The Fruitport High School Robotics Team (FRC team # 2405), known as the Techno Trojans, were approached by the Lakes Mall in Muskegon Michigan to restore an animatronic Christmas moose display and ‘bring the moose back to life’. Originally the moose – affectionately known as Kris Moose – was a part of the Christmas display in the Muskegon Mall from around 1981 until that mall closed in 2001. In his former location, Kris entertained the public for many Christmas seasons and undoubtedly created numerous magical childhood memories. When Kris was found stored in a garage in 2018 after all those years, he no longer had any of the original electromechanical components that enabled his animatronic functionality – with the exception of a couple of 1970’s era pneumatic cylinders.
They Made a List (and checked it twice)
The Techno Trojans began work in October with hopes to bring Kris back to life for the 2018 Christmas season. The students and coaches planned an entirely new control system based around the Ethernet-enabled CLICK PLC that handles all the new operations. “We decided to use Automation Direct products for this project due to our confidence and familiarity with these components that we’ve used with our robotics team and that several of the team’s mentors use in their ‘day jobs’ in the automation industry,” commented Coach Joe Hebert. Through the use of this PLC and some Fuji Electric pushbuttons and joysticks, the team was able to employ different animatronic modes which the operator can select during the holiday season. The modes of operations are:
- Automatic response to sound
- Sleep with snoring effect
- Manual for direct operator controlled response through a microphone
NITRA solenoid valves and other pneumatic devices were selected to drive Kris’s movements. Students were introduced to and wrote ladder logic programming to control the moose’s mouth, eyes, and neck (head turns side-to-side). They also learned how to layout and wire a control panel enclosure that meets industry standards.
A Christmas Presence
The team delivered and installed Kris Moose in the mall for his debut on Black Friday where he will help create new childhood memories and entertain Christmas shoppers throughout the season.
The mall management is ecstatic about how the project turned out. “The FIRST kids were so amazing that it bought tears to my eyes! Not only did their robotics involvement give them the expertise to tackle the technical problems with Kris, but their problem-solving skills, teamwork, and soft skills (people skills) made them the perfect group to handle this project. It was a pleasure working with them. I feel certain that this group of kids is poised for success, wherever life should take them. The whole community is proud of them and happy with the work that they did to bring Kris back to life!” raved Julie Sustaita; Assistant General Manager of the Lakes Mall.
So, if you are near the Lakes Mall in Muskegon during the Christmas season, please stop by and check out the new and improved Kris Moose!
And if you would like to learn more about FIRST Robotics and how YOU can get involved with this great program – visit www.FIRSTinspires.org