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For the LA show, the newest SRL machine—the fast-moving, hyper-articulate Spine Robot—will finally get its own remote-controlled mobile machine mount.

Core Survival Research Laboratories collaborators from the Bay Area and beyond are getting ready to truck an array of machines down to Los Angeles for a rare performance this Saturday, Dec. 22.

Given the impact SRL had on the pre-Internet (not to mention pre-Burning Man) maker art scene, it’s amazing to me how few young’uns know about this affiliation of engineers and artists and their shows of machine mayhem. From Wikipedia:

Since 1979, SRL has staged over 45 mechanized presentations in the United States and Europe. Each performance consists of a unique set of ritualized interactions between machines, robots, and special-effects devices, employed in developing themes of socio-political satire. Humans are present only as audience or operators.

Kinetic art is more popular than ever. Still, few make remote control machines as large, scary, or silly as SRL. Here’s a selection of pictures of the machines currently being prepped and staged for transport at SRL’s Petaluma, Calif. shop. All of them are about the size of a car.

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The Running Machine is a six-legged chain-driven beast. Here it rests with legs poised in perfect mid-gait. The Running Machine has an arm that extends out from the front, often armed with a dagger or other destructive implement.

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Two sets of two pivoting 4′ long pulse jets provide the momentum and steering on The Hovercraft. Its black skirt fills up with air, and yes, when it operates it appears to float. But it’s not cute—those pulse jets are LOUD.

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In true SRL fashion, Mr. Satan was machined out of a 300-pound solid block of steel. There is a burner behind it that turns the Satan face bright red and blows red fire through his eyes and mouth and nose. The angry face jerks up and down a 5 foot track. That track is mounted on the Dual Mules, an “overly complicated” machine that is actually two separately controlled robots connected by a 4-bar link.

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This whistle is mounted onto a Boeing jet engine. The rig was recently tested at the shop and Mark Pauline, the founder of SRL, claims it to have hit 136 decibels. An igniter for a new flame effect is still being worked on.

If you’re in the LA area and thinking of attending, bring quality hearing protection.

Sabrina Merlo

Sabrina is the Maker Faire Program Director. She works on stage content for the flagship fairs (Bay Area & New York), and also runs Maker Faire’s licensing program for locally and independently produced “Mini” Maker Faires. She also co-creates the East Bay Mini Maker Faire in her town, Oakland, CA.


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