System Design Exercise: Designing Automata

chaos computer

automata: early 17th century: via Latin from Greek, neuter of automatos 'acting of itself,' from autos 'self.'

For thousands of years, humans have striven to imitate life through machines. From a holy water vending machine in ancient Greece to a band of singing rodents at Chuck-E-Cheese, examples of these "automata" have been built for various purposes, from practical to religious, from artistic to entertainment. In every case, the maker(s) must distill the essence of the organism or system they are replicating through the possible movements attained through the (electro-)mechanical technology of the time. For the scientists of the Enlightenment, the divine was the "eternal watchmaker."

In this design exercise, you will form groups and design a simple automata for our current age. Channel a symbolic representation within the work around you (construction crew, public official, theme park, FOMO teen, etc) and identify the main elements of your design:

Your subject matter should be chosen as critique of something within society, not merely something that "looks good."

Translate your initial design elements into mechanical motions using a combination of levers, shafts, cranks, cams, springs, linkages, ratchets, and/or gears. Your design should use:

One member of your group should make a detailed drawing of the mechanical design. We will present the designs in class.