Introduction: Animatronic Mini Golf

Exploding volcanos, dinosaurs, and animatronic tiki guards! This isn't your classic game of mini golf. Putt up the wooden bridge into the mouth of the volcano and trigger an explosion that just might roll your ball in for a hole-in-one. Miss by just a little, and subject yourself to the laughter of the swinging tiki guards protecting the hole. Oh, and watch out for the dinosaurs! Grab a soldering iron and your 9 iron because in this Instructable we will be building a animatronic mini golf course controlled by the Intel Edison.

List of Required Materials

Intel Edison

Long Wire Momentary Switch

1/8 Plywood

Foam Golf Balls

Force Sensor

Groove Relay

Putting Green

Styrofoam Block

40mm M3 Button Head Machine Screws

20mm M2.5 Button Head Machine Screws

M3 Nylon Lock Nuts

M2.5 Nylon Lock Nut

Adafruit AudioFX Board

Micro Servos

8 Ohm Speaker


Tools Required

Soldering Iron


Sawzall (optional)

Step 1: Tiki Guard Part 1

Using an Epilog laser cutter I etched the tiki face into 1/8" plywood and cut out the profile. If you do not have a laser cutter drawing your own tiki face on balsa wood, and cutting it out with an X-Acto knife will work just as well. I've attached an Illustrator file with two different Tiki head sizes just incase you would like to scale up or down the design.

Step 2: Tiki Guard Part 2

Punch out all unnecessary internal geometry on your parts, then fit the two V-shaped base pieces together. Note that depending on your machines tolerances the base pieces may not be perfectly sized right out of the laser cutter, a little sand paper will help get your joints nice and snug. Press fit your assembly into the circular base.

Step 3: Tiki Guard Part 3

To simplify the parts count I decided to hot glue together out wire switch and servo. Place a small amount of glue on top of the servo and press the wire switch on top with the leads facing away from the front of the servo. Grab our 3D printed hinge and press fit the main body onto the servo. This might take some force, or even a little sanding to make fit snuggly.

Step 4: Tiki Guard Part 4

To secure the tiki face onto the hinge grab your hot glue gun and run a bead along the back of the tiki guard. Now take the servo and switch assembly and line it up with the holes in the stand. Thread the M2.5 screws through both pieces and cap it off with a nut.

Step 5: Tiki Guard Part 5

If you haven't yet, cut out 4 or 5 more base pieces to the tiki guard on a laser cutter or by hand. Then, glue them together to make a weighted foundation. I used TiteBond Wood glue.

Step 6: Carve Volcano

Starting with a 18"x18"x16" block of high density styrofoam I used a sawzall to begin shaping my volcano. GO SLOW!!! Its really difficult to fix mistakes here so err on the side of removing less than you need to, and come back for finishing cuts later on. After getting a shape I was happy with I used a 2" hole saw to core out the mouth of the volcano. This is where our relay will be placed to punch the putt putt ball out of the volcano. The final step here is to carve the ramp that guides the ball into the cup once it makes its way up the bridge.

Step 7: Paint Volcano

The propellant for spray paint reacts with the styrofoam and will create pockets and divots, which normally is undesirable but in this case the solvents evened out the sharply carved edges and gave the volcano a more rock formation feel. I started from the top down, painting the inside of the mouth of the volcano red descending to red-orange and then finally orange around the crater rim. A hunter green and grey mixture gave a nice earthy texture to the mid and base of the volcano while black around the bottom provided a visual base.

Step 8: Assemble Volcano Bridge

If you carved a shallow enough ramp up into the mouth of your volcano you can skip this step. Mine was way to steep so I laser cut a bridge. To create the bridge I threaded string through the holes on each plank and then hot glued them down. Repeating this for both sides of the drawbridge.

Step 9: Add Bridge to Volcano

To secure the bridge to the volcano I hammered in two 6 inch .25" dowels near the mouth of the volcano. After placing the volcano where I wanted on the course, I pulled the base of the bridge taught and used a staple gun to secure it to the course.

