Friday, 27 December 2013

Mechanical Circus: Automata Workshops

George slaying the Dragon Automata

Throughout November I was busy running a series of workshops in schools across Cumbria and up to Dumfries for Tullie House. The workshops involved me working with Keystage 2 children to help them make simple automata. In February Tullie House has a big automata exhbition coming up, called Mechanical Circus and the idea of these workshops was to stir up interest. The main exhibition will be in the art gallery and in the foyer some of the automata made during the workshops will also be on display.

My samples

My samples

I have blogged a little about this project before and it was something I was really looking forward to, and now having delivered the workshops I can say how much I enjoyed it. It was great working with all the different schools, the teachers and students were so enthusiastic and had some fantastic ideas. I was very impressed with the automata they have made and can't wait to see them on show in Tullie House.

Putting the mechanism together

Checking the mechanism is in the right position

In the workshops I introduced cams and then each child made their own simple automata with a cam mechanism that made an element either spin or move up and down. I designed the project so that it would be possible for each child to make a moving model and so I chose cams as it is a relatively simple mechanism and easy to get right. So, for more mechanically minded students they could see what they could make a cam do and for those more interested in visual things there was the option of really going crazy with the decoration. I did provide templates for the decoration but encouraged people to come up with their own designs as much as possible. There were some amazing creations including a chattering skull, a trampolinist and a beautiful ballerina to name a few.

Getting creative

Beautiful balloon and scenery


One of the things I really enjoyed about these workshops was how differently the students approached things and the different aspects of the project that they either excelled at or struggled with. Some groups got to grips with the mechanism straight away but struggled with design ideas whilst other classes were the other way round.

Seal balancing a ball

And a door to show how it works

I thoroughly enjoyed working on this project and I hope to do more work in schools in the future. All the schools I visited were friendly and welcoming and seemed to value what I was doing. I think that workshops like this are a great opportunity for the students to try something a bit different and really get to test their creativity. I was truly inspired and impressed with some of the work that the children produced and I'm excited to have been part of it, I hope that I have inspired some of the students to try new things and be a bit more confident in their abilities.

Seal with a bouncing ball

Twirling ballerina


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