Design Preview Report: Mechanically Actuated Buffalo Running

Initial Ideas:

When I was initially thinking of ideas for my final project, I was drawn to making a mechanically programmed sculpture after seeing a video on Youtube Shorts from JBV create where he created a mechanically programmed ball bearing sculpture, as seen below:

Based on the video above, my initial idea was to create a CU logo where the logo moves in and out of view as the camshaft spins. The aesthetic I planned for this idea was a clean, minimalist look with a monotone color like black, gold, slate grey, or white. My second thought was to have the phrase “Sko Buffs” that also moves in and out, and I would design it with a similar aesthetic as the CU logo as being clean and sleek. I could combine those two ideas so the CU logo appears in view first, and “Sko Buffs” appears in view second and continues to swap places as the camshaft spins.

After some more research into mechanically programmed designs, I came upon a laser-cut wooden horse that moves the legs as if the horse was running when you spin the crank, as seen in the video below.

For this idea, I would instead design it to be a buffalo running as I’m going for it to be CU themed to have as a souvenir for when I graduate. I would attach the driven gear to a stepper motor or crankshaft to drive the buffalo. I think the most challenging part of this idea will be designing the linkages so the running looks realistic.

Mechanical Horse

Final Idea:

With these ideas, I decided to pursue creating a mechanically programmed buffalo that runs as you rotate the crank. My vision for this buffalo is for it to be a display piece that easily fits on a desk or shelf that is a CU keepsake for when I graduate that I could show my family and kids one day. Some of the specifications that I am applying to this project are that it must be able to be used easily with the twist of a crank or with a stepper motor, it must not stick out like a sore thumb with my aesthetic, it must match the black and gold aesthetic of CU, I want the materials must be able to last for years as I want to keep this for a long time to show my children later.

Colorado Buffaloes Logo PNG Transparent & SVG Vector - Freebie SupplyLogos | Brand and Messaging | University of Colorado Boulder

(Left, Right)

Next Steps:

Currently, I haven’t been able to spend time on the CAD design as I’ve been spending most of my time on my senior design project as we are in the debugging and test phase. I am planning on spending time tomorrow (Thursday 4/6) on the CAD design with taking inspiration from the video above. I am also planning on making it out of 1/8″ plywood that I am going to laser cut in the idea forge. My timeline is to try to complete the physical design of the project by the end of next week.

Presentation Video:

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6 Comments. Leave new

  • India Johnson
    April 10, 2023 12:34 pm

    Hi Will!
    This is fantastic and one of my favorite designs thus far. It’s challenging, fun, and meaningful. I can’t wait to see the CAD works for how you plan on translating the current CU buff logo into a mechanical piece of art. I look forward to it! Best of luck!

    • Thanks for the comment, India! I appreciate your kind words. I’m just hoping I will have time to make it look good and work. I hope your project is going well!

  • Peter Jakubczak
    April 9, 2023 12:50 pm

    This is a super cool idea. Have you run into any major problems along the way?

    • Thanks for the comment, Peter! The only problem I have encountered is time, as my senior design project has consumed my free time, and I get dragged into putting more time into it since we have testing tomorrow. Additionally, as I have a new Mac, I can’t run BootCamp or SolidWorks, so getting the time to spend on a computer in the IF or EC has been difficult.

  • Austin Beltz
    April 8, 2023 11:20 am

    This is a really cool project. In the video you shared, I noticed that the parts and connections that allowed the horse’s legs to move similarly to how they move in the real world had some complex geometry. Will you do something similar and accurately mimic the way bison legs move?

    • Thanks for the comment, Austin! My current plan is to try to make the leg as simple as possible without all of the complex linking geometry, so it will most likely not mimic exactly how a buffalo’s leg moves while it runs.


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