Step 10: Assemble Volcano Ball Launcher

Lasercut out the side mounts, as well as the top and bottom pieces of the launcher. This gives our relay a lot more area with which to punch the gold ball out of the top of the volcano.

Step 11: Add Pressure Sensor

Thread the wires coming out of the solenoid ball launcher and pressure sensor through the hole in the mouth of the volcano. Add some double sided tape to the back of the pressure sensor, and stick it to the top of the solenoid launcher. I wouldn't recommend glueing this sensor down because you are invariably going to need to make adjustments once you begin playing.

Step 12: Thread Wired Under the Course

To make the wiring as clean as possible run the wires under the source for the Tiki Guards and under the volcano. I carved out a little channel so the volcano would still sit flush to the ground even with the wires underneath.

Step 13: Wiring: Relay Circuit

I used the Groove relay to actuate the 12 volts (V) needed for the launcher. This is a mechanical relay that uses a small voltage generated by the Edison to control a much larger voltage coming from a the wall power supply of 12V. You want to connected the ground wire (Black wire) of both the launcher solenoid and 12V power supply to each other. Then connect the red wire from the solenoid to one of the screw terminals on the relay board. To the other screw terminal screw in the positive 12V from the power supply. When the relay is powered on it close the circuit and allow 12 V to flow through the solenoid, launching the ball out of the volcano. Now plug the Yellow Wire (Relay Signal) coming out of the groove relay into Pin 7 on the Intel Edison.

int Relay= 7;

You can change the Relay pin to whatever you prefer as long as you also alter this line in the code.

Step 14: Wiring: Speakers

Power the board with 5V. Here I use a wall wart with a 1A max current. Ensure that the red wire is connected to Vcc and ground is connected to GND. Now lets hook up the speakers, check the bottom of your board to ensure that you are hooking up the proper positive and negative leads for the speakers.

Step 15: Wiring: Tiki Guards

The FX board works by pulling the pin of the corresponding audio file number to ground. This means that when the Tiki Guard is activated the voltage goes to ground. Notice the green and yellow wires that were soldered onto the switch are plugged into Pin 2 and Ground respectively. In this case triggering the wire switch will activate sample T02 on the FX board, good thing we properly named our awesomely scary laugh track.

Step 16: Coding

Our code begins with including and initializing our two servos which actuate the swinging motion of the tiki guards. We will also set Pin 7, which connects to the relay, and Pin 5, which reads the pressure sensor, as an output and input respectively.


pinMode(5, INPUT);

The main loop of this code tell the servos how far to swing while also keeping an eye out for activated sensors around the course. If the pressure sensor is activated the relay will go HIGH, launching the ball out of the volcano. The code below controls that function.

if (force>150)
{ digitalWrite(Relay,HIGH); delay(250); digitalWrite(Relay,LOW);

To change the amount of pressure required to trigger the pressure sensor, increase or decrease the number to the right of the "force" variable, above it is set at 150.

Step 17: Add Sound Effects to Board

I found some fun .OGG sounds to use for the Tiki and main volcano obstacles. Once I downloaded them I renamed them T01.ogg and T02.ogg. This is necessary because our sound board will go looking for a sound labeled TXX.ogg or TXX.wav where the XX is replaces with the input pin number being triggered to the board. So in our case we will be using input 1 and 2 on the board to trigger our sounds.

Step 18: Final Wiring & Enclosure

To keep the final wiring clean once the course was laid out I designed an enclosure box using makercase to house the speakers, electronics and Intel Edison. Adding two strips of terminal connectors on top to make wiring up the course much easier. The biggest thing to remember while doing this is to make sure you keep track of your wires once you thread then through the center of the box. It is so easy to make a mistake which could fry your circuit, so go slow and take your time.

Step 19: Grab Your Putter

YAY, you did it! Congratulations on making it to the end of a very long a complex build.