After undergoing extensive repairs, the robotic dinosaur models at Fort Hays State University?s Sternberg Museum of Natural History will be roaring for the July 4 weekend.
"After four years of continuous movement, the dinosaurs were ready for a mechanical tune-up," said Greg Walters, exhibits director. "They held up well, but anything mechanical needs attention to keep it in fine working order."
Each of the three robotic dinosaurs at the museum received maintenance. For example, the chewing mechanism for the baby hadrosaur was completely rebuilt.
"We found when we opened up the baby that we could improve the motor and linkage system that had been there, thereby making the movements smoother," Walters said.
The adult hadrosaur received neck surgery.
"We opened up the hadrosaur neck to inspect the motor that turns the head. We gave it some routine maintenance while we where there," Walters said.
The most extensive overhaul was done on the biggest crowd pleaser, the full-sized T. rex.
"We replaced and re-routed a number of wires and moved a few motor connections inside the T. rex. By doing this, we were able to increase the possible range of motion that the model has. We will continue to adjust the program that controls the movements over the next few weeks and see how much more we can get the animal to move."
The limiting factor of the dinosaur's movement is the skin over the robot. It must flex naturally with the movement and not tear.
Many people contributed to the dinosaur repair work, including technicians from the university's physical plant, museum exhibits staff, museum volunteers, and a private contractor hired to work on the delicate skin.
"This was a real group effort. At every turn we had to modify our plans as we learned more about how the robots worked," Walters said. "And everyone added ideas along the way that helped us get the project done."
In addition to the reopened dinosaur area, museum visitors can see a number of temporary exhibitions this summer. "Masters of the Night: The True Story of Bats" is on display through Sept. 7. "Museum Memories: A Centennial Exhibition" is on exhibit with no closing date. "Rush to the Rockies" opens on July 26 and runs through Oct. 5.
For more information contact the museum at 785-628-4286 or online at www.fhsu.edu/sternberg.