Percy the Robot

Spring 2014

Role: Team Lead, Mechanical Engineer
Team: 6 Students (Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Software Engineering, Architecture)

Skills: Sketching, CAD Modeling, Rapid Prototyping, Electronics, Leadership

Tools: Rhinoceros, Solidworks, CNC Mill, CNC Router, Electronics Lab, Machine Shop

As team lead, I oversaw and aided in all mechanical engineering, design, electrical engineering, and programming efforts.  These tasks ranged from creating a storyboard, conducting user interviews to inform the design of Percy's housing, design and construction of Percy's circuitry and joints, and programming of the battery-operated arduino in Percy's head.  One of my main tasks was designing and machining the electrical joints.

We designed Percy, an escape-room puzzle with key constraints: it reset automatically between groups, was simple to understand, and was fun and challenging for all ages.  A group would enter a dark room and notice Percy's head glowing on the floor.  Percy would instruct the group to fix him so that he could access his memory and help them onto the next challenge.  As each body part is correctly placed, a circuit in the joint completes.  LEDs turn on to indicate successful placement, and an electromagnet turns on to hold the joint in place.

To convey the 'protector' capabilities of Percy, we moved from a soft curved design that I modeled in Rhinoceros to a larger faceted design modeled in Solidworks.  User research revealed that our new model appeared too menacing, so we softened the robot's look and gave it a leaner appearance.


Using the Japanese software Pepekura, we exploded the Solidworks model into foldable cut sheets.  Each pattern was cut into foamcore on the CNC router.  Future robots would be built with a fiberglass or carbon fiber body to improve strength and reduce weight.

We designed each joint with a 12V and ground connection to connect to the main circuit, an electromagnet to hold the joint, and an LED strip to indicate that the joint has been correctly assembled.  I led the design of the joints and the electrical connection layout.  I machined each joint out of green foam on the CNC Mill.

© 2020 Tara Pratap Ebsworth