Hamsters all the way down

This project from Neil Mendoza harnesses the raw power of hamsters.

Joji, hamster artist, has been equipped with a wheel that drives a Raspberry Pi-aided plotter. Whenever he uses his wheel, he is also powering…a hamster selfie. Recursive hamstering, if you will.

Neil says:

The hamster drawing is encoded in two large wooden cams. The cams were generated by creating a simulation of the drawing machine using openFrameworks and Box2D. They were then exported as vectors and CNC milled from plywood. To be able to have the drawing encoded on the inside, rather than the outside, edge of the cams, it was necessary for them not to have a central axis. This was achieved by milling two aluminium circles with a groove in each of them for a roller chain to sit in. The sandwiched chain then sits on three sprockets around the edges of the back part machine. The drawing arms were also milled from aluminium with pockets for laser cut acrylic inserts.

The hamster is displayed on a small LCD screen connected to a Raspberry Pi hidden behind the screen. The Raspberry Pi is running software written in openFrameworks that sends ASCII commands to an Applied Motion STM23IP-3EE stepper motor over ethernet to control its speed.

Your average hamster covers a distance of about five and a half miles every night. Joji, we salute your muscular, artistic little legs. And Neil – that’s genius. Thanks ever so much for sharing.


AndrewS avatar

“The hamster is displayed on a small LCD screen”

Ah, that’ll be what made my brain hurt trying to work out why the perspective of the hamster wheel looked so wrong in the video above ;-)

Emma Ormond avatar

Hamster power, i may have to build one of these when i next have a hamster, only it may have to power a tiny disco.

Alex Bate avatar

Why stop with just a hamster? Let’s start a woodland disco!

Oli S avatar

“Recursive hamstering”
You made my day :-)

WallyWare avatar

I just like the title of this post. Well played, Liz. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to celebrating my country’s independence from your country.

kamuro avatar

So the hamster itself is not powering anything, correct? The drawing is driven by a huge stepper which the hamster would not be able to drive that fast. I’d guess the turns of the hamster wheel are just detected and then sent to create a corresponding amount of turns of the stepper motor?

AndrewS avatar

Yeah, that’s the impression that I get.

Liz Upton avatar

That’s absolutely correct. But I was VERY keen on getting the line “the raw power of hamsters” in there somewhere.

kamuro avatar

fair enough ;)

David avatar

Is it a Siberian hamster, by any chance?

Martin avatar


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