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Arduino Animatronic skeleton co-pilot B.O.N.E.S. :: Student Project

Who doesn’t need an Arduino controlled, battery operated, navigational, electronic sidekick that happens to be a skeleton?

Well, I guess most of us…but not Dan Massey!

He took a skeleton, made its head mobile, and turned it into a riding companion for his Jeep.  I can only imagine the looks he gets (and he gets a lot!).

Dan is a long time customer of the Programming Electronics Academy and has created really fun projects that are truly inspirational and fun.

Watch the video and read below to learn more about Dan’s project.

 

Why did you build an animatronic skeleton co-pilot with Arduino?

This skeleton was in my classroom when I was a teacher so when I retired last year I put him on the front seat of my Jeep to bring him home and that is where he has been ever since.

I drive around with him and get a lot of stares and comments. I thought it would be cool to animate his head so he can look around as I drive.

Arduino Controlled animatronic skull with gears

How does your project work?

I created a sketch to move a servo mounted in his head.  I also 3D printed some gears and mounts to make it all work.

The wires run down inside his neck to a control box that holds the switches and Arduino Nano.

The sketch has 3 random aspects built into it:

  • The direction he turns his head is random
  • The time between movements is random and
  • The speed of the movements is also random

He also has 3 switches so I can set his activity level (high, medium or low). I also programmed an interrupt into the sketch so I can have him quickly turn his head to look out the window at someone.

3D printed enclosure for Arduino amd batteries

B.O.N.E.S. •Battery •Operated •Navigating •Electronic •Sidekick

What was your biggest struggle as you worked through this project?

I am still new to programming so I needed a lot of help from the videos from Programming Electronics Academy to help me.

I struggled with getting the head to move at different random speeds.

Arduino, wires, and batteries inside an enclosure

Did the project end up as you expected?

I had to redo the mechanical system in his head 3 times.

I first tried to build pulleys with a thin round belt. I found that there wasn’t enough surface area for the belt so I build a new setup with a wider belt.

This worked better but the belt would still slip too many times.

I build it over again with gears this time but had to get them the exact right size to fit in the skull between the neck and the where I had mounted the servo.

Looking back on this project, what can you say you have learned about programming and/or electronics through the creation process?

I learned how to create random motions for a servo using the randomSeed (A0) command.

I also learned more about FOR loops. Creating comments for every line really helped me diagnose problems during the coding process.

Arduino controlled animatronic skull with red bandana

 

Was the training at Programming Electronics Academy able to help you build your skill?

I couldn’t have done it without the lessons I have learned at Programming Electronics Academy.

This is the best site I have ever used to help an old guy like me learn to code.  I couldn’t have done it without your lessons.

What type of Arduino board, Arduino clone, or Arduino compatible board does your project use?

Arduino Nano

What components did you use in your project?

Buttons, Resistors, Servo Motor, Switches, Enclosure

How do you power your project?

Batteries

About Dan:

smiling manDan is a recently retired school teacher. He taught mostly Math and Science, but in his last year I created a Maker course for the school.

He has been working with electronics for about 45 years (and can’t believe it’s been that long!).  Dan started programming about 5 years ago.

He has a great YouTube channel that you should check out with all the stuff he is building.

What project is up next for Dan?

He plans to re-use the code he created to animate some more characters around his house.

In additional to adding some PIR motion sensors as triggers for the characters.

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