Electric Eel

Our first project in Introduction to Mechnical Prototyping was to design and build a compelling kinetic sculpture powered by electricity. Our team of 5 undertook to convey the mesmerizing rippling effect of an eel's body as it swims.
I primarily worked to design and fabricate the head, tail, and the tail's motion. I also used the lathe to turn the main clockcage posts. In the wee hours of the night, my inner poet awakened to tell the story of our battle-scarred (read: interestingly assembled) eel:

The Eel's Journey

Deep in the sea where the currents are strong,
In roiling waters where few fish belong,
Caught in the tempest of moody whims' reel,
Emerges from darkness a battle-scarred eel.

An effortless ribbon of rippling muscle,
Parting the murk as it hunts for its prey,
It never stop swimming, never stops living,
For though it will die, it will not die today.


The final demonstration of the kinetic sculpture.

Aluminum plates move in a sinusoidal pattern one after the other, driven by the "ribs" of the fish, made up of cams offset rotationally from each other.

The telescoping tubing is a failure point in the design, often jamming and slipping out. Using two pieces instead of three could have improved the follower.

A four bar linkage, powered by a belt and pulley with a 1:3 reduction ratio, connects to a tube that rotates the tail back and forth as the eel moves.

Top view of the sculpture after demo day, when a team member restored some of the telescoping tubing-driven discs.

The main shaft is powered by a gearbox with a 9:16 reduction ratio. A button embedded in the base plate controls the DC motor connected to the gearbox.

The sheet metal head and tail were made in halves, puched, folded, soldered together, and polished for an organic aesthetic.