If you close your eyes and imagine the dreamlike state the holidays seem to impart, visions of a doll-sized Santa Claus in motion probably make their way through at some point. Animatronics have been part of Christmas decorations for far longer than the, “Is Die Hard a Christmas movie?” argument has been going on.
Many things make Christmas and the winter holiday season magical. The dreams of sugarplum fairies certainly help but the thought of gifts in mounds under the tree might be more impactful. What if you could make like an elf, and create some of the magic on your own?
Santa waving, reindeer lifting for takeoff, and elves hammering at wooden toys – all these scenes are driven by servo motors. Sure, companies like Rozum Robotics probably have more advanced uses in mind for products like the RDrive Servo Motor but really, is anything more important than creating an enchanted holiday forest?
Servo Motors and the Holiday Spirit
Okay, okay. Maybe the little Santa statues that rotate and sing, “Jingle Bells,” in a somewhat creepy voice are not your cup of tea. Servo motors impact more than just the little animatronic figures you see adorning window sills and fireplace mantles for three months out of the year.
Do you know those seemingly futuristic scooters that everyone wants for their holiday gift this year? Yep. Made possible by a servo motor. How about the classic train set you spend hours trying to get in a perfect circle around the base of the tree? It’d be motionless without the driving power of a servo motor. And you can forget about the ever-popular RC cars without the invention of servos.
Servo motors play so many roles in making the holidays magical and successful that enumerating them is impossible. Toys and other products are made in factories filled with robotic arms relying on servo motors to move them. Expedited shipping is made possible by automated systems that utilize servo motors, letting forgetful family members off the hook with a last-minute gift purchase.
Christmas Fun with Servo Motors
You get the point now – servo motors and the holidays go together like PB & J. Now onto some fun! Get crafty and downright innovative by creating your own Christmas décor that moves. You could pull a Macaulay Culkin and use ropes, weights, and pulley systems to move your cardboard cutouts around and scare off dimwitted burglars. OR, you could use the power of servo motors!
Create Your Own Animatronic Holiday Tree
So much for the days of static Christmas trees just sitting there being…trees. How about one that moves? Even better, how about one you can brag you made yourself? Instructables.com offers tons of lessons on a variety of tech projects but this one is sure to set the holiday mood right in your household.
The Things You Will Need to Find or Purchase:
- An artificial tree (small and wire-framed)
- Artificial tree limbs (wire-framed)
- A piece of plywood
- A piece of thin cardboard
- Styrofoam balls
- A sheet of craft foam
- A small, strong tube
- Sturdy wire coated green or painted green
- Servo motors x 2
- Ball joint sets x 2 and matching threaded rod
- Christmas lights (battery operated)
- Male to Male headers
- Male headers
- Christmas décor for the finished tree
Equipment to Have On Hand:
- Glue gun
- A drill
- A hand saw
- Craft knife
- Pliers (needle nose)
- Screwdriver (Philipps head)
- Marker (black permanent)
- Pipe cutter
Make Elf on the Shelf Move – On His Own
Elf on the Shelf is a relatively recent addition to the list of holiday staples. For those that don’t know, the Elf is moved and placed in scenes of varying appropriateness for children to discover each morning – adding to the magic of the holidays for some while frightening the heck out of others. The backstory insinuates that these “scout elves” report the goings-on around the home to Santa for the purpose of maintain the proverbial Naughty and Nice lists. Add to the intrigue by making Elf move when approached!
The Things You Will Need to Find or Purchase:
- Elf on a Shelf
- Robotics capable board computer
- Compatible servo controller
- Robotics software compatible with board computer
- Ultrasonic sensor
- Electrical wire (thin)
- Batteries (AA x 4)
Whatever Holiday You Celebrate – Animate!
These DIY projects could start you on your way toward understanding how servos and animatronics work together. Do not be afraid to use your imagination and create your own servo-powered scenes, toys, and figurines. The holiday season is all about making your own magic and servos can help you do just that.