Automata Tinkering Global Workshop – January 2023

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Join other artists, makers & educators from all over the world to discover & share automata making ideas & mechanisms in an online workshop.

Tickets are available via EventBrite

About this event

This six week programme has been designed to explore the combination of art and engineering. The workshops will be led by experienced facilitator Celeste Moreno from Wonderful Idea Co. and supported by a small team of international educators who will guide you through a variety of mediums and practical elements building several automata prototypes.

Through the online workshops you will become part of a community of makers with virtual visits to Cabaret Mechanical Theatre artists’ studios, access to exclusive artist interviews and opportunities to discover and meet emerging international automata artists. 

As part of your registration you will receive by post a specially designed Automata Tinkering Global Workshop Kit before the sessions begin.

The kit will include:

‘This workshop was a great experience for me, an important experience. I started making automata maybe 2 years ago, learning by myself thanks to all resources I could find on the net. But this workshop accelerated my learning and was great fun. I would like to say a great thank you to the whole team, Ryan, Sarah and all instructors for your generosity! Thank you to all the artists for letting us discover the backstage. And thank you to all the participants, learning and progressing together was a great chance for me. It’s a great community.’  ES participant Sept 2021.

Curious Cat Contraption by Ryan Jenkins


Wednesdays from 25th January to 1st March 2023

  • 4-6 pm UK-GMT, 
  • 8-10am PT, 
  • 5-7pm in Europe CET


This workshop is suitable for all abilities and experience levels if you are comfortable developing your own creative ideas and experimenting with us.

It is perfect for you if:

  • You want to find out more about automata, who makes them and how they are built
  • You are an educator who wants to inspire adults and children with tinkering or STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts & maths) activities
  • You are a practicing artist who wants to experiment with building kinetic sculptures
  • You work on personal projects in your spare time and want to add a new medium for expression
  • You are interested in engaging with a group of practitioners in different fields
  • We generally limit the age to 16 years old+ though exceptions can be made where appropriate.


You will need:

  • a computer with a good internet connection,
  • a place to work (kitchen table, workshop, garage)
  • the ability to procure a set of common household materials from a provided list.
Automata Tinkering Global Workshops image
Violet by Erica Smith. Image Esme Fisher. A Town Explores A Book Festival 2021. Made with the Carboard Automata Kit.

Course Outline

The workshop will be conducted in spoken English with audiovisual materials such as slides, examples and video. All classes will be held over Zoom.

The course is being delivered as a real-time class, where participants and facilitators will interact live. The maximum number of participants will be 24, to ensure a low facilitator to participant ratio. We will combine working as a group and in smaller break-out sessions so you will also have personalised attention and interaction.

The sessions are recorded for later viewing and a week by week online resource is available to all participants that documents each session with practical advice and tips.

Workshops content

Wednesday 25 January – Week One

Welcome and Introductions – What is automata? – History of CMT

Practical Session: Cranky Contraptions

Wednesday 1 February – Week Two

Cams and Cranks – Engineering Principles – Motions and Mechanisms

Practical Session with guest artist Stephen Guy: Cardboard Automata

Wednesday 8 February – Week Three

Artist Studio Tour – Testing and Troubleshooting – Linkages 

Practical Session with CMT’s Automata Tinkering Kit

Wednesday 15 February – Week Four

Artist Interview – Simple Circuits – Motors and Switches

Practical Session: Electromechanical Experiments

Wednesday 22 February – Week Five

Design Process – Expanded Materials – Artist Spotlight

Practical Session: Personal Automata Exploration

Wednesday 1 March – Week Six

Experimental Extensions – Artist Interview – Reflection and Sharing – Taking it Further

Practical Session: Personal Automata Exploration. 

Automata Tinkering Global Workshops image

About our course facilitator Wonderful Idea Co:

Wonderful Idea Co. is a creative design studio founded in 2017 by Ryan Jenkins and Nicole Catrett that develops resources to support the exploration of art science and technology through making and tinkering. They have led workshops around the world for hundreds of creative educators. 

Celeste Moreno, an affiliate of Wonderful Idea Co, will be leading this workshop. She is a designer, educator, and researcher of creative learning experiences based at the ATLAS Institute at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Learning Online:

This workshop has been adapted to function in the current covid-19 moment of experimentation with online teaching and learning. While not the primary focus of the workshop, the session will be a chance for participants to see a model of hands-on tinkering workshop in a virtual setting. 


Early Bird until 23 November 2022 £395.00

Full Price until 2nd January 2023 £445.00

Registration closes 2 January 2023 to allow time for materials to be sent to participants.

We will be offering a limited number of partial scholarships for those in need of a fee reduction. We are especially interested in participants who come from non traditional backgrounds and/or who work with underrepresented audiences.

You can apply for a scholarship by emailing and letting us know how much tuition support you would need with a short description of why you are interested in attending. We regret that we will not be able to offer a fee reduction to everyone but hope to pursue other funding options for future online/in-person sessions.

A cut out person with googly eyes and feathers operated
Tickle Machine. Made by Phyliss Famigletti during week 1 of a previous course.

Feedback from Previous Participants

“The biggest takeaway for me was being inspired by just simple movements. We work a lot with young children and complexity is great but it’s great just to see small simple movement and the joy and surprise that can come out of that.

The best part was the collaborative and open-ended nature of the workshop. The internet allows plenty of information and technical details, and the book was great. But just talking to someone and getting feedback or new ideas was great.

Thank you for this wonderful experience. And – curse you for giving me yet another hobby. I won’t be able to quit making these now.”

Scott N

“My takeaway was that it’s really really good to get out of your comfort zone and stretch yourself with new ideas. And the whole mechanics part of it made me very uncomfortable to start but now I’m like ‘I can do this, I can figure this out!'”

Terri F

“I just really liked being able to have feedback and talk with everybody. I think that’s what i really liked the most about the course. I loved the introduction of all the different materials because I hadn’t really thought about working with some of the wire or some of the more complex mechanisms. To have a whole group of people who are really passionate about automata from all different backgrounds has just been fabulous.”

Liz M

“I think just learning to work with new materials and getting inspired by everyone’s ideas, that was key for me. I’ve only worked with the mechanical equipment side of things and just the way you can use all of these simple things like cardstock and wood to make these little stories that you can tell everyone, that was really inspiring. I’m hoping to continue that.”

Abhi K

“I think the biggest thing I took is that it’s ok to mess up and have a lot of problems starting making things. Starting to experiment and be ok with making a mess was very new to me!

Thank you all for a wonderful experience! I learned a lot.”

Deval S

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  1. Kris Yarborough says:

    I have missed the Feb-March course but would be interested in the future. Do you have any other dates scheduled later in the year or early next year please? Many thanks, Kris

Our mission is to promote engineering and creativity through workshops, exhibitions and automata kits.

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