UNDERSTANDING, DESIGNING & CONSTRUCTING ROBOTS & ROBOTIC SYSTEMS
■ BY VERN GRANER
THE SAGA OF THE
THE SONAR STATION IS AN INTERACTIVE KIOSK
that entices visitors to experiment with, play with,
and learn about sonar distance measurement. Using a
combination of robotic, acoustic, and visual devices,
the kiosk responds to visitor’s motions with fun and
entertaining real-time reactions.
PLAY IT BY EAR
When the Austin Children's
Museum was gearing up to host the
Bay Area Discovery Museum's "Play It
By Ear" exhibit (see Resources), they
decided it would be neat to add
some Texas flair. They set aside some
funds and drafted a "Call To Artists"
announcement which was sent to
various art groups in the city. As The
Robot Group has been a consistent
supporter and contributor to Austin
Children's Museum events,
it wasn't long before the
announcement popped up
on The Robot Group mailing
list and I immediately started
drafting ideas on how we
might be able to participate.
After reading the
announcement, my original
thought was to re-package
the popular Thereping
instruments that create
music by detecting the
player's hand position over
a sonar sensor (see the
complete writeup in
■ FIGURE 1. First
concept sketch of the
Bat Boogie kiosk.
16 May 2009
the April 2006 issue of Nuts & Volts).
The Therepings had been well
received every time we brought them
out to museum events but they are
designed to be held by the "musicians"
and, if operated by visitors, they
require a "conductor" to supervise
The trick would be to integrate
the instrument's functions into a
kiosk style device that would eliminate
the need for visitors to wear the
instrument and also eliminate the
need for a conductor. In addition, we
wanted to find a fun and educational
tie-in for sonar range finding and the
city of Austin. The obvious answer
was ... bats.
THE BAT BOOGIE
The Congress Avenue Bridge in
downtown Austin, TX is home to the
largest urban colony of Mexican
free-tail bats in North America (the
colony is estimated at 1.5 million!).
The Congress Bridge bats
are a well-known city
attraction, so I decided to
base the theme of the
kiosk on a mixture of the
Thereping instruments and
the sonar echo-location
capabilities of bats. I made
some pencil drawings of the
concept piece (Figure 1)
which I then visualized in
Google Sketchup (Figure 2).
I wrote up a comprehensive
proposal with my renderings and the proposed
kiosk's capabilities which I
■ FIGURE 2. Google
Sketchup version of the
Bat Boogie kiosk.