Designing an Automaton
Designing an Automaton
Designing an Automaton
Shaina Possoff
šŸŽ“ Grade:
āŒ› Time to read:
3 min
šŸ“„ Includes:
Overview, Images, Video
Activity Summary
Curious about our 4DĀ (Discover, Define, Develop, Deliver) model for technology and engineering design? Read about why we selected this framework and how it can be implemented in your classroom!
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During my high school introduction to engineering class, I had a project that involved learning about and designing automatons. We were able to use our creativity to come up with our own designs. I learned about the mechanics of the automaton, design theory, and prototyping. However, due to COVID, this project was cut short, so I was never able to finish my design. When I started here at Fluxspace, I was introduced to all of the fun projects the interns had worked on, one being a cardboard automaton in the FLUX Laser Cutting Curriculum #4 video, created by our previous intern, VJ. After watching this tutorial, I was inspired to make an improved automaton out of wood.


You may be asking yourself, what is an automaton? Well, an automaton is a machine that follows a predetermined path and can be operated on its own or manually. Historically, they were built to mimic the motions of people or animals. Now, they can be as simple as a children's toy or as complex as a robot. Automatons are a great way to explore machine elements, like cams, which are the rotating pieces that are paired with cam followers to create motion. In my design, the cams made the cam followers move up and down and rotate.


  • 3 mm sheet wood
  • Hot glue
  • Beam Studio
  • Flux Hexa Laser Cutter
  • 3/16ā€ wood rods


Design Process

To design the box for the automaton, cams, and letters, I created the pieces in the Beam Studio laser cutting software, pictured below.

I then used the Flux Hexa Laser Cutter to cut the pieces out of the 3 mm sheet wood. Next, I used hot glue to attach the cams to the 3/16ā€ wood rods, as well as to attach the letters to the top of the rods. Finally, I assembled the box and inserted the rods into the holes.

Hummingbird Integration

To add an innovative twist to my automaton, I decided to incorporate the BirdBrain Hummingbird Bit Premium Kit, which includes lights, sensors, and motors. With the addition of a rotation servo, I no longer needed to crank the automaton myself. I coded the servo using Microsoft MakeCode, shown below.

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