Gift Singularity: Give the Gift of a Strandbeest

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Gift Singularity: Give the Gift of a Strandbeest

I’m excited to be kicking off our Gift Guide Singularity series with a project I’ve wanted to do for years — build a motorized, micro-controlled Strandbeest walker. I plan to give it to a close friend who’s also a robot enthusiast. I’ll run through how I’m planning to approach the build and will follow up with some posts on my progress. Hopefully, by the time we reach the gift-giving event horizon of Christmas day, I’ll have a working robotic gift!

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I’ve been fascinated with the work of Dutch kinetic sculptor Theo Jansen ever since I-Wei Huang, aka Crabfu, enthusiastically turned me onto him years ago. And I’m far from alone. Jansen’s amazing wind-driven Strandbeest (“beach beast”) walkers have captured the public’s imagination and sent many a tinkerer into his/her garage to try and replicate Jansen’s ingenious walking mechanism, rendering it in paper, metal, plastic, and wood (among other materials). There are even lovely Gakken kits available of the Strandbeest.

So it was no surprise that a laser-cut Jansen walker ended up on Thingiverse a few years ago, created by Jeremy Peterson, aka 4volt. Ever since I blogged about it, I’ve wanted to make one. In fact, my pal and fellow MAKE contributor John Park even laser-cut a set of parts (in wood!) for me from 4volt’s vector files. It is these pieces that I will use in my gift project. You can see John’s wooden version of the parts below (and here).

Besides the walking mechanism, I will be powering my walker with the Solarbotics Ardweeny. I wanted the smallest, lightest Arduino MCU I could get and I was already familiar with the Ardweeny from our CoasterBot build last year. I will need both the Ardweeny and the Solarbotics Breadboard Voltage Regulator Kit, both available in the Maker Shed.

For the drive train, I’m going to use two Hitech HS-55 microservos, hacked for continuous rotation.

I’ll also need a bunch of hardware to assemble all of the leg sections: 66 bolts, 238 nuts and washers, and 2 12-inch threaded rods.

After all of this is put together, and (hopefully) working, I may want to also have John Park print me out a little “pilot house” to house the Ardweeny, volt reg, and battery. This should give the whole thing a cool, finished steampunky/Wild Wild West look. But I want to wait until everything else is built. I’m concerned about weight and center of gravity.

A complete parts list and lots of other project documentation can be found on 4volt’s blog.

If you don’t want to go through the trouble of building a walker from scratch, you can build one from one of the two Gakken kits available in the Maker Shed:

The original Gakken “mini-beast” Strandbeest Kit

And the new Mini-Rhinoceros Strandbeest Kit

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Want to hack your beast? Maybe some hamster power is in order. I-Wei added a hamster ball and Princess the hamster to get his Gakken going. Got a gift recipient with a pet rodent? Give it the gift of a robot exo-skeleton so it can terrorize the other house pets.

If you want to give a ready-to-ramble 3D-printed Strandbeest, sold by the man himself, you can buy them on Jansen’s Shapeways page.


In the Maker Shed:

Want more? Stop by the Make Shed. We’ve got all sorts of great holiday gift ideas: Arduino & Arduino accessories, electronic kits, science kits, smart stuff for kids, back issues of MAKE & CRAFT, box sets, books, robots, kits from Japan and more.

Holiday Shipping Deadlines in December:

December 14 Last Day to place orders shipped via USPS
December 19th Last Day to place orders shipped via 3-Day freight
December 20th Last Day to place orders shipped via 2-Day freight
December 22nd Last Day to place orders shipped via priority overnight Saturday delivery

Note: We guarantee delivery by Christmas when ordering by the above deadlines, except for USPS, where we simply cannot guarantee. However, we feel reasonably certain based on experience that orders placed on that day will be delivered by Christmas via USPS.

And of course, Gift Certificates and MAKE subscriptions are always available – even on Christmas Day!

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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. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at

View more articles by Gareth Branwyn


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