Because the Phoenix Zoo is a non-profit and does not have the resources to invest in new technologies, the Zoo employs low-tech, low-budget alternatives to address basic needs and provide behavioral enrichment for the animals. More often than not, these low-tech options are inadequate because they cannot withstand harsh climate conditions and physical interaction with the animals. In addition, these alternatives do not stimulate guest interaction with the animals and fail to promote a meaningful visitor experience. Ultimately, the Phoenix Zoo is seeking to bridge these two gaps so that both the animals and guests are satisfied.
After meeting with Rich at the end of the first semester, the team decided to scrap the initial design in favor of a cat-mouse chasing game. This design is inspired by a similar design proposed by the famous animal behavioral enrichment specialist Hal Markowitz. The design involves guests pulling a plush mouse through tubing to engage the cats. For now, the team is working to testing acrylic and PVC tubing to evaluate if the cheaper PVC tubing will be just as effective at protecting the mouse as acrylic. The next step would be to build a simple prototype of the model and evaluate if the animals are interested in it. Overall, the goal for this semester is to build and test this prototype so that the team can know if this idea is viable.
Emma Ryan, Sophomore, Mechanical Engineering
Briana Oliver, Sophomore, Computer Science
Crystian Rodriguez, Sophomore, Civil Engineering
Sean Keller, Sophomore, Electrical Engineering