Sphero Dog Puzzle
Photo by Michelle Westerlaken.

For my MSc in Interaction Design thesis at Malmö University, Sweden, I experimented with a device called Sphero. The Sphero is a remotely controlled robotic ball that is connected to your smartphone through Bluetooth and piloted with your phone through a mobile app interface. For my project I am using the Sphero to explore a dog’s reactions to an interactive robotic object.

I’ve created a video that shows a summary of this design process. The final outcome consists of four different dog puzzles that are cut out of MDF with the laser cutter in order to fit on Sphero’s Chariot accessory. 

Sphero Chariot
The Sphero Chariot is an accessory available from Sphero that is designed to be used with any model of Sphero robot. It will serve as the base of these dog puzzles.

These dog puzzles are inspired by the dog puzzle design carried out in a previous project in which I collaborated with Dariela Escobar and Inge van Hoppe. Additional thanks to Dariela Escobar for her help with creating the Illustrator files. 

Dog Getting Treat from Puzzle

Project Steps

Step 1: Cutting out the wood

You’ll need to download the Illustrator file for the puzzles. Within the file you’ll see the left sheet is for the 3mm MDF (containing the four similar bottom layers) and the right sheet is for the 6mm MDF.

Cut out the files using the speed and power settings that fit with the laser cutter you are using. Make sure to test it out on a small piece of leftover MDF first.

Laser cut dog puzzle example.
The Illustrator template (which you can download here from Instructables) includes slices for each layer of the design, as well as the smaller parts unique to each puzzle.

Step 2: Configure the puzzles

After cutting out all the parts, figure out the assembly order of each puzzle. Note that each puzzle has the same bottom layer. Use the image of the assembled puzzles below as a reference.

Before gluing everything together, try and see if the bottom layer fits exactly on the Sphero and Lego bricks. Depending on the accuracy of the laser cutter, you may need to sandpaper a few edges away so that it fits correctly on the Chariot.

Assembled Dog Puzzle
The four Sphero Dog Puzzles in their assembled state. Photo by Michelle Westerlaken.

Step 3: Glue

With your puzzle slices correctly assembled, glue all the layers together. Make sure you don’t forget to add the square shaped slider of one of the puzzles before gluing the top layer down (since this is the only puzzle where a separate part is ‘stuck’ inside the puzzle). In order to make sure the layers are glued exactly on top of each other, stick some iron wire or pins through the holes and the top and bottom, all the way through all the layers.

Sandpaper away the burned sides and edges of the puzzles to make them nice and smooth (and to make sure that your dog does not have to bite/lick the burned parts, because I can’t imagine this is very healthy for the dog).

Finally, for each puzzle, put 2 Lego bricks on the back of the Sphero and put superglue on top. Then (quickly before the glue dries) attach the puzzle on top so that the bricks firmly stick together with the puzzles.

After that, just connect the Sphero to your phone, assemble one of the puzzles on top of the Chariot, hide a cookie in it, call your dog (if he/she’s not already there), and play!

Note: since I only own a Sphero 1.0 I noticed that the device became quite slow with the chariot and puzzles, but try it out with the Sphero 2.0, or put some additional weight on the front of the chariot (for example with Lego pieces) and it will go faster.

YouTube player

Editors’ note: This project originally appeared on Instructables and was published here with permission of the author.


Connect the Sphero to your phone, assemble one of the puzzles on top of the Chariot, hide a cookie in it, call your dog (if he/she’s not already there), and play!