Civil/Structural Engineering, Vashon, Washington, USA 206-463-5311
Ellisport Engineering Blog
Caterpillar Design, Really!

What’s the proper response when a client asks you to design a 30’ tall caterpillar?  And no, he didn’t mean construction equipment.  This happened to us in early March 2014, about the same time community discussions were ongoing for a possible Vashon Island edible pot products factory.  At first, I wondered if the two projects were related, but they were not.


Stageworks Productions of Vashon approached us for help, as their client asked, at the last minute, for an engineer to design their project: a rotatable 30’ tall caterpillar perched on a mushroom, reminiscent of “Alice in Wonderland.”  We had one week to work with the designer/fabricator and engineer the hidden supporting structure, later covered with caterpillar foam, paint, and lights.  The Caterpillar was shown at EDC (Electric Daisy Carnival) New York 2014, a two-day event at MetLife Stadium encompassing carnival rides, endless performances, and flamboyant clothing; however, there is a strict no-tolerance drug policy.  The Caterpillar will later travel to Las Vegas, then maybe to additional venues.  The “frosting” on the Caterpillar is the amazing state-of-the-art projection lighting.  Below is a link to a night video of the Caterpillar.  Wow!


There are no structural engineering design classes for a 30’ tall rotating caterpillar perched on a mushroom.  At least, there were no classes available like that when I attended engineering school back in the Dinosaur Days (mid-1970’s).  Back then, books were on paper, computers were the size of rooms, software was on punch cards, drafting was done by hand on tables, texting was done on a typewriter, and calculators had just superseded slide rules.  It was a simple, primitive time.


It’s projects like this that keep the job fun, stretch the imagination, and challenge us to use our full “quiver” of engineering skills. 

Add a Comment

(Enter the numbers shown in the above image)