Beach Animals

Theo Jansen (TAY-oh YAHN-ssen) is an artist from the Netherlands, in Europe, who uses the engineering design process in his work. He is curious about making machines that can live by themselves on the beach, sort of like animals. He calls each design a different species of "Strandbeest," which is Dutch for "beach animal." For 25 years, Jansen has planned, built, tested, and improved at least one new Strandbeest. Most of his creations have been made out of plastic tubing, but Jansen has also made wooden and even metal ones. How does he decide what his next Strandbeest will be like?

Jansen tests out materials in his studio and sketches a design that he will then build over several months. Then he brings the completed Strandbeest to a wide, flat beach and watches how it handles the wind, sand, and water. He redesigns parts that are not working well, and tests them again. After designing and revising 38 different Strandbeests, Jansen has invented some pretty cool features, things like systems for storing wind energy and sensors for detecting water. Right now the Strandbeests need a lot of support from Jansen and his team, but he is continuing to revise their designs, hoping one day to build a completely independent creature.

To see the Strandbeests in action, click on the image below:

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