Our goal:

For the Olin College Principles of Engineering course, we set out to create a mobile terrarium, shaped like a turtle, which would wander into and out of sunlight to care for the plant on its back. Each step would be autonomous, the choice a combination of where the light was, where obstacles stood, and other sensory data. Our individual learning goals, ranging from learning more about sensors and control to practicing rapid-iterative mechanical prototyping (and more) blended together into the idea of Terrapin.


From the Hanging Gardens of Babylon to the urban window box, plants, life, and growth have brought us joy for centuries. This is what one of our members experienced when she attended a talk on the nearly-magical Nemo’s Garden. These underwater biospheres are filled with thriving plants and stream sensor data to their researchers. And though these are stationary bubbles, plants in a strange, beautiful place inspired a new idea: what about a terrarium that moved and seemed almost as alive as the plants on its back? What about a turtle?