Robotics class reimagines ‘A Christmas Carol’ at Goodman Theatre showcase


Robotics students working on their projects for the showcase. (Photo courtesy of Anna Gelman)

By Nicole Herzog, Editor-In-Chief

A life-size robot stood tall amongst a crowd of guests, mechanically spewing out the opening lines of “A Christmas Carol.” Beside it, the play’s main character, Bob Cratchit, warmed his cardboard hands above a candle, a tableau from the original Dickens work.

In the corner of the room, another true-to-size cardboard robot was draped in a bright red cloak. Representative of the Ghost of Christmas Present, it was programmed to open its robe periodically, thus allowing the audience to catch a glimpse of two miniscule robotic dogs underneath.

Lane’s Robotics class featured their projects on Saturday, Dec. 1 at the Goodman Theatre before their annual production of “A Christmas Carol.” The exhibit was modeled to look like a museum.

Theodore Canji, Div. 152, a student in the robotics class, said that the class worked on their robots for about three months, and each project depicted a different scene from the play.

“We basically spent three-fourths of the semester building these, almost like, cardboard mannequins, and what made them move were servos in various places,” Canji said. “They depicted different scenes from the play, which Mr. Durham showed us in the beginning of the year, and we got to choose our scenes.”

After the class chose their scenes and groups which they would collaborate with, they began the  process of working on their robots. This required the students to be productive and work together all throughout the semester, fellow classmate Cassandra Hays, Div. 181, said.

“We went through a process of doing a prototype made out of construction paper that was like a toddler size, and then we used scraps of cardboard from boxes and things to do another prototype, and then a real design because my group worked pretty efficiently,” Hays said.

At the event, students were able to showcase their work and share their design process with the show’s cast and crew members as well as guests who attended the performance.

“It was fun because there were a lot of cameras and a lot of people from the play that were really interested in it,” Hays said.  “You see [the project] going through, so you always see the things wrong with it, and you see the things you want to fix. But, if you take a step back from it in someone else’s perspective and actually see what they see, they don’t see all the work that was put into it — they just see an amazing creation.”

The students were able to attend the event on the basis of the Goodman Theatre’s Stage Chemistry program, which, according to, works to introduce teachers and students to technical theatre production and the STEM elements which encompass the work.

The show’s director, Henry Wishcamper, came to Mr. Durham’s robotics class twice while the students worked on their projects in order to discuss the production as well as assess their work, robotics student Jesus Jimenez, Div. 963, said.

“He seemed very happy to work with us; he told us about the play and then came back to check our progress,” Jimenez said.

Overall, the students said that they were proud of their work and that the experience was a rewarding one.

The experience as a whole was great,” Jimenez said. “It was very interesting to see how everyone’s robot was coming together little by little, and I was very impressed by many of the robots that were actually made. I didn’t like the short amount of time we had for the project, but everything came out well in the end.”