Science City’s Robotic Labyrinth Project

We are three weeks into designing the interactive Robotic Labyrinth Game for Science City This ten foot by twelve foot (10′ x 12′) game is being built by volunteers with donations from our growing list of sponsors.

Science City is host to over 30,000 school kids and 170,000 family members per year. It is located inside Kansas City’s historic Union Station which sees approximately 2 Million visitors per year.

Twists and Turns

Twists and Turns

Who would have thought a little wooden labyrinth game could take us in so many directions. What started out as an idea to modify this toy into a party game is turning into an educational journey. This simple game modification is an inexpensive way of introducing kids to concepts used in robotics. The game is controlled by standing on a Nintendo WiiFit balance board. A computer is used to interpret your movements when you shift your weight around. The computer sends commands to the popular Arduino microcontroller that tells servo motors how much to turn the knobs on the game. The Arduino is a great way to introduce kids and adults to the world of microcontroller programming for their own inventions. If you haven’t already seen it, this video on YouTube shows how the game works.

The video helped launch us into even more directions. The Kansas City Robotics Society (KCRS) donates interactive displays to Science City and we suggested including a robotic labyrinth game. Science City’s director liked this idea and suggested we scale it up to 12 feet. He wanted to use something kids are familiar with like a soccer ball to simulate the marble.

This project has us tackling some real world problems like building lighter weight structures. We are designing an aluminum skinned composite using rigid foam core just like the pink building insulation you get at the lumber yard. To build this game table we are working with Materials Science issues ranging from the selection of materials to finding ways of bonding them together at the molecular level. Key to this project is advice from 3M Engineers in their Aerospace Adhesive division about techniques needed to glue together our aluminum composite game table.

Henrys Design

Henry's Design

One of the best examples of why we’re doing this comes from 12 year old Henry who submitted ideas on how we can put the table into motion using pneumatic cylinders. Hopefully this project will help stimulate the imagination and creativity of other young inventors, future scientists, and engineers.

We now have programmers curious about creating web applications so people from around the world can play the game over the Internet from their own home. Not satisfied with stopping there, we wondered, could we add a webcam and use motion detection to get a computer playing the game for us? So, we’ve also started an OpenCV Study Group to learn about image processing hoping to find a way to make this happen too.

Our completion date for the basic game was chosen to coincide with the March 2-7, 2009 opening of a new group called the Cowtown Computer Congress (CCCKC). This group is a grassroots organization of tinkerers, hackers, explorers, artists, inventors and technology enthusiasts in the Kansas City area.

Since the video hit, people who hear about this project are asking – “how can I help”? This project is made possible by donations of time, materials, workspace, expertise, and money from volunteers and sponsors. We are entering our building phase and still need materials to build with. For more information you can check the blog chronicling daily progress of the Robotic Labyrinth starting here.

If you would like to help you can contact us at:

Science City and CCCKC are non-profit organizations.

Sponsor Organizations

ClayCo Electric

Clayco Electric

ClayCo Electrical Contractors

Sheet Metal Workers Local Union 2 – The apprentice and journeyman training

Sheet Metal Workers Local Union 2

The apprentice and journeyman training

Barclay-Moore Piggyback & Warehousing

Barclay-Moore Piggyback & Warehousing

W. R. Meadows

W. R. Meadows

W. R. Meadows

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One Response

  1. […] The giant Robotic Labyrinth is being built by volunteers and with contributions of supplies, materials, workspace, and other donations. For more detailed information about the project and a list of current sponsors check out this overview of the Science City’s Robotic Labyrinth Project. […]

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