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TE+ND (Terrestrial Exploration + Nurture Designed) Rovers are an interactive art project that explore migratory ecology in an era of climate change.
Marnia Johnston
San Francisco Bay Area, California
United States
1 Team Member

Let me introduce myself....

I was born and raised in California and have seen so much change to the amazing and diverse ecosystem so many call home. I studied biology, have a masters in art and have been involved in robotics for five years. This project combines my education, interests and passion into one kinetic, educational art piece.

Project Overview:

TE+ND (Terrestrial Exploration + Nurture Designed) Rovers are an interactive art project that explores migratory ecology in an era of climate change. The rovers are robotic fostering environments that care for their own garden of native California plants by interacting with participants and actively seeking out light and water. Each rover is two feet wide by three feet tall and has a hydroponic growing station on top of a mechanically walking base. The hydroponic growing station is made of ceramic material and has been designed to retain the right amount of moisture for root survival. The goal of the project is to illustrate the plight of California’s native habitats, to disperse native plants in a new way, to encourage the general public to participate in conservation and to think about what is ‘native.’ 

The rovers encourage the audience to assist the rovers by providing light, watering plants and helping the rovers to acquire the resources they need to keep their garden healthy. Because the robots navigate using obstacle avoidance technology, bystanders can “herd” them by standing in their way to cause them to move in a particular direction, and thereby encourage them to travel towards resources beyond the range of the robots’ sensors. In an urban setting, rovers will find water in sprinkler systems, drip irrigation, rain, fog, and from participants. In helping the rovers, participants learn about cultivating native California habitat and stretch the limits of human-robotic empathy and engagement.

TE+ND Rovers, designed after space exploration vehicles, are intended to investigate a range of environments, from cityscapes to less urban locales. Primary locations for the first stage of deployment include Golden Gate Park, Mt. Diablo State Park, The Conservatory of Flowers and The Exploratorium.

When will they be built? How and where?

The Rovers will be built during an artist residency at the Exploratorium, a San Francisco interactive museum of art, science and perception, during the month of June 2012. My team and I will work closely with Exploratorium engineers and staff in the final build stages and the first deployment of the TE+ND Rovers. The Exploratorium will provide fabrication equipment and knowledgeable staff to help with construction and logistics. As an interactive museum, The Exploratorium provides an ideal first deployment site. The residency comes with a grant from the James Irvine Foundation but your contributions are needed to enable us to complete the project.

Who can be a participant?

Anyone! The Rovers are part of an interactive project intended for all ages. The TE+ND Rover project audience include anyone who encounters Rovers at a deployment site, including adults and children. Participants will be pedestrians, passers-by, hikers, bikers, joggers, picnickers, children at play, students and anyone who is curious.

The Rovers will also be used in schools and educational environments, helping students to explore ecology, biodiversity, evolution and plant biology. Students will learn about habitat encroachment and endangered species on the move, looking for habitat in which they can thrive. For deployments at schools, lesson plans from the TE+ND program will include handouts and guided discussions, encouraging students to observe, record what they find and to form conclusions about their experience.

This sounds expensive! 

And it is! The wonderful part is that it's already half-funded by a grant from the James Irvine Foundation. The grant goes mostly to the Exploratorium for fabrication costs and being fabulous hosts. What we need to cover are the brains (Linux based ARM platform), eyes (optical sensors for the rovers to find water and avoid obstacles, ears (sonar for secondary obstacle avoidance systems), muscles (motors, gears, drive train to move the legs), food (batteries/solar panels and charger), bones (aluminum, Delrin, ABS spools), plants, ceramic materials and firing fees. All labor and R&D is volunteer. We just need to afford the stuff to build them!

Other Ways You Can Help

There are other ways to help out too. If you are interested in this project but are short on funds, don't worry! The Rovers can still use your help. Tell your friends, family, neighbors, students, drinking buddies, and co-workers about the project and make some noise! 


Find This Campaign On
raised in 14 days
14% funded
No time left
$5,200 USD goal
Flexible Funding This campaign has ended and will receive all funds raised.
Campaign Closed
This campaign ended on May 31, 2012
Select a Perk
  • $8USD
    Thank You Card and Stickers

    For a pledge of $8 backers receive a fabulous hand written thank you on the back of a TE+ND Rover card and project stickers

    1 claimed
    Estimated delivery: July 2012
  • $20USD
    TE+ND Tag necklace

    For $20, trendy backers can wear a beautifully hand-crafted TE+ND Rover necklace tag. The TE+ND tags are made of the same translucent porcelain as the growing platform on the rovers, have the TE+ND logo and come with a comfy cord to wear around your neck.

    4 claimed
    Estimated delivery: July 2012
  • $35USD
    Limited Edition Print

    For $35, backers will receive a limited edition print of the TE+ND Rover conceptual sketch. The sketch is hand drafted with gouache, colored pencil and pen. The prints will be a limited run of only 150. Get them while you can! When they are gone, I wont be making more!

    6 out of 150 claimed
    Estimated delivery: July 2012
  • $75USD
    Your Name on The Rover

    For $75 backers will have their names etched on the donor plaque that will be installed on the rover.

    2 claimed
    Estimated delivery: July 2012
  • $500USD
    Personal Rover Deployment

    For $500, local backers (within 200 miles of the San Francisco Bay Area) will receive a personal deployment of the rover to a location of their choosing. A deployment includes the rover, monitors and transportation to and from the deployment site of your choice. Monitors will run the rover and train participants on how to guide the rover to resources. Backers will be contacted after Indiegogo deadline to schedule deployment.

    0 claimed
    Estimated delivery: August 2012
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