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Despite having just submitted their application for Maker Faire Bay Area, Lucas Ainsworth and Alyssa Hamel of Kinetic Creatures are already hard at work on the project they have planned for their second appearance at the fair: an enormous, bike-powered, cardboard “Rory the Rhino.” At last year’s Bay Area fair, the couple had just launched a Kickstarter campaign to jumpstart the production of their Kinetic Creatures, a set of three cardboard animal kits that cleverly fold and slot together to yield Rory the Rhino, Gino the Giraffe, and Elly the Elephant.

Rory, Elly and Gino

Rory, Elly and Gino

The introduction of a handcrank or simple gear box mechanism allows the animals to move. Lucas, an industrial designer and researcher at Intel, and Alyssa, an art teacher and artist, had been toying around with the designs for a few years, and they finally decided it was time to make them a reality. The Kickstarter campaign was successful, netting double their initial goal of $22,000, and soon Kinetic Creatures were making their way around the world. For this year’s fair, though, they wanted to go bigger by literally enlarging the design of Rory. They plan to build a roughly human-sized version of the rhino, still out of cardboard, and attach a bike in front of the rhino as the gear mechanism, allowing fair visitors to pedal the bike to make the rhino move.

Left: The original Rory with tape blocking out the bigger version. Right: The bike & frame that big Rory will sit on.

Left: The original Rory with tape blocking out the bigger version. Right: The bike and frame that big Rory will sit on.

One of the reasons I wanted to spotlight this project (aside from the fact that Lucas and Alyssa are friends who do amazing work) is because of the serious amount of learning and experimenting they will be doing to make this project come together. Already they have taught themselves how to weld in order to make the platform that the bike and Rory will be attached to, using web videos to learn the proper technique. The entire design of the creature has to be scaled up by an order of magnitude and cut out of enormous sheets of cardboard by hand. They aren’t sure yet just how sturdy the cardboard will be once they get the bigger version constructed: they might have to reinforce it, or do something unexpected to join the pieces of cardboard together or…who knows?

Left and Middle: Learning to weld. Right: Sourcing supplies & making sketches

Left and Middle: Learning to weld. Right: Sourcing supplies and making sketches

They want to make it as robust as possible to withstand energetic and inquisitive kids and the often-strong winds at the fair site. The list of uncertainties and new skills to master is long, but they are excited about it. To me, that’s one of the best things about Maker Faire; it challenges you to push yourself: to learn new things, be creative and inventive, and really take your work to the next level. I can’t wait to see how the bike-driven Rory turns out!

And, if all goes well at this new scale, they hope to go to the Cartasia festival in Lucca, Italy in Summer 2014, an art festival focused on the use of paper. If they are accepted, they will get to do a one-month residency in Italy with unlimited cardboard resources, and plan to construct an even bigger Kinetic Creature-maybe one that can be ridden!

By the way, it’s not too late for you to plan your own fun and challenging project for the Bay Area Maker Faire. The Call for Makers has been extended to March 22.

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The Road to Maker Faire Challenge will award $2,500 to one winner to bring his or her project to World Maker Faire on Sep. 21 & 22, 2013 in New York. Use the funding for materials, transport, or anything else you might need to get to Maker Faire. Applications are due by 11:59pm PT on August 5, 2013.

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Karen Tanenbaum

I am a technology researcher and designer; a Steampunk prop maker and costumer; a writer of both academic papers and blog posts; a voracious reader/watcher of science fiction. I am currently contributing to MAKE by writing about the Maker Faire. You can contact me via [email protected]


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