Since 2022 I have been co-facilitating Cabaret Mechanical Theater's Automata Tinkering Global Workshop. The other facilitators are Ryan Jenkins (cardboard genius), Celeste Moreno (tinkering warlock), Loulou Cousin (cartoon puppetmaster), and Max Alexander (heir to the cabaret throne).
I grew up coming here to the Science Museum of Minnesota, and since I was a kid these Paul Spooner automata have been on display. Now I get to hang with Paul and all the rest of the automata nobility on zoom every few months while teaching this class!
Students receive an amazing set of automata kits - one for cardboard, one for wood and wire, and a beautiful set of lazer-cut gears and levers and other components for endless tinkering.
One of my most favorite things to play with is adding motors and other electrical components to automata. Here you can see I've glued on some tinfoil balls, which can conduct electricity and therefore be used as a switch.
I attached the motor (a little loosely, it must be admitted) to the tinkering kit, and added some jolly paper flames to the mechanism.
When the tinfoil switch is closed, the motor is connected to the battery and the mechanism starts to dance!
The tinkering kit allows for all kinds of interesting movements. I like to add lots of linkages together - the complexity of movement looks very organic and alive to me.
I was able to lazer cut some tinkering pieces myself, and I edited a long linkage to be able to make a sliding crank!