Dr Lucy Rogers introduces her dinosaur creations

A Raspberry Pi computer connected to a transparent plastic dinosaur toy.

Categories: Technology

27 February 2016


Dr Lucy Rogers is a mechanical engineer, published author and maker with a passion for Raspberry Pi projects. After taking part in our recent #EverydayEngineers campaign, Lucy took the time to tell us a bit more about her favourite making projects.

Lucy’s love for engineering was sparked at a young age, when she attended her school’s ‘Great Egg Race’ club. “We would make cunning contraptions that would balance a marble as far away as possible from a desk, set a party popper off at the other end of the room, or deposit ping pong balls in boxes. My teacher suggested I went on an ‘Insight Into Engineering’ course run by the WISE campaign. I realised engineering was about problem-solving, and I liked solving problems!”

In 2015, Lucy was given the chance to work on the dinosaur exhibit at the Blackgang Chine theme park on the Isle of Wight. Working with a group of hackers, makers and electronic engineers, she programmed the existing dinosaurs in the park to run with a Raspberry Pi computer. Although the dinosaurs had previously been able to perform a sequence of movements and sounds, the technological upgrade enabled greater control of their mechanisms. It also meant that the parts could easily be swapped out if something went wrong, reducing the possibility of inactive dinosaurs.

Lucy counts the Blackgang Chine project as one of her favourite making endeavours. She says, “The park is relatively small, and so they have to be very creative with their budget. This means the staff and owners are always open to new and innovative ideas - which means I can have a lot of fun” #WakeDino.

Whilst working on the Blackgang Chine dinosaur project, Lucy collaborated with Andy Stanford-Clark, who mentioned that he’d connected a toy dinosaur he’d received for Christmas to a Raspberry Pi. Inspired by this creative hack, Lucy made her own connected dinosaur, using a simplified version of Andy’s circuit with parts which she bought for around £55. Lucy’s dinosaur is connected to the internet and responds to tweets of ‘#WakeDino’ with a nod or a roar. You can read more about the process of creating #WakeDino here.

Fun though they are, making projects are not without their challenges. Lucy’s robotic dinosaur project involved designing a printed circuit board (PCB), which proved to be a steep learning curve. However, Lucy says it’s the challenges involved in programming that motivate her to learn and move forward. “For me, I need a project before I can learn stuff - if I need to learn something to get the end result, I will. I find it hard to learn just for the fun of it. So I started with a project I wanted - I wanted a light to light up when the International Space Station was passing over. I had to learn a little bit of code - but I used NodeRED - a visual flow programming tool, that meant I could program by dragging and dropping blocks or nodes. After this, my projects just got bigger and bigger.”For those who are interested in getting started with making, Lucy recommends joining a Raspberry Jam – an event where Pi enthusiasts bring their creations to show to others and discuss problems and ideas“. At many of the Jams there are also workshops, talks and things to try. These are great taster sessions to see if you think you may like to get involved”.

If you’ve hacked something amazing with a Raspberry Pi, tweet us your creations @QEPrize and remember to tag #EverydayEngineers.

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