The Mega Claw – Summary (9 of 9)

We took the Mega Claw to Maker Faire on Friday and it was amazing. We had a great time in the pre-events, plenty of free food, free beer and samples, yum! We also got to play in the hall of science’s playground without those pesky kids in the way. The machine took us hours to setup, but it was all in good shape. Things didn’t break until Saturday.

We wanted to be fair so we made the game $4 play until you win. The color balloon that was picked up determined your prize. We quickly realized this wasn’t a good idea. People liked winning, but people had no idea what color was what. Also play until you win made the lines too long. Most players grabbed it on the first or second try, but some took 10 tries or more.

Later that day the machine started acting funny. Motors stopped moving and the claw wouldn’t open. Everything seemed to need more tweaking. Our hearts sank when we started hearing snapping noises from the joystick. Kids were hanging from the joystick and the U-joint inside was taking a beating. We had to repair the joystick about four times over the course of the day and we lost at least three hours.

Eventually the motors stopped working all together. We thought we burnt them out and it was the end of the Mega Claw. Even if we bought new motors, there wasn’t enough time to replace them all.


We setup our demos, but we had no machine so we had to hang this shameful sign. We sold some of the prizes, but everyone wanted the machine. We finally cracked open the motors and it turned out the motors were fine, it was a broken bearing inside the gearbox messing everything up. We repaired it and like a phoenix rising from the ashes the Mega Claw was working! In fact it was working better than it ever had. The claw was grabbing superbly,  the sound effects were blasting and even the wind was on our side.

The crowds were amazing, everyone wanted to play. This time we got some tips from Saturday’s players and we changed the rules a lot. We learned people like options, we made it $5 play till you win and $3 for a single try. Also we dumped the color coded prize confusion. Instead if you grabbed a balloon you chose any prize. If you grabbed a balloon with a raffle ticket tied to it, you get both a raffle ticket for the Wii Grand Prize and something from the prize table.

We were so happy that at the last hour of Maker Faire we announced Death Match! Everyone could play for free balloons. (We didn’t offer the prizes or raffle tickets for death match, to keep things fair.)

Lessons learned
3D printed parts are good for prototypes, not for heavy use.
In a dusty environment  friction belts will become smooth
In a dusty environment dust lubed parts will become tacky
Kids are the ultimate stress test
Bring a net, Maker Faire is windy
It’s really fun to pop balloons

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