Robot Petting Zoo

TechHive organized the first Robot Petting Zoo Makethon, which ran May 30-31, 2015 at the Children’s Creativity Museum in San Francisco. With the support from funds raised through an Indiegogo campaign, 20 high schoolers from around the Bay Area teamed up and spent two days creating and programming a robotic pet, which they showcased to the public during a “Robot Petting Zoo” event.

Day 1 – Makeathon begins!

Students were led by TechHive interns and mentors in beginner-friendly programming and engineering workshops that would help prepare for the weekend’s makeathon. Students learned how to use the Scratch programming language to operate a Hummingbird Duo microcontroller. The Hummingbird would essentially serve as the “brain” of the robotic pet. All students were introduced to programming via two basic interactions and simple cardboard construction – a dancing pet (bunny that responded to sound inputs), and a feeding pet (pig head that wiggled its ears when it was fed). Then students imagined, designed, and create their own animal robot. Using craft materials such as cardboard (plain and laser cut linkages) and construction paper, robots began to take form as students meticulously went to work.

Day 2 – Petting Zoo opens!

In the morning, teens continued to assemble cardboard parts, program the motors and check sensors to give their animals life. The final step was adding color with acrylic paint and other traditional craft materials. The Robot Petting Zoo opened midday Sunday, where visitors at the Museum and general public were invited to interact with the pets and Makeathon participants. Visitors had the opportunity to “feed” the robot pets, and voted for their favorite pets.