To mutate consciously or not to mutate.  That is the question.

Mutant garage

Sona Astro Mechi (SAM) started out as an electric 3-wheel golf cart as the base. We removed the rear sheet metal and bumpers to convert the rear fenders and cargo area to decks and storage. The rear suspension was lifted by adding an extra leaf to the springs and extensions to the leaf spring shackles and shock mounts to lift and support the extra rear deck length and weight. ¾” inch plywood panels were cut and affixed to the base to provide more seating area in the back that can hold 4-6 passengers. The construction also allowed for storage bay areas under the back seats. For 2022 and 2023, the lead-acid power cells have been upgraded to Lithium-Ion modules, each is sealed in a can. The onboard generator is no longer needed.

On top of the back seating area, we mounted powder coated square black metal frame panels that create the cage like body of the robot. The frame panels were welded onto rectangle metal plates that are screwed into the plywood seating. Panels of reflective silver roll insulation have been attached to the body frame in select sections to provide the outline of a solid robot body. Most of the body frame is open to allow for the rear passengers to view their surroundings. We repurposed aluminum radio tower truss material for the legs and arms of the robot. These truss sections were attached with heavy duty screws and bolts to the robot body. The truss material is also mostly open with a criss-cross, lattice pattern across the length of the limbs. Inside the leg and arm limbs, we attached panels of reflective silver roll insulation as a backdrop. We mounted our LED strips at the top of each limb facing down towards the reflective backdrop so that the color gradients diffuse in the reflective material when the LED colors cycle. The head of the robot is also constructed of the same powder coated square metal panels that were cut to form the box shape of the head. The face of the robot is a recycled electric wheelchair cover that we cut out shapes for the eyes and mouth. The eyes of the robot are neo-pixel LEDs which allow it to show some expression. The robot head is skinned in corrugated cardboard (CoroPlast). The CoroPlast panel material is clear around three sides of the head, so that LEDs are visible inside the head. There is also an infinity mirror heart that is mounted inside the robot chest that color changes in time with the neo-pixel eye patterns in the robot head. The heart material was 3D printed and it is housed in a wooden box.

The front cart dash and trim sheet metal has been removed to fit the front deck. The front hood area of the vehicle was also extended structurally by welding a deck made of triangles of tubular steel to the frame base. This deck supports a thick plywood panel that provides additional seating or a cargo area. The bottom of the steel deck supports white CoroPlast panels to conceal the front wheel and suspension components. The front of the turbines are attached to the under deck framework.

Additional modifications we will be making for Burning Man 2023.

We will be adding two podracer-style turbines that run the length of the vehicle. Each side has a metal rotating turbine in the front, and the sides are ribbed translucent material, and the back is a glowing orange exhaust cone.

SAM pilots the engines via control straps in its hands. At night the internal workings are illuminated , simulating motion even when parked.

Mutant Vehicle Intent

In a world where the balance between humans, animals, and the environment was becoming more delicate than ever, innovative inventors named Mutant Garage and SoniaSan, sought to create a technological marvel that would showcase the harmony between innovation and nature. Their vision led to the creation of SAM (Sona Astro Mechi), a one-of-a-kind robot designed to learn about the natural world and the diverse species inhabiting it.
What makes SAM truly unique is that it was constructed entirely out of repurposed and recycled building materials and technology. Its core is powered by lithium-ion batteries salvaged from a Nissan Leaf, giving the robot an eco-friendly energy source. SAM’s robot body is boxy by design, yet intricately crafted, with color-changing lights running along its arms and legs. Its eyes and mouth are also equipped with pattern-changing lights which give SAM a mesmerizing and lifelike friendly appearance.

SAM’s creators believed that their robot could become a symbol of sustainable innovation, demonstrating how humans could utilize technology to better understand and coexist with the natural world. SAM has chameleon-like ability to change colors and blend in with its surroundings, and limbs designed to mimic the movements of various animals.

SAM’s journey took it to various installations, workshops, and gatherings, where it continued to learn about conservation, animal communication, and the beauty of the natural world. The robot will share its newfound knowledge and insights with those human and animal species it encounters, captivating audiences with its unique blend of technology and nature.