Traveling exhibit reveals biomechanics of robot animal
Children across the nation can explore the biomechanics of complex animal robots to discover how real animals work, thanks to a touring exhibit, “The Robot Zoo.” The exhibit is touring major science and natural-history museums throughout North America and Europe.
The 5,000-square-foot exhibit reveals the magic of nature as a master engineer. Eight robot animals and more than a dozen hands-on activities illustrate fascinating real-life characteristics, such as how a chameleon changes colors, a giant squid propels itself and a fly walks on the ceiling.
The larger-than-life-size animated robots include a chameleon, a rhinoceros, a giant squid with 18-foot tentacles and a platypus. Also featured are a house fly with a 10-foot wingspread, a grasshopper, a bat and a giraffe whose head and neck alone stretch 9 feet tall.
Machinery in the robot animals simulates the body parts of their real-life counterparts. In the robot animals, muscles become pistons, intestines become filtering pipes and brains become computers.
Other sensory activities include “Swat the Fly,” a test of the visitor’s reaction time (one-twelfth as fast as a house fly’s), and “Sticky Feet,” where visitors wearing special hand and knee pads can try to stick like flies to a sloped surface. Triggering the “Tongue Gun” demonstrates how a real chameleon shoots out its long, sticky-tipped tongue to reel in a meal.
Animation in the robots imitates real-life behaviors. The robot chameleon rocks back and forth as it turns its head, looks around and fires its tongue at its insect prey. The front legs of the platypus swim in breaststroke style while the tail moves up and down. The tentacles of the giant squid grip a struggling fish, while the squid’s beak-like mouth opens to reveal a spinning food grinder.
The exhibit is based on the book “The Robot Zoo” which was conceived, edited and designed by Marshall Editions of London, England.