The Animatronics Workshop is all about teaching kids of all ages how to be creative across both technical and artistic disciplines. Kids imagine characters and stories, and bring them to life with their own robotic creations. Over the years, we have worked with schools, museums, summer programs, and others, to empower kids to make their own shows from scratch. Kids do it all: developing characters, writing scripts, devising mechanisms, building robot actors, set construction, costuming, voice acting, audio editing, and motion programming.
We often contrast our programs with more traditional after-school robotics competitions.
Kids love storytelling
Our goal is to create great shows. Their shows. Kids get it. By contrast, robotics competitions often seem randomly made up by someone else.
Animatronics Has Wide Appeal
Animatronics programs attract a diverse group of students. Some are attracted to the tech, others to the storytelling. Unlike many robotics programs, we have found that animatronics appeals equally to boys and girls.
Focus on Creativity Across Disciplines
Animatronics is both technically and artistically challenging. We try to get kids to see the connections across fields emphasizing that these all are creative endeavors – they just use different tools and skills.
We try to make sure every child is involved in all aspects of making their shows. We specifically discourage splitting group projects into a writing team and a robot team.
Animatronics is not a contest
To be fair, robotics competitions need everyone to follow the same rules. These rules can be complex and often seem arbitrary. Kids spend a lot of time trying to learn and follow the rules. But in animatronics, there are few rules. Creativity is less constrained.
Animatronics Integrates into the Classroom
School robotics programs are often a special activity that a relatively small number of students participate in after school. In contrast, we see teachers using animatronics for project-based learning experiences in the regular curriculum. For example, one school uses animatronics in their history curriculum, with students bringing historical figures from different times and places together for an impossible dinner conversation.
University of Toronto: Bringing Animatronics to Canada
The University of Toronto is sponsoring an effort to bring the Animatronics Workshop to Canada! As part of this effort, we are creating a new series of super accessible programs targeted for use in early, middle and late elementary school classrooms.
Our new elementary programs are based on traditional papercraft, augmented with electronic bits. We call this Paper Animatronics.
Paper Animatronics is a highly accessible type of animatronics. Most schools already have basic paper crafting supplies. Kits with motors and controllers are available for under CD$50.
To learn more about Paper Animatronics, click here.
To learn more about our journey to Paper Animatronics, click here.
Hand Puppet Animatronics
We also have a lot of information available here on our classic hand puppet-based animatronics programs.
If you are an educator and want to know more, here’s a few words about the philosophy of the workshop.
December 2022 – We are recruiting both undergraduate and graduate students with a strong interest in STEAM education to join our effort. To get involved, contact email@example.com.