Little Rock Zoo Presents EAST at Annie Camp's Innovative Animal Feeder

Last Updated:10/28/2021

Four EAST students from Annie Camp Jr. High School in Jonesboro took a field trip to the Little Rock Zoo on Thursday morning, testing out their new Ringtail cat feeder and showing it off to KARK.

Four EAST students from Annie Camp Jr. High School in Jonesboro, Arkansas took a field trip to the Little Rock Zoo to present their newest innovation!

The team - led by ninth grader Ganesh Nair - created a Ringtail cat feeder using the class’ 3D printer, which addresses the issue of the animals often eating too quickly.

“My thought was I’ll make a cylinder with holes along the sides so that whenever we put the crickets in, they don’t like the enclosed space, so they’ll want to get out,” Nair said. “So when they do, the animal - the ringtail cat - will be able to pick them up and eat them.”

Facilitator Lorenzo Balderas says the class has been working in tandem with the zoo on the feeder for about two years, and is excited his students are finally able to show off their work.

“Because of COVID we hadn’t been able to travel, but we finally got the greenlight to go and are trying out our first prototype,” Balderas said. “The Zoo also gave us some really good ideas on some things they want to see. We definitely got what we needed in terms of moving forward and making it even better for the second go around.” 

The greatest challenge of the project was actually something that the team thought would be simple: the lid. It took five attempts at printing a lid that humans could easily remove and animals could not. 

“I decided to design a screw lid for it so humans can remove it, but the ringtail cats are far too weak to take it off,” Nair said. “The screw lid took almost as much time as the actual feeder did.”

One of Nair’s partners on the project is Randy Sullivan, who took the lead on researching the animals and different approaches the team could take.

“I like to research stuff so I actually questioned Ganesh about things when I came onto the project due to the information I found,” Sullivan said. “My main role was asking questions and making sure everyone understood everything.”

Before joining EAST three years ago, Ganesh said that he didn’t even know what a 3D printer was. But now, he credits EAST with helping him figure out his future.

“Going through EAST, learning about all these different types of technologies has definitely influenced my decisions on what I want to do in life,” Nair said. “I’m eager to learn more about them. I’m wanting to pursue a career in technology largely because of EAST.”

The students’ next step will be to improve the feeder and donate it to the Little Rock Zoo for future use. EAST at Annie Camp is also beginning a new project with the zoo, using their 3D printer to recreate artifacts like bones and fossils that the zoo can use for education.

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