Automata kits

In addition to helping to update digital exhibits at the Exploratorium, I have been volunteering with them at the Sunday Streets SF fairs.

To provide something for kids to construct and take home, I designed two automata kits inspired by some examples I found online.

For variety, I used a rubber band to make a belt drive for the windmill kit. This had an added advantage of simplifying and speeding up the kit’s assembly. Glueing the wheel to the crank shaft (as is done in the rabbit kit) requires the maker to wait for the glue to dry before they can enjoy their toy.

All-in-all, the windmill was easier to assemble, primarily due to the coordination needed to fit all the tabs of the hat into the box for the rabbit kit.

Production of the kits involved a good deal of laser cutting and glueing as many pieces together ahead of time. I decided to assemble all the crank handles, turbine shafts, and rabbit plungers to minimize the amount of gluing at the fair. The image below shows all the pieces prepared for the first fair.

Make your own

If you have access to a laser cutter you can use the Illustrator files below to cut out most of the pieces, or you can cut your own by hand. If you are cutting your own, there is no need to follow the templates exactly, just use them as a rough guide and make simplifications and embellishments as you wish.

Aside from cardboard, you will need some rubber bands (I used size 64 from Office Depot) and some bamboo skewers (I got mine at Safeway).