Cranky Contraptions Camp

Cranky Contraptions are handmade kinetic toys built from materials that can be easily found around your house. The fancy name for Cranky Contraptions is automata (pronounced ow-TOM-uh-tah). The automata we will build are based on simple machines – lever, wheel and axle, pulley, etc. You will use pliers, rulers, hot glue guns, hole punchers, and other tools to make something new. Using bottle caps, boxes, small blocks of wood, wire, and various random materials, you can create the automata of your dreams. Mix and match your ideas and favorite topics. The sky is definitely not the limit!

Day 1 – Learn about automata through history and simple machines. Share your thoughts and brainstorm an idea for your automata.

Day 2 – Learn how to use the tools. Build some simple wood, cardboard and wire cranky contraptions to learn about machines and movement.

Day 3 – Make a base for your automata. Construct the crank with gears and or caps.

Day 4 – Embellish and finish your automata. Make a video using your creation.

Day 5 – Crank Up the Volume and Celebrate! Share your work and video with others in the class. Reflect and explore next steps. Think about your next project! Refreshments provided. (Please BYO if you have dietary restrictions or allergies)

The instructors are Dr. Soi Chong Powell and her husband Mark Powell. Dr. Powell is an artist, cook, inventor, maker, science teacher, and education consultant. She is a Lilly Teacher Creativity Fellow 2012, 2020, a NASA Endeavor Fellow, and has flown in microgravity. Mr. Powell is a gardener, bird watcher, hiker, coach, a citizen scientist, and a chemical engineer. They are both lifelong learners.


July 15 - July 19

  • 8:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. CRANKY SESSION
  • 11:30 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. RESTROOM BREAK
  • 11:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. LUNCH/RECREATION BREAK
  • 12:45 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. DISMISSAL

* Please read the Youth Programs, Camps, & Conferences Handbook and Child Protection Policy found under the “Additional Forms” tab PRIOR to registering for programs, camps, and conferences. Please be advised there is a non-refundable $35 registration fee included in the price of each camp.

Our goal is to make our youth programs, camps, and conferences accessible to students regardless of their ability to pay. Thanks to generous funding from Lilly Endowment Inc., we can offer financial assistance to students who demonstrate need. If you are interested in receiving Financial Assistance, please complete the Financial Assistance Request Form BEFORE registering. Please allow up to two business days for your request to be processed. Because demand for assistance is great and funds are limited, we encourage parents/guardians to apply early.