A robotic Penguin

When we talk about free software the first thing that comes to mind is GNU/Linux, surely the most known free software operative system. This OS is often associated with the image of a penguin called tux.


That’s why limulo.net used a penguin stuffed animal in one of its interactive installation for the Linux Day Milan 2016, an important annual event in Italy dedicated to Free and Open Source software.

This interactive station is entirely based on the TouchBoard, a prototyping board by Bareconductive based on the Arduino Leonardo. This board is specifically designed to be used with capacitive sensors and it is suited for situations where you need to be completely independent from the main power supply.

penguin 2

The board can be powered using a LiPo battery, so it can be placed everywhere. The board also mounts an MP3 shield and a female minijack TRS that we used to reproduce a sound.

We connected the TouchBoard to a particular electrode made of a square shaped copper foil attached inside a little card box.

front desk

This sensor detects user proximity while the TouchBoard sends trigger to two different servo motors:

When the user approaches the little card box to donate, the sensor inside it sends an electric stimulus to the TouchBoard. This stimulus is elaborated by the software on the board and eventually triggers an electric signal addressed to the servos.

While the penguin is waiving you hear the warble by the wind chimes.

penguin 1

How does it work?

We have created a little control unit where we placed the TouchBoard and the LiPo battery. Inside the same box we placed a 4 AA battery pack to provide a separate power supply for the servos.

The control unit contained also a tiny breadboard used to create all the necessary connections between components.

Both the penguin and chimes servos are connected to the control unit via a 3,5mm TRS jack while the copper foil capacitive sensor is connected directly on the breadboard.

Another 3,5mm TRS jack is used to connect and external speaker to play a sound when proximity is detected.

Here is an image that gives you the idea:


Source Code

You can download the code for this interactive installation from this repository.



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