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design for interactive experiences.

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2010 June

Indian Burn Machine

Designing and building this machine was one of my biggest challenges on Silent Library.

Figuring out a way for the hands to rotate around a point where I could place no pivots was tricky – so I made a semicircular track for a set of rollerskate wheels, and attached a pair of silicone hands to the wheels. The hands are moved by steel bars which slide in tracks to convert the circular motion of the motor into the back and forth motion of the hands. Some bearings helped to keep everything running smoothly.

Egg Gatling Gun

My task on this project was creating an automatic mechanism that would fire a dozen eggs at contestants on Silent Library.

I experimented with a tennis-ball-style launcher first, but settled on a gatling gun setup, powered by a disassembled t-shirt gun. The revolver chamber is made out of sections of PVC tubing ringed with UVA foam to prevent air from leaking out of the gun. A one-way mechanism rotates the revolving barrels to advance a new egg into place whenever the chicken cycles. A cable pulls on the gun’s trigger when the chicken is in the horizontal so that the eggs will fire out of the rear of the chicken at the right moment. Dario Gimenez sculpted the chicken-shaped cover for the machine.

Below is a video of the mechanism at work (with the air gun removed,) followed by a clip of the egg gun firing a few eggs at a contestant.

Wrecking Ball Crane

This seven-foot-tall crane was made to strike game show contestants in the groin with a sand-filled plastic wrecking ball. The frame is made from steel, with plywood panels, heater vents,  lawnmower wheels, and some video arcade switches.

Courtland Premo helped with the electrical system, and I managed to hit the poor contestant in the groin in two out of my three attempts. Yay!

Phony Ostrich Eggs

This was a fun challenge!

The writers for Silent Library wanted to hit the contestants with ostrich eggs… but since ostrich eggs are expensive and are so hard that they need to be opened with a hammer, I needed to create some fake ostrich eggs that would make a mess and not kill anyone.

I started by creating a two-part plaster mold from an actual ostrich egg (the egg might have cooked from the heat of the curing plaster, though I never found out since the egg stayed unopened in the refrigerator for the rest of the shoot.)

Porcelain was poured into the plaster mold and left for a few minutes to form a thin shell, and after the porcelain had dried melted parrafin wax was poured into the porcelain shell to make it waterproof. Each of the dozen fake eggs that I made contained the goo from eighteen chicken eggs (thanks to Craig Burghardt for teaching me how to open eggs with one hand, mess hall style.)

The fake eggs were sealed with more melted wax, primed, and then spraypainted. Courtland Premo made a catapult to launch these eggs, and they totally didn’t hurt anyone!

Machine for simultaneous Punching AND Kicking!

I’ve made things that punch people, and machines that kick people, but here’s a machine I made that kicks and punches people at the same time! Increases productivity by 100%!

The foot and fist are both set in motion by pneumatic cylinders, with a foam foot inside the boot and a foam fist, so that no bones would be busted.

Hand Tenderizer

I made these urethane rubber hammers to smash the hands of Silent Library contestants, and set up a pneumatic mechanism to make the hammers swing up and down.

Wheel of Rulers

I cast my hand a whole bunch of times on the third season of Silent Library – in this case, six times to make a machine to slap contestants with rulers.

The vinyl rulers are sewn to the hands with fishing line so that they don’t go flying off in dangerous directions, and the wheel of rulers is put into motion by a bicycle crank and a long stretch of chain.

Stinky Gelatin Octopus!

I’ve never had to cast an animal before, but there’s a first time for everything.

To keep the hot plaster from melting the octopus into a pile of reek, it was frozen. Its tentacles were flattened against a sheet of aluminum foil so that there wouldn’t be too many undercuts on the mold.

Katie Akana cast the octopus in gelatin (with some sort of secret ingredient to make the creature especially stinky!)

Executive Stress Machine

This prop needed a revised mechanism to clobber Silent Library contestants in the head (I changed it to work with pneumatics instead of the original electric motors .)

I also cast the giant foam balls which did the clobbering. The balls have volleyballs in their centers, to save the cost of some expensive polyurethane foam.

Pasta Haircut

This pasta wig was made to be eaten off the head of a senior citizen on Silent Library.

I cooked the pasta lightly so that it would be flexible, but not mushy. I held all of the pasta together with some remarkably sticky gelatin.

I shaped it to be one of those sideways haircuts that are popular with young people these days – those sideways haircuts are funny!

Giant Cloud, Giant Lightning

I made a giant (12′ across!) cloud and lightning bolt for the Kikkerland booth at the ICFF this year.

The components were made out of several sheets of blue foam sandwiched together, with an MDF and solid wood backing for support. I put together a homemade hot-wire cutter to shape the foam, along with my regular arsenal of saws and surform tools.

Electric Chicken

This electric chicken mixer was made to scratch Silent Library contestants with its sharp talons!

I removed the guts from an ordinary hand mixer and modified them so that they would fit inside a rubber chicken; I’m very happy with how it came together, especially how the power cord comes out the chicken’s mouth.