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Cardboard Automata

Cardboard Automata
Cardboard Automata

Cardboard Automata are a playful way to explore simple mechanical elements such as cams, levers, and linkages, while creating a moving sculpture. This activity is easy to start but may become more and more complex as you become familiar with possible motions and imagine ways to artistically decorate your contraption. Cardboard automata use levers, cams, cam followers, linkages, and other mechanisms to make unique personalized creations.

Cardboard Automata is an activity inspired by the work of Cabaret Mechanical Theater, a collection of artists who explore making crank operated automata as an expressive medium that blends technical engineering with artful narrative. Some visitors start by selecting a mechanical movement that inspires them, whereas others envision a story they want to tell first; and eventually, both will have to blend together for a successful automata to be completed.



What are the qualities that we value in this activity?

A playful and inventive approach to learning simple machines

This is a playful and inventive way of exploring levers, cams, cam followers, linkages, and other mechanisms.

Science and art connections

Cardboard Automata are a good example of integrating science and art into an activity. For learners, the narrative, decorated aspects of the automata are as important as the mechanical elements.

Connections to other activities and the real world

This activity is a good introduction to a variety of mechanisms and systems found in other PIE activities, and in the real world.



Try it!


We are passionate about sharing our work and developing a community of people interested in these activities, practices, and ideas. The guides below are free to download and use to help you get started with tinkering, whether it's at home, or in your school or educational institution.