Strandbeests- Science for Adults

by Han-Ru Xie

Have you heard of “Strandbeests”? The following is a brief introduction of a new form of life, the so called Strandbeests, interesting works that perfectly integrate craftsmanship, technology, and art.

Mysterious beast crouching on the coast at Dutch

In 1990, Dutch artist Theo Jansen, who is also known as the modern Leonardo Da Vinci Jansen, created the first Strandbeest, “beach animals” in Dutch. These are big-sized works built using materials such as plastic tubes and bottles and they can move on their own.

Jansen only gave the beast a basic mechanism for moving, where the nature does the rest, with the help of wind or water. In addition to moving, they also move past obstacles with the help of basic sensors, and they can even sense if a storm is approaching, before they drop an anchor of sorts that holds themselves on the floor.

Created by Theo Jansen, the Strandbeest that can move around using the power of the wind.

Climate change gave Jansen the idea of creating Strandbeests, as the Netherlands is known for its low lands prone to the rising sea level. For this challenge, Jansen’s creations are able to stir and crawl the sand on the beach, moving the sand onto dunes to keep them tight and firm. Jansen sees his creations not only works of art, but also tools that can benefit people’s lives.

Strandbeests in Taiwan- hands-on practice for children

Many schools in Taiwan have also started building their own Strandbeests, where there are even competitions. A good example would be STEAM for Urban and Rural Education- Self-making Co-creation Contest, hosted by National Taiwan Normal University. The grand event in 2022 welcomed nearly 400 students from 9 counties and cities with 43 teams in total. Contestants had to build their Strandbeest on the scene and competed with other teams. All projects were reviewed based on their speed for movements and the power in tug-of-war. To bridge the gap in resources and training received between students from urban and rural areas, every team were required to consist of students both from rural and urban areas.

In the 2019 PowerTech National Youth Science and Technology Creation Contest, Chiayi Municipal Lan Tang Public Junior High School (LTJH) won 1 championship and 2 runner-ups in the Middle School Track for biomorphic robots. This year, the team built their Strandbeest using disposed desks and chairs pieces. Their project features a four-bar linkage, where the four legs are driven by motor to move forward and backward with human control. On the day of the contest, this team made a small version of their Strandbeest, which stood out from 107 teams, and even beat 7 teams from Russia, no doubt a remarkable accomplishment.

Even the principal of LTJH was dazzled by the students’ innovative work

Conclusion

The design of Strandbeests covers elements from an array of fields and involves brainstorming with hands-on practice, absolutely a the perfect embodiment of the Maker spirit!

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