Vancouver engineers build fantastic beasts
Foundation uses art to educate about energy, environment
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A giant steel ride-on spider, its eight legs propelled by a walking motion, a 15-meter mechanical reincarnation of an extinct snake, a 5-meter tall, 3000 kg walking machine powered by a hybrid electric power plant. They sound like sci-fi fantasy machines, but are in fact all projects with connections to Vancouver’s EatART Foundation (Energy Awareness Through Art). The group encourages art research, focusing on large-scale and technically sophisticated projects.
As Curtis Perrin, lead designer and project manager of the Black Ghost Electric Bike Car put it, eatART exists “at the crossroads of engineering, art and education, using art to educate about energy and raise questions around the social and environmental impact of energy use.”
As Perrin noted, the volunteers involved in eatART project come from diverse backgrounds. Many are engineers, but participants range from astrophysicists and video game developers, to artists and fabricators. “We're open to anyone joining the group — it just requires determination and someone being motivated to get involved.”
Perrin got involved while attending UBC for mechanical engineering. There, he had the chance to work with John Tippett, an artist and mechanical engineer. Perrin discovered that the famous Mondo Spider was from Vancouver and that “there was a group doing that type of work that I could get involved with.” He ended up working on Jon's project Prosthesis as his final year project, and has “stayed involved with the organization ever since.”
Prosthesis is a wearable hybrid-electric powered, 4-legged walking and running machine, dubbed an “anti-robot” and spearheaded by Tippett. It “walked for the first time at the end of 2017 and continues its quest to develop a league of electric mech racing machines,” explained Perrin.
Perrin finds it rewarding when eatART projects inspire others, especially younger kids. “If that can encourage people to get involved with some aspect of what we do, that's all the better for the planet, whether that's engineering or art.”