Cat of a Different Color
CDC was originally a concept created by myself (John Zingapan ) and wife Josie Johansen. We wanted to contribute back to the art community at Burning Man in our own way. Josie having a background as a veterinary technician and volunteer with several animal adoption groups, always showed a love for cats. I made a few small pieces to share and had inspiration to do something bigger. Josie asked if it would be possible to make a cat that could be driven around in. So we sat down and started putting together what would become CDC.
Having no budget and a lot to do I started to collect old motors and components from jobs at work. With help from the company I work at I had a work space on weekends. With this I was able to start putting together a frame. I was able to scrap together a very good but crude working animatronic sub structure. CDC version one had eyes, mouth, tail and ears which moved. As well as a small bull horn to play cat sounds when the mouth was opened and a spray mechanism for humor. A large part of my budget went to LED rope lights, batteries and fur.
Somehow, I was able to pull all of this off in just 9 month’s time to take up to Burning Man. Just the first day in the public, we had learned very quickly what an impact an animatronic cat was to children young and old. It would stir up a lot of emotions and amazement to see all the cool functions; push buttons to control it.
The following 3 years I added better motors as I found them and newer controls as I learned and taught myself more about them. By the end of version one I had started to use circuit boards to control some of the motors. At this point I had lost my place to store the project and I was getting ready to just give up on the whole thing.
A good friend and soon to be partners in CDC v2 Howard Redding and Alison Laytham had just gotten a small warehouse in Vallejo. They offered to let me store CDC v1 and to host and support me with CDC v2. Soon after using it in a Christmas parade I started to take apart and remove all components that would be useful. All items that could not be used went to the art group called Obtainium Works. I took out a loan from my 401k plan to pay for all the material we would need. Tons of self learning with Youtube, books and DVDs I was ready to start v2.
Howard and I took 9 months of weekends and extended weekends to put together a fiberglass shell and recruited help from anyone who had a few minutes of time to spare. Next I modified a used off road go-cart I found off of craigslist for the sub frame and powerplant. I installed a ton of new LED lighting, that just came out and upgrading a few computer components. With help from Josie we found new material that would be used as the new coat for CDC. I was able to just get a bare minimum together just in time for Burning Man.
With this new and better design we started to use CDC in more places; including parades, fundraisers for local animal shelters and Maker’s Faire. All of this being self funded with personal credit cards or taking on additional overtime shifts.
With all the expenses to bring CDC to the current level she is in, we have exhausted our budgets but have a long way to go. CDC still needs motorized ears, tail and sound system for her voice. We also need a much needed new trailer to safely transport her around to other events.
We have been asked to show her off at additional shows, fundraisers, and student robotic events. All support would be used for new additions and travel expenses.