September 24, 2015 | Projects

Building Animatronic Puppets

I received the opportunity to develop materials for UIST’s Student Innovation Contest. The 28th ACM User Interface Software and Technology Symposium or UIST will be held in Charlotte, NC in November this year. The focus of the contest is to build open source tools to help kids learn about and develop Animatronics shows. Animatronics is the use of robotic tools to give inanimate objects lifelike qualities. A nice example of animatronics in action are those moving “scary” sound making monsters and zombies in hunted homes. Animatronics classes in schools and museums provide an opportunity for kids to get creative and integrate technology into their projects. Children build robotic animatronic puppets that can be programmed to “speak” and have coordinated mouth and body motions.

For the contest, participants can focus on software or hardware tools for these kids. In the kit provided for the competition, teams can choose a puppet from a selection provided. I developed a set of 3D parts to build basic skeletal models for the puppets to get participants started with the challenge. They can mix and match parts based on which puppet they have. Participants simply need to print the parts, attach them together with the servo motors provided, and they can begin programming their puppets. You can find the entire kit of parts here. Below are  examples of what completed animatronic puppet skeletons can look like.

Alpaca skeleton.

Croc skeleton.


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