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Robotic Crocodile Featured In SGS Production Of ‘Peter Pan Jr.’

Bill Connell makes some adjustments to “Paul,” the remote-controlled robotic crocodile – created on part by the Franklin High School Robotics Team members – that will be featured in Sampson G. Smith Players’ production of “Peter Pan Jr.”


By now, the folks who plan and put together the scenery and costumes for the Sampson G. Smith Players’ productions are used to its director looking for something spectacular.

With last year’s popular production of “The Lion King,” it was the costumes. This year, to spice up the Players’ presentation of “Peter Pan Jr.” director Terri Seggio said she wanted a crocodile.

A moving crocodile.

And when Seggio tells the production crew what she wants, “our job is to figure out how to get it for her,” said Bill Connell, the Players’ production coordinator.

Connell, a fixture at Board of Education meetings, knew of the abilities of the Franklin High School robotics team. So it was there he went, looking for a robotic crocodile.

“I reached out to Roberta Mitchell, she’s the head of Fine Arts” at the high school, Connell said. “She hooked me up with the high school robotics team, the lead is Elizabeth Sibling, and David Bitko is second in command.”

Connell told them what he needed, and, over the course of two months, robotics team members produced a structure over which Connell created a crocodile skin.

Although it had been tested during its production, the first actual “screen test” for the robotic crocodile – named Paul, for trivia lovers – came at the Jan. 28 rehearsal.

The remote-controlled crocodile can move forward and back, and its legs and tail articulate.

The structure is about six feet long and weighs about three pounds, Connell said.

“They told me what materials to use” to keep it lightweight, he said.

Final touches are being put on the programming for the driving motors and for the articulation, he said.

Connell said the crocodile offered a great way to “showing robotics applied to something inside the school district, using the equipment you have and the people you have to solve a problem.”

Seggio said she was thrilled with the result.

“We always think, what are we going to do this yeat that’s going to be something,” she said. The high school students who put the robot together “were fabulous, and it’s amazing that we got it,” she said.

Seggio said the project exemplifies her desire to bring the community in to the productions whenever she can.

“This program is always trying to do community,” she said. “We bring the parents in, we have alumni that work backstage, we have alumni on the lighting board, we train them when they’re little.”

The show – about a little boy who never grows up – will open with the crocodile, Seggio said.

“It’s going to be different,” she said.

The show is slated for 7 p.m. Feb, 3, 4, 10 and 11, and 2 p.m. Feb. 5 and 12. Tickets are $8 each and can be ordered here.

Following are some scenes from the production.

2017 Peter Pan Jr. at Sampson G. Smith

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