Saturday, 18 August 2012

Elephant No. 321: Oscillating Toy

This is actually my variation on a woodpecker that I found on a science toy website. I didn't have a lot of time today, so I thought I'd try something that involved minimal construction and a bit of drawing and painting.

The original toy and its instructions can be seen here, for those who want to try the classic version.

The technique for this toy is quite simple—so simple, in fact, that a small child can make it. This probably means I will have trouble, if past activities of this sort are anything to go by. The supplies are also simple, and quite inexpensive:

• Drinking straw
• White bristol board or shirt cardboard
• Paints or markers to colour the design
• A long rubber band

I started by figuring out how my circus elephant might look climbing. I decided that it could hop down a vertical hill on three legs. The design obviously needed to be repeated on either side, to allow the final figure to be wrapped around itself.

I painted the elephants using gouache.

Next, I cut a piece of drinking straw slightly longer than the tab joining the two elephants, then taped the straw to the inside. According to the instructions, a thinner straw works best. I think mine was of medium diameter.

I wrapped the double elephant around the drinking straw, then glued the two sides together with white glue, and weighted down everything but the straw while it dried.

To finish up, I found a long rubber band with a diameter of about 1.5 mm (1/16 inch). I cut the rubber band at one end and ran it through the straw. Although the instructions say to use a thin rubber band, I found that it worked better with a rubber band that was about one-quarter the inside diameter of the straw. I also discovered that it's a good idea not to stretch the rubber band too much while operating the toy, or the elephant will plummet.

This is what it looked like when I finished.

And this is what the toy looks like in action. Elephants don't like to climb, so I'm sure they would hustle down in a hurry, just like this little guy. The video quality isn't great, but it will give you the general idea.

This was very easy, and would be a fun activity to try with kids. In total, it took me about an hour, not including the time I left it weighted for the glue to dry.

It was quick to make, and is silly fun to watch in action, so I might be convinced to try this again sometime.

Elephant Lore of the Day
In war-torn areas, as well as areas frequented by poachers, it behooves elephants to find places to hide. This usually means penetrating deep into the jungle or far across the desert, well out of the way of human settlement.

In 2007, however, a team of American environmentalists discovered hundreds of elephants hiding out on an island in the swamps of southern Sudan. The size of the population suggested that the elephants may have congregated there to avoid detection during two decades of civil war.

According to one of the environmentalists, "It was like something out of Jurassic Park. We flew out of a cloud, and there they were." The island's location is being kept a secret to prevent poachers from moving in. Although there has been a ban on hunting in the region for the past five years, in order to allow wildlife to replenish itself, game hunting is still largely unchecked in the Sudan.

It is believed that there may be other groups of elephants in the region that have escaped as well. The vast area changes each year as the Nile divides and shifts, creating new channels, lakes and islands. This makes it hard for humans to map and negotiate the area—and easier for wildlife to hide.

Elephant in swamp, Liyanti, Caprivi, Namibia, 2009.
Photo: Thomas Retterath

To Support Elephant Welfare
Elephant sanctuaries (this Wikipedia list allows you to click through to information
on a number of sanctuaries around the world)
Boon Lott's Elephant Sanctuary (Thailand)

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