Motors and Mechanisms

An Introduction to Basic Mechanical Design for Art and DIY projects.

Instructor: Michael Kontopoulos

Sunday, July 29th / 11am -2pm
Wednesday, August 1st / 7pm – 10pm
Saturday, August 4th / 11am – 2pm
11am – 2pm


Members: $200
Non-members: $225


You are reading this post because you’re wondering if a little bit of motion is what your newest sculpture needs to come alive. Or perhaps you want to bring some extra flare to that catspanking machine you’ve been working on. Maybe you are ready to take the first steps towards your life goal of a Wallace-and-Gromit style breakfast preparation device.

No matter your background, this workshop will serve as your ground-up introduction to creating motion through simple and compound mechanisms. This class does not cover electronics, but we will look at a variety of electronic motors and how the motion they generate can be useful to you. From there on, we’ll play with a variety of methods for making cyclical motion more intriguing, silly or practical. Topics covered will include simple machines, linkages, couplings, and how all of these combine into more complex mechanisms. We will cover many critical concepts including levers, block & tackle, gears, work, force, machine elements, and most important, translation of force. Focus will be on creative applications. Workshop hours will be divided between lectures and labs/workshops. At the conclusion of the works, everybody will leave with at least one hand-cranked or motor-powered automaton.

Michael Kontopoulos is a Los Angeles based artist and designer with a background in sculpture and new-media art. He has taught courses on electronics, programming and sculpture at CSU Long Beach, UCLA, USC and Art Center College of Design.


> No electronics knowledge is necessary. Several motors will be provided for workshops.
> Tools and materials will be provided.


Here’s a rough outline of what to expect (subject to adjustment):

Day 1
DC Electricity and Inductors
DC Motors, Solenoid Motors, Gears and Torque.
Motor Workshop.

Day 2
Classes of simple machines. Uses, Applications in Industry, Design and Art…
Levers, Pulleys, Wheels, Gears, Screws, Planes & Wedges, etc.
Mechanical Linkages.
Compound Mechanisms.
Automaton Workshop.

Day 3
Demystifying machine elements (i.e. Learning the proper words for “doodad” and “whirlimajig”
– and where to buy them).
More on Compound Mechanisms, Irregular Motion and Cams.
Musical Automaton Workshop.

Refund policy:
Please note, all class fees include a non-refundable enrollment deposit of $25 that will be deducted from your refund if you sign up for, then drop, a class. So, for example, if you sign up for Machine Sewing 101 and pay the $155 class fee, but then remember that you have trapeze school final exams that conflict with the Sewing class and shouldn’t have signed up after all, we will refund you $130 of your tuition payment.
Gift certificate purchase:

If you have a Machine Project gift certificate you’d like to redeem for a class, please email us at and let us know.