Urban Putt and the Lucky 13th Hole


Urban Putt is a new restaurant/bar located in San Francisco’s Mission District that houses a new and unique 14-hole miniature, or putt-putt, golf course. The vision of former magazine editor Steve Fox was to update the look of the game and make it cool again by giving it a steampunk look. The greens were designed and built by a team of engineers, product designers, sound designers, fabricators, and Academy of Art University interns. Two key team members were makers Anne Mayoral and Chris Myers who are the creators of Spinbots.

The 13th hole is a sponsored hole and the only one not built by the Urban Putt team. They approached Make: to build the hole, who in turn asked me to take care of the build.

I think the Make: folks were thinking that I would come up with something using Makey, their robot mascot, as the basis for the design. I really couldn’t see how that would fit into the Urban Putt design direction, so I tried to come up with another idea. I had been making robot-themed sculptures out of old pianos at the time. The look of vintage pianos was a perfect fit for Urban Putt’s steampunk design. In addition, I could use the piano for sound to enrich the experience.

The Arduino-driven mechanics implement traditional putt-putt game play. An oscillating scoop, ball elevator, and a cam-driven device to play the upright piano once a ball is sunk make up the robotic components. As a final payoff, the ball rolls across the strings of piano soundboard laid out on the floor before falling into the cup.

Of course, it was important to make the hole look very cool. So I created these three demon robots that incorporated piano parts into their design. I also wanted them to be well-articulated to facilitate placement.

Because of the short development time, it wasn’t possible to have the robots be kinetic, so they really just look good.

Urban Putt is located at 1096 South Van Ness Avenue (at 22nd Street) in San Francisco, CA.

My latest project is David Scribbley, Robot Artist, an automaton that debuted at Bay Area Maker Faire 2014.


This week marks the official launch of Make: Volume 39 — Robotics, which drops on newsstands the 27th. Be sure to grab a copy at a retailer near you, or subscribe online right now and never miss another issue.

We are celebrating with five days of robot-related articles, pictures, videos, reviews and projects. Tune into this space for Robot Week!

Our next theme week will be wearable electronics. Send us your tips or contributions before it gets here by dropping a line to editor@makezine.com.


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Andrew Terranova is an electrical engineer, writer and author of How Things Are Made: From Automobiles to Zippers. Andrew is also an electronics and robotics enthusiast and has created and curated robotics exhibits for the Children's Museum of Somerset County, NJ and taught robotics classes for the Kaleidoscope Enrichment in Blairstown, NJ and for a public primary school. Andrew is always looking for ways to engage makers and educators.

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