Nathan and I have been volunteering at Blue Heron for a few years now, and this year, we wanted to have a major contribution to the festival. Him being a prolific artist, and me being an atypical mechanical engineer, we brainstormed some ideas for a large art installation.
We settled on an animatronic Blue Heron sculpture that mimicked the natural flight of the creature. So starting from this rough sketch, we bought all of the motors, linkages, aluminum, and other supplies, and created a bird with a 14 foot wingspan. The exterior of the bird is painted and stretched denim all from recycled sources. The interior mechanism was designed in a large CAD environment, and uses a high-torque electric motor to make the flight possible.
The overall project took about 150 man-hours of work or more, but had great results in the end. (The video clip at the end of the YouTube video link below was before we installed the new linkage that actually made the damn thing fly smooth all weekend). The project cost about $900 between Nathan and I, but totally worth it – we had great support and appreciation for the project. We are already planning next year.