Week 12- Oh My Gourd

This week was Thanksgiving, which meant that everything was a little different on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Luckily, only two of us were traveling out of Pittsburgh for Thanksgiving, and Nolan’s travel back to his hometown actually worked in our favor. We ended up each having at least one workday during the break, and are much closer to executing our original vision now. We are feeling ready for our soft opening next week!

Dragon puppet

One aspect that we knew would be a huge challenge is the eye blinking. The mechanism is in place, but until this week, the eyes had no pupils or eyelids. Kat experimented with a few materials, but we ultimately went for a thin EVA foam, with layers of masking tape, liquid latex, and paint on top to match the skin texture. We also added on some crushed glass from Michaels to create more visual interest, and to avoid eyelashes that might look a bit too much like Shrek 2. We started patterning eye socket pieces, but since we could not permanently attach the eyes without the woodshop, this was a frustrating process. Any small movement would jostle the eyes out of place, and we would have to reposition them in order to show the proper angles for the pattern. When we can access the woodshop on Monday, we will permanently attach the eyes, the lights for the eyes, and then finish making the eye sockets.

Kat spent Tuesday and Wednesday finishing up the dragon’s bottom jaw. With the paint formula perfected last week, this went relatively fast!

While at home watching holiday movies, she constructed dragon teeth from cosplay foam and packing tape, which give a better curve to them than glue. With foam clay gums and a masking tape tongue, the bottom jaw is now ready for attachment!

Speaking of the jaw movement, the dragon’s puppeteering mechanism became a point of concern this week. Our original plan of a ball and socket joint would have the puppeteer holding the full weight of the puppet. While the puppet only weighs 15 pounds, puppeteering for up to four hours is a long time to support this weight. Additionally, with Thanksgiving happening, our woodshop access is very limited, giving us very minimal time to refine our design before softs. 

With the help of our faculty consultant Dave Culyba, Lori and Nolan brainstormed and prototyped an alternative puppeteering mechanism Tuesday evening. This involves the top jaw being mounted from a pipe and drape piece, and attachment to the puppeteer via a harness. The bottom jaw will be attached to the top jaw with PVC pipe, and the puppeteer will be able to move it up and down with their hands. Overall, this mechanism worked extremely well, perhaps even better than the ball and socket joint would have, because it allows for movement toward and away from the guests. This way, the weight of the puppet is primarily supported by the pipe, so the puppeteer becomes fatigued much slower, which is great news for our puppeteer Lori.

Puzzle Wheel

Nolan sourced a circular piece of wood from Lowe’s, rather than cutting a circle in our woodshop. It was originally intended to be the surface of a round table, so it is smooth, heavy, and high quality! After measuring the wheel’s intended place in the room, he was able to drive home to Reading, PA for Thanksgiving, and take the wheel with him to work on in his family’s workshop! When the world needed it most, access to the ETC woodshop vanished for the Thanksgiving holiday, so this was extremely convenient. 

When Nolan returned to Pittsburgh, he spent a day rewiring all of the lights in their correct location with the new wheel, laser cutting some foamcore to stabilize the wheel on its axle, and adding LED strip lights to the pedestals. Now, all the work left to do on the puzzle is cosmetic: creating magic symbols for the different wheel positions, texturing it to look like stone, hiding the solenoids in the egg pedestals, and displaying the puzzle riddle front and center. 

Dragon eggs

Christine Barnes sent us home from IAAPA with hundreds of dragon scales she cut for us using her Cricut, from fabric and designs Lori and Ivy chose. The green fabric was consistently a problem for us to source, but Christine presented us with a few options, and we chose a velvet-like fabric with green, yellow, and brown color variation. Our water and fire scales are both made of a vinyl fabric with unique textures, and we hope to weight the eggs differently as well, so that we have a fully multisensory experience as advised by Jesse. Kat and Ivy spent some time gluing scales on a full set of eggs so that we will have those for softs, but we still have two backup sets of eggs to glue.

Louise Cutter returned our egg cages to us after she painted them during IAAPA, and they’re looking great! 

New intro video

Ivy spent the week re-editing an intro video for a new version of our script that makes the guests’ role clearer, after feedback from our faculty consultant Dave. It also has some updated visuals! The video is below, without sound. Because it’s a bit longer than the previous version, Nolan will be re-composing music for it soon.

Room layout

We hung our lighting kits from Todd Brown, and Cleo began to program them. For now, without the pipe and drape, it is still hard to visualize how different lights will look in the space, but we have made our first attempt, and the pipe and drape will arrive next Tuesday. 

Finally, Nolan and Kat made a spreadsheet of all our room furniture, and began to move what we could. Thanks to all the faculty members who volunteered their offices for storage!

Goals for next week

Next week is our Soft Opening on Wednesday and Thursday! We have given ourselves a hard deadline on the dragon puppet next Tuesday, so she will need, at minimum, her eye sockets attached, her bottom jaw attached and puppetable, the lights permanently attached into her head, and her entire head permanently hung in the harness. On Tuesday, the pipe and drape rental company will arrive, so at that point we can shift our focus to theming the room and programming the ending dragon show scene. We will need to finish the cosmetics of the puzzle wheel, and the music for the pre-show video. And we will need to start rehearsing with our actors!


Despite the Thanksgiving holiday, we were able to finish the bottom jaw and eyelids for the dragon, transition our wheel puzzle from cardboard to wood, begin executing our lighting design, and get close to finalizing our preshow video.