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Kinetic Creatures that Demonstrate the Magic of Mechanics

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Remember playing with your toys when you were a kid, pushing them along and imagining that they could walk on their own? Well kids these days are lucky, because they can actually walk on their on thanks to a creative project by Lucas Ainsworth and Alyssa Hamel. Kinetic Creatures is a set of three walking cardboard animal sculptures made up of cardboard pieces that you assemble using tabs-and-slots. By turning the wire handle, you make the creatures come alive with a simple mechanical motion. Here at our site we thought that these Kinetic Creatures are not only fantastic sculptures and fun toys, but they also provide a great way to educate kids and young people about mechanics.

We wanted to know more about the project and thankfully Lucas and Alyssa agreed to answer all our questions. Here’s what they had to say about Kinetic Creatures.

Can you tell us about your company? 

Kinetic Creatures is a collaboration between Lucas Ainsworth, an Industrial Designer and Alyssa Hamel, a Visual Arts Teacher and artist.

What are Kinetic Creatures exactly?

Kinetic Creatures are walking cardboard animals that are built from a tab & slot kit.  Each animal walks and moves it’s head when you turn a wire handle.

Is it true that they can be made to walk on their own?

Yes! We’ve designed a battery operated motor kit that drops into the back of any animal to make it walk by itself.  Also, the Kinetic Creatures fit standard Lego axle pieces, so you can use Lego motors as well.  We have a tutorial on our website that shows you how to use Lego motors and sensors to make a cardboard animal that will walk to your hand.

How did you come up with the idea of making walking cardboard animal sculptures?

The initial design originated in a 2008 class at the California College of the Arts, where Lucas was studying Industrial Design.  The design challenge was to make a toy that could be manufactured on a rule-die press (a machine that makes cardboard boxes.) The first creature was relatively unrefined, but the idea of starting with a complex mechanical form and breaking it down into something easy took hold.

You were inspired by the work of the great Dutch sculptor, Theo Jansen. Can you tell us more?

Jansen’s Strandbeest are phenomenal, giant mechanical creatures that wander the beaches of the Netherlands.  The complexity and organic movement of Jansen’s work led to an insight; These types of mechanisms capture the imagination, but are very difficult to successfully build yourself.  An adaptation of one of Jansen’s linkages gives movement to the Kinetic Creatures, but all of the difficult measurements, alignment and mechanics are designed into an easy-to-assemble, pre-cut and scored pattern.

Who is the target market?

Kinetic Creatures are intended to encourage children and adults to build, hack and play.  Children aged 11 and older benefit from the challenges of building a kit and hopefully inspire them to add electrical mechanisms and create their own versions.

Alyssa will be using Kinetic Creatures in her art classes and workshops. What are you hoping to achieve by doing this?

By melding art, design, science and engineering into one, Kinetic Creatures makes all of these areas of study not only accessible to students, but also engages students on a variety of levels.  We hope to ignite excitement and curiosity around these areas of study.  The students gain insight into their potential when they successfully build a sculpture that walks.  As in all of Alyssa’s work with her art students, her aim is to build self-esteem through the process of creating, building and experimenting.

Can you tell us about how you funded the project with a Kickstarter campaign?

Kickstarter is an incredible crowd-funding platform that helped us get our project off the ground without going through the traditional toy industry gatekeepers, or loosing creative control of our designs. All of the excitement and interest in our project has been amazingly overwhelming, and we are so grateful that there are people out there supporting projects like ours.

Kickstarter funding allowed us to not only create a product that encourages people to build and play, but also allowed us to stay true to our belief in environmentally sound products, dynamic design and local manufacturing.

What gave you the courage to embark on this project and how did you know it would be a success?

When we started this project we didn’t know if it would be a success or not; it was a gamble that we took together but ultimately together we’ve overcome so many challenges and in the end, that has been the most gratifying part.

Do you have any plans for further developments in the future?

We are cooking up big plans for the future, designing more creatures, collaborating with people that are also passionate about the Maker Movement, brainstorming about getting more creatures into schools and maker labs, and developing educational kits. We are really excited about getting back into the creative side of our project. Right now, all of our energy is going towards the business side of getting creatures into the homes of people all over the world. It’s always about encouraging people to build, hack and play; it’s gratifying hard work.

our site would like to thank Lucas and Alyssa for sharing their exciting project with us. We’d love to hear your thoughts on Kinetic Creatures so please do leave us a comment below.

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Gallery of Kinetic Creatures that Demonstrate the Magic of Mechanics

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