I recently blogged about being in Gakken magazine, and mentioned that I have ideas to hack the mini wind powered Strandbeest that comes with it. Well I am happy to say that it worked! I give you, the Hamster Powered Strandbeest.
In the magazine, Gakken had converted the mini strandbeest into almost everything imaginable, including solar power, rubber band powered, and even micro processor control. So of course I thought about steam power, but quickly decided that it would be more pain than I'm willing to suffer. Plastic does not like heat very much, and the kind of weight a steam plant intruduces, would be a nightmare for this kit. If it was much bigger and stronger, I probably would have done it, but thankfully, I had another even sillier idea.

The hamster powered? that's just stupid, which is the exact reason why I did it. It's different, hasn't been done before, yet it's in so many what's-under-the-hood jokes. It also had a high likelyhood of working, so I had to attempt it. Only problem: I don't have a hamster, I don't want a hamster for a pet, and I don't know what sort of power and weight a little critter like that has. All I know is that I've seen them go ballistic on the hamster wheel, and so they must have great weight to power ratio.
Original Gakken Strandbeest, gears and fan removed I quickly removed the gearing and windmill, cut some plastic and mounted a hamster ball to this contraption. I used ball bearings on the hamster ball axels, and mecanno sprockets/chain to transfer the power from the hamster ball to the main crank. I did some initial testing with my son's motorized train inside of the hamster ball, so I had fair confidence on the gear ratio needed for it to work.
Hamster ball, meccano sprocket/chain, plastic frame, misc mounting hardware.
Then my sister in law (who runs a great craft blog, Crafty Carnival) came to the rescue, and was able to borrow one of her friend's pet hamster. Enter Princess the Hamster. Princess is a tiny little thing, much smaller than what I had imagined and prepared for. I was afriad that her weight wouldn't be enough to get the ball going. But luckily it all worked out great, and test pilot Princess had no problems getting the strandbeest up to speed.

When the cat walked in, I expected that it would provide some motivation on both parties, but they didn't really cared about each other. In fact, Princess kept going towards to cat, and eventually the cat just lost interest and walked away. Anyway check out the video, and a special thanks to Princess, and her owner for letting me borrow her for a few minutes! Now the nieces (two girls in the video) wants their own hamster, so I may get some more test pilots in the near future

Source: Crabfu ArtWorks: Hamster Powered Walker

If you haven't checked out Theo Jansen's kinetic sculptures which provided the inspiration for this walker, you really should. Amazing beast like things that walk up and down powered by the wind.