This Engineering Student Built a Mechanical Dinosaur Costume in Her Spare Time

Because, "why not?"

"Choose a job you love, and you will never work a day in your life," Confucius once said. For one incredibly talented engineering student, a great deal of their spare time this year was spent, well, engineering.

Third-year Network & Systems Engineering student Esmee Kramer's 'Project Raptor' saw her spend her free time designing and testing an undertaking of Jurassic proportions.

The result is a mechanical dinosaur costume with amazingly fluid and natural movements.

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A dino design concept

Kramer, who recently detailed her project in a LinkedIn post titled, 'Project Raptor: My Mechanical Dinosaur Costume,' said, "I’m a student in Network & Systems Engineering, and I built a dinosaur in my spare time. I got the idea in my head, thought it would be cool to make. So yeah, why not?"

The finished article, as can be seen in the video below, is a mechanical costume with lifelike, three-dimensional movement. One could imagine a movie studio specializing in practical effects using this as a framework.

How was it built?

Firstly, Kramer had to decide what to use for the framework.

"I chose to go with PVC pipes because they're cheap and light. Plus, they're easy to work with," she said in her blog post.

"Through heating, you can bend them and sort-of fold them around another pipe, thus creating a rotatable point. By using a combination of 5/8 inch and 3/4 inch pipes, you can easily fit separate parts together."

This Engineering Student Built a Mechanical Dinosaur Costume in Her Spare Time
The red dots are the frame's rotatable points. Source: Esmee Kramer

Kramer then built a frame that could fit around a human body. As can be seen in the picture above, the red dots are rotatable points. As Kramer says, "these make the body function as a seesaw in which I am the fulcrum," allowing for the movement of the costume.

By pushing and pulling the neck, the whole body moves forward and backward. For this to work on the head and tail of the mechanical beast, Kramer had to make sure both sides were approximately the same weight.

This Engineering Student Built a Mechanical Dinosaur Costume in Her Spare Time
Source: Esmee Kramer

For the neck, Kramer used three PVC pipes. These were bound together using duct tape. The neck, meanwhile, was attached to the body frame with the use of a conduit box and rope, which allowed for free movement with the benefit of a sturdy frame.

Elastic rope keeps the mechanical raptor's neck upright unless the user deliberately pulls the handle upwards.

This Engineering Student Built a Mechanical Dinosaur Costume in Her Spare Time
The mechanical raptor's neck was made from three PVC pipes bound together using duct tape. Source: Esmee Kramer

The hardest part of the design?

As Kramer puts it, "the most challenging part was figuring out how to move the head in different directions."

"I wanted to be capable of moving the head up and down, left and right, and to rotate, although the rotation part is already fixed with the attachment of the neck."

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In order to do so, the third-year engineering student made a steering handle with the same rotation points as the structure's head. However, in this case, it was mirrored, with ropes attached to both sides.

This Engineering Student Built a Mechanical Dinosaur Costume in Her Spare Time
Source: Esmee Kramer

An old brake cable was then attached to allow for the raptor's mouth to open and close.

The tail, meanwhile, has two inflection points and includes a fiberglass stick that makes the tail automatically return to a straight position.

What's next?

As Kramer says, "it's always hard to say when a project like this is ever really finished."

In her blog post, Kramer details upcoming adjustments that will be made when she finds the time. "The raptor needs some speakers, and I might add extra foam around his body," she says.

These results will likely be posted to YouTube once added. We recommend subscribing. As one commenter on the mechanical costume video put it, "young lady if I could buy stock in your future, I would be all in!"

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