I brought together a group of hackers / makers / electronic engineers and computer experts to help Blackgang Chine, a Theme Park on the Isle of Wight take control of their animatronic dinosaurs.
Currently the dinosaurs run a pre-programmed sequence of events – roar, tail wag, neck movement etc. However, the Park would like to change the order and duration of each event.
One of Blackgang’s staff, Mark Butler, Technical Projects coordinator, had already adapted one of the dinosaur controllers to work with a Raspberry Pi. The Pi has the advantages that the Blackgang staff can alter the programs to suite their needs, and also the component is relatively inexpensive. If something goes wrong, the Pi or SD card can be easily swapped out, making any dinosaur down time as short as possible. However, most Blackgang staff members had not had any experience with programming or Pi’s.
So I invited some Pi experts, some people who hack things for fun and some people with an open and technically curious mind for a couple of days of “hacking dinosaurs” – and also to help train Blackgang staff members.
The results were amazing.
With the help of Neil Ford (@neilcford), a Raspberry Jambasador, and IBM’s Andy Stanford-Clark (@andysc) within an hour everyone was programming the Pi’s using Node-RED – a “drag and build” method of programming.
This started with the simple switches and lighting LED’s I described in my previous blog and then moved on to whatever interested those involved.
Will, a web developer at We3Create used the switch to change from one web site to another, and then to control the movement of an animated mouse across the screen.
Tom, a programming expert, got the Pi sending tweets on Twitter and playing sound files.
James Macfarlane (@RocketEngines), an electronics engineer at Airborne Engineering Ltd., spent the first day reverse-engineering the control electronics already in use.
The Blackgang Chine staff, along with @andysc, focused on what they’d like the dinosaur to do.
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