The Grand Rapids Public Museum’s (GRPM) popular traveling exhibit The Robot Zoo will be closing on Sunday, September 18. This exhibit allows visitors to explore the biomechanics of complex animal robots to discover how real animals work.
In The Robot Zoo larger-than-life animated robots are controllable by visitors to understand how the different animals’ body parts work. Muscles become pistons, intestines become filtering pipes and brains become computers. More than a dozen hands-on activities illustrate fascinating real-life characteristics, such as how a chameleon changes colors, a giant squid propels itself and a fly walks on the ceiling.
The robot animals include a chameleon, a rhinoceros, a giant squid with 18-foot tentacles, a platypus, a house fly with a 10-foot wingspread, a grasshopper, a bat and a giraffe whose head and neck alone stretch 9 feet tall.
Sensory activities include “Swat the Fly,” a test of the visitor’s reaction time (one-twelfth as fast as a house fly’s), and “Sticky Feet,” where visitors can experience what it’s like to be a fly on the wall. Triggering the “Tongue Gun” demonstrates how a real chameleon shoots out its long, sticky-tipped tongue to reel in a meal.
Animation in the robots imitates real-life behaviors. The robot chameleon rocks back and forth as it turns its head, looks around and fires its tongue at its insect prey. The front legs of the platypus swim in breaststroke style while the tail moves up and down. The tentacles of the giant squid grip a struggling fish, while the squid’s beak-like mouth opens to reveal a spinning food grinder.
The Robot Zoo is free of charge to GRPM members and is $11 for non-member adults, $10 for non-members seniors and $6 for non-member children.