TVS ANIMATRONICS at the World Maker Faire

by Luke Jacob, Dean of Learning and Curriculum with Dr. Ginger Alford, TVS Director of Computer Sciences and Strategic Project Director–Technology FWMSH

Perhaps my favorite moment from World Maker Faire 2013, an event which took place on the grounds of the New York Hall of Science in Queens this September, came when my college roommate and his wife and child—three of the estimated 75,000 attendees—arrived at the TVS Animatronics booth in the Microsoft tent, and I struggled through the crowd to greet them and turned to introduce them to the TVS Animatronics team…

…and realized that I simply could not do so. Dr. Ginger Alford, who had spearheaded TVS’s initial foray into animatronics over the previous six months, was explaining the project to a group of presenters from other parts of the event; TVS senior Zach Harris and junior Pooja Muddasani were surrounded by kids (and the kids’ parents), working to give each one a turn at trying out the motion-recording program Visual Show Automation (VSA); and freshman Parker Allen was pinned in a corner of the display area behind another group of kids, to whom he was demonstrating the use of hand tools to cut, bend, and shape aluminum. I, for my part, had been demonstrating my own rather limited expertise by pushing “play” on the animatronics show 14 TVS students (including Zach, Pooja, and Parker) had built this past summer, and by trying to explain through a badly cracked voice just how the students had done such a thing in a mere three days.

I grasped in that moment that something very special was happening in our corner of the Microsoft tent—something sufficiently remarkable to cause hundreds of people per hour to put off for a few moments a visit to Microsoft’s amazing boxing robots at the other end of the tent, in favor of spending two minutes and 20 seconds watching three puppets argue about a zoo “jailbreak” and another who-knows-how-long trying out the technologies that created the show.

In order to understand how a quintet of TVSers found themselves wearing lime-green Microsoft staff t-shirts at the world’s largest annual “maker

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