Two New Stop Motion Animation Stations

Stop motion is a great tinkering activity where learners can imagine scenes, iterate on animation techniques and create amazing movies with simple materials.


As part of a project with educators and students at the Lodestar campus of Lighthouse Community Charter School, we're working to create an affordable, portable and sturdy stop-motion animation micro-exhibit. 

In the beginning of the project, we wanted to see if we could get a station working on a program that works with raspberry pi, since that's a cheaper option for schools, libraries or small museums. Nicole has been learning Python and with a little help from a friend, she got a basic stop motion animation station program working.


We started off with a simple rig to test out the program with a wooden platform, a movable arm for the camera and a set of beautiful arcade buttons to take a photo, erase a frame, playback the movie, save and reset. 

While a simple setup will work great for many settings, we also got inspired by an instructables post (that was in turn sparked by the Tinkering Stuidio's animation station) and another Exploratorium exhibit of timelapse suitcases built by Maz Kattuah to try to build a really portable version of the exhibit built into some vintage luggage. 


Nicole found a great suitcase online and once it arrived, she planned out how the electrical components could fit into the body. She built another stage with more arcade buttons and nested a little screen into a wooden piece cut to perfectly match the shape of the case. It was a little tricky to make the folding arm with the camera fold down into the closed suitcase, but after a little trial and error, we figured out a way to get everything to fit. 


We'll be debuting the exhibits at the California STEAM symposium this weekend before testing with Lodestar students next week. With that audience in mind, we're also working on a new zine with ideas for trying stop motion in the classroom and connecting the activity to elements of the next generation science standards (NGSS).


In addition to trying out the animation station, we'll also be leading a cardboard automata workshop at the conference on sunday. We're using some similar materials for each of these activities like brightly colored shapes and black paper shadow cats to make the connection between these two tinkering activities. 

Over the next few months we'll be refining the design of the station, the animation software and the materials/prompts for workshops with students and teachers at Lodestar and other collaborators. Eventually we plan to share the kit of parts and program so that more schools, museums and makerspaces can try out stop motion animation explorations.