Winter In Woodland Cove

An Animatronic production for the NC Arboretum Aug 2020-Oct 2022

Ecological literacy through animatronics


Winter in Woodland Cove is an animatronic production for the NC Arboretum that endeavors to teach viewers about native animals and ecology. Part of it’s Winter Lights Programming, the display will be viewed by thousands of visitors each winter. The production consists of 6 animals, a black bear, an elk, a bobcat, a squirrel, raccoon, and a goose. The minor characters (squirrel, raccoon and goose) and the black bear will be modified stuffed animals provided by the client. The others will be built from scratch and skinned with support from, costume design professor in the drama department.

Interdisciplinary Work

This project has provided many opportunities to engage departments across UNCA’s campus. Laura Bond’s (Drama) voice acting students play the parts of the speaking characters, Anne Slatton (Mass Communication) consulted on the script writing, Christopher Oakley (New Media) provided animation wisdom, and Casey Watkins (Drama) will support the “skinning” of the animals.

Student Learning

JEM 484 and 485:Senior Design is the year long capstone project for engineering students where the classroom and a real world project converge. I was able to connect this project to the fall 2019 and spring 2020 semesters. The team of 7 engineering students worked with the client and STEAM Studio Staff to develop the characters. They were then tasked with designing, fabricating, and programming the animatronic animals. The fabrication was cut short by Covid 19 as was the production. The production is now scheduled to open in November 2022

Covid Impacts

The engineering senior design class was moved online in March of 2020 and stopped their ability to fabricate the animals. It also meant the collaboration with New media students was not able to happen. The production has been delayed until November 2022. This creates opportunities for us to create more cross disciplinary coursework between engineering, drama (costume design), and New Media. The animals continue to be fabricated by engineering student workers and STEAM studio’s design specialist, Chas LLewellyn.