Nova - A Companion Bot

Building a sweet little shoulder dragon to accompany my Color Stealing Fairy project.

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At Hackaday Superconference 2019 I had the pleasure of hanging out with Alex Glow and Jorvon Moss and their awesome companion bots Archimedes and Dexter. I love the personalities these little bots have and decided to embark on a journey to build my own after a conversation where I was deemed Dexter's fairy godmother - I spent all Saturday of SuperCon wearing my Color Stealing Fairy Costume. After a bit of brainstorming with friends, I ended up choosing to create a companion that could also react to my magic fairy wand and have matching color changing wings. Stay tuned for updates as I document the process of building her over a short timeline of late November to mid January.

Meet Nova, my first companion bot! She is a moving and light up fairy dragon that sits on my shoulder. Version 1 was built fast and for a deadline, but I'm looking forward to upgrading her in the future.

Unlike other companion bots out there, she is soft and cuddly and has minimal 3D components. This is partially for aesthetic reasons and partially because during her build process I only had access to a borrowed printer for a few weeks. 

She was created to rest on my shoulder like a fur stole and has some randomized movements in her wings and head that give her lifelike resting movements. When you touch the charm on her forehead her wings change color and flap faster. Her movements are part butterfly and part bird, making her a curious and cuddly companion! I'm hoping to incorporate her with my color changing fairy costume so she can do some color changing in response to the magic wand that controls that costume as well. 

Check out the project logs for details about each part of her build.

  • 1 × Feather M0 RFM69HCW Packet Radio Adafruit part 3176
  • 1 × FeatherWing Proto - Prototyping Add-on Adafruit part 2884
  • 1 × Custom 3D printed body/hardware mount
  • 1 × Custom sewn faux fur and spandex body/covering
  • 2 × Custom 3D printed wings

View all 20 components

  • Nova at Supercon 6

    Angela Sheehan11/03/2022 at 06:36 0 comments

    I'm getting ready to bring Nova out on her second official outing - Supercon 2022!

    Nova made her debut at the SparkFun holiday party, right before the pandemic, and hasn't been out in the world much since. She does have a semi-permanent home inspiring kids at the library makerspace I work in, but she's ready to meet other companion bots.

    To make her easier to carry around the conference, I bought her a new travel backpack that she can flap her wings in. 

  • Adding Movement

    Angela Sheehan05/10/2020 at 21:17 0 comments

    The most important part of this project, and new skill for me, was creating natural and whimsical movements. One of the most compelling things about the companion bots I have interacted with is their randomized movements that begin to feel like responses to their environment. 

    My first challenge was how to create flapping wings with the least amount of parts. After a lot of research and thought, I came across a gripper attachment for a servo that looked like it might be adaptable for a coordinated wing flap - eliminating the need for two servos to drive her wings.

    Read more »

  • Crafting a Cuddle-Worthy Body

    Angela Sheehan05/10/2020 at 20:51 0 comments

    The final part of Nova's build was trying to stitch together a soft body that securely stored all her hardware but felt life-like and cuddly. My concept of a dragon as a luxury fur stole took quite a bit of patterning and fabric shopping. Earlier in the process I draped some muslin to get a feel for the scale of her body against the blue velvet dress I planned to wear with her.

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  • Designing a Face

    Angela Sheehan05/10/2020 at 20:38 0 comments

    The process of creating Nova's face began with some trial and error of designing a plush face, modeled partly after the character Toothless from the How to Train Your Dragon series. 

    After disappointment with the way my fabric selections looked in prototypes and worry that a stuffed face would be hard to mount and stabilize, I turned to sculpture.

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  • Designing Nova's Wings

    Angela Sheehan05/10/2020 at 20:08 0 comments

    Working on a smaller scale than my Color Stealing Fairy costume's wings gave me a unique opportunity to explore creating edge lit acrylic wings. The small scale meant that weight would not be a huge limiting factor, and was eager to try out some ideas I wish I could have done with my human-sized wings. My goal with these acrylic wings was to have something that still felt delicate and not too bulky, so rather than try and install manufactured LED strips along the wings, I started sketching a custom PCB with side-firing LEDs along the outline.

    Read more »

View all 5 project logs

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