Student Perspective: Building the Raptors

Thursday, March 1, 2018
UT students examine an animatronic raptor costume worn by another student

Ashton Bennett Murphy, a Theatre and Dance major focusing on technical design and production, shares what it was like building the raptors this past semester.

Ashton Bennett Murphy works on an animatronic raptor

What do you do when you’re asked to build three full-scale velociraptors? What if you only have 14 weeks to do it? And what if these beasts have to be worn, adorned with lights and appear lifelike, making an audience believe in a world with money-eating dinosaurs?

In 14 weeks, a group of 16 incredibly talented students from the Department of Theatre and Dance and across UT have managed to pull off the impossible. We formed teams, we solved problems and we created three amazing creatures that we hope bring the Enron story to life. We each brought skills to the table—designing, CNC routing, problem solving, painting, programming, molding, crafting—and expanded them in a way we never thought we would or could. We learned new skills like puppet-building, skin-crafting and foam-sculpting. I was challenged in ways I had never before anticipated.

I came into this class as a designer, painter and carpenter. Naturally, I expected I would be put to work on the structure and artistry of the raptors. Instead, I was thrown into a world of electronics and forced to stretch myself to learn about Arduinos and programming and soldering. The other members of my team, two incredibly smart engineers, could have an entire conversation in what seemed like another language. Despite having to learn on the job, I feel like the process has made me into a better designer and craftsperson.

So…how do you build three raptors? A lot of work. A lot of patience. And a lot of trust in the people around you. They’re just as lost as you are, and yet they can teach you something that will lead you right to the answer.