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Adam Savage Attempts to Build a Pedal-Powered Strandbeest

Not since Rube Goldberg has a kinetic artist had more of an impact on makers than Dutch artist, Theo Jansen. His “Strandbeest,” autonomous beach creatures, have truly captured the imaginations of artists, makers, engineers, and dreamers throughout the world.

The complex walking mechanism that Jansen developed for his wandering, wind-driven sculptures has been adapted to all manner of things, from a Lego Strandbeest to hamster-powered Strandbeest to drill-driven walking machines.

In this “One Day Build” video (which turned into a two day build video), Adam Savage of Tested.com tries his hand at making a pedal-powered Strandbeest of his own design. He did the build as part of his Artist in Residence stint at the San Francisco Exploratorium. Sometimes, the best laid plans…

The video is a little nervous-making as Adam races against the clock and hits several significant road blocks. I found myself getting invested in the outcome and at several points even found myself yelling at the screen. “Get rid of those damn sneaker feet! They are not going to work!” They didn’t.

In the end, as darkness descends on the second evening of the build, Adam finally enjoys a small taste of success. While painful to watch at times, it is always educational to see problem-solving in action and to finally get to share in the sense of accomplishment when someone sticks to a vexing project and finally powers through to something that can pass for a successful result. You do get the sense that, with more time and some additional adjustments, he could get a real, sustained walking gait out of his beast.

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. And he has a new best-of writing collection and “lazy man’s memoir,” called Borg Like Me.

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