collecting renewable energy: a water wheel, wind turbines, and solar panels. Near them are the lightbulbs that indicate their presence. The floating islands are a flourishing and beautiful environment supplied by renewable energy and the ingenuity of these inventions that harness natural resources to power our world.


The intended message of the art piece is that various means of collecting renewable energy coexist in harmony to supply communities with eco-friendly energy. We hope to give some insight in the form of an art piece on how wonderful it is to advance our technology while maintaining and improving the environment.


We decided to create something using our artistic talents because we both have an interest in it and wanted to create something interesting and out of our comfort zone. We had seen people make dioramas of islands and forests on the internet, and we wanted to try to make floating island dioramas that exhibited renewable energy, taking inspiration from the floating islands in Disney World. To include the “energy” component, we made various ways of collecting energy with balsa wood and plastic. For the island material, we used styrofoam, we spray painted it, and used miniature diorama pieces like small plastic grass and trees. The river and waterfall was a challenge because we wanted to use resin but weren’t sure how to create upright waterfalls, but eventually we settled on using a plastic vacuum mold around a 3D printed sculpture.


Both team members contributed to creating brainstorms and ideas for the overall project. We listed ideas that we had and things that we wanted to take inspiration off of. One example is Pandora, Disney World’s recently added section to Animal Kingdom. Knowing that we wanted to incorporate things like floating light bulbs, mines and other small features, we were able to create a map of what the islands would look like. The majority of the project was done by teaming together on general tasks such as cutting the styrofoam or painting the surface, but some tasks were done individually. Maya painted the floating light bulbs, layed out the trees, and assembled the houses, water wheel, and wind turbines, while Lauren put together the mine shaft, observation bridge, and waterfalls.


Extra Details

Something we would like to point out is the combination of our artistic talents and engineering skills, as well as our attention to detail, seen in each stroke of paint and carving on our diorama.

In other words: One thing we would like to point out is the amount of detail that we integrated into the islands. Each island is created from a block of styrofoam in which we terraformed to look as realistic as possible.

We would also like to point out how the floating lightbulbs may be seen as both a lightbulb and a hot air balloon, the lightbulb representing a bright idea and the hot air balloon representing humanity moving to the future. While they were originally intended to look only like hot air balloons, we later realized the opportunity in keeping the lightbulb-like features. They are placed right next to the wind turbines, water wheel, and solar panels, because those ways of collecting renewable energy are inventions that will further the longevity of our Earth and our society.

The Process

It started with the idea of islands that floated in the sky. There were to be a few hot air balloons levitating in the air, some trees, rivers, and houses. Our idea was ambitious, and while it certainly worked out, not everything went as expected – a few ideas were scrapped, we changed some methods, etc. After cutting the styrofoam we spray-painted it; after that we attached some trees, rocks, and bushes, and then it was time to build the structures. We created the houses, wind turbines and water wheels out of wood, as well as the mine shaft and bridge. The waterfalls were more difficult to decide on, because there wasn’t a clear method on how to do it. Originally, we planned to cast it out of resin, but our models didn’t work out. We tried to switch to 3D sculpting the resin mold, but that wasn’t a good option for the time we had either. So, we ended up using plastic wrap to imitate the look of falling water, which ended up being a much more efficient option. Then, it was finally complete, after months of our hard work, and we were rewarded with the islands that showcased everything we wanted them to.

3 thoughts on “The Floating Islands

  • This was even better in person ! Congratulations team. Truly a piece of art !

  • Great diorama, you created a magical place full of renewable energy. It’s a place I would want to visit!


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