A Purdue


Since 1995, Engineering Projects In Community Service (EPICS) has been partnering local and global community organizations to address human, community, and environmental needs. Teams of undergraduate students use this service-learning design program to benefit themselves as well as make the community. Read more about EPICS at Purdue.
Source: https://engineering.purdue.edu/EPICS

Our Team and Mission

Our mission is to design, build, deliver and maintain educational projects that will aid the Columbian Park Zoo in inspiring interactive learning among the community. Teamwork, great communication, ethical behavior, respectful attitudes, and trustworthiness are essential to the successful completion of our goals.

Thank You to Our Partners and Sponsors:

Current Projects

EPICS students are working to complete these projects
during the Fall 2018 semester.

Interactive Bird Exhibit

The Interactive Bird Exhibit (formerly known as the Interactive Key) is a birdcall-matching game designed to promote interactive learning among children. When the power button is pressed, 1 of 4 birdcalls is played and then the user is asked to select which bird they think corresponds to the call. The 4 birds included in the game are 4 that actually live at the Columbian Park Zoo: the barn owl, the great horned owl, the American kestrel and the bald eagle. If they choose correctly, a "congratulations" sound will be played and then they will be prompted to correctly match the remaining 3 birds. If they choose the wrong bird, a "try again" sound will be played and they will be given another bird call of the ones left unmatched. Once all 4 birds are matched correctly, a closing message will be played and the game will turn off. This project began in January 2013, and it is scheduled for delivery this fall 2018 semester.

Interactive Animal Education Experience (IAEE)

The Interactive Animal Education Experience (IAEE) is, physically, a touchscreen tablet that will broadcast to a 48" TV in the Zoo's education building. The features of the IAEE will include promotional information for the Zoo's upcoming events, news and information about the animals, conservation messages, games and a live video feed of the Hellbender exhibit. It is important that the tablet and TV have an attractive user interface, are child friendly and still display information when idle. It will be easy for the Zoo staff to maintain and update with new information. Overall, the IAEE will provide an educational experience, encourage community involvement and promote conservation programs. This project is scheduled to be delivered this semester and will hopefully be fully functioning when the Zoo opens in the spring.

Farm Donation Box

Because the Columbian Park Zoo is a non-profit organization, they rely heavily on patron donations to maintain the premises and attract guests. In past semesters, the EPICS Zoo Team developed the donation box to increase patron donations to the Columbian Park Zoo. The design is similar to the game "Plinko," where a coin will randomly bounce off plastic pegs on a barn-shaped Plinko board. At the bottom, there are five different 3D models of zoo animals that the coin can fall behind. When the coin falls behind one of the animals, the corresponding animal sound is played. This project was previously delivered to the Zoo but is now back for maintenance and repairs this semester by the Project Rehab team.

Primate Interaction

Inspired by the St. Louis Zoo, the Columbian Park Zoo is implementing an Primate interaction project for teaching and advertising purposes. The project will house a camera in an interactive device that will allow the zoo to have close-up footage of animal interactions to use. This semester is the second semester the zoo team is working on this project.

Current Members

Interactive Bird Exhibit

Rebecca Dvorak: Design Lead, Team Member

Abbi Green: Financial Officer, Team Member

Prerak Modh: Project Archivist, Team Member

Alexa Roemer: Team Member

Catherine Darr: Team Member


Project Rehab

Emily Wilmsen: Project Archivist, Team Member

Kushol Bhattacharjee: Webmaster, Team Member

Rocco Matera: Design Lead, Team Member

Carl Russell: Team Member

Courtney Weaver: Team Member

Dara Sodipo: Financial Officer, Team Member

Primate Interaction

Mehmet Karatoprak: Financial Officer, Team Member

Chris Sexton: Project Archivist, Team Member

Claudia Sims: Team Member

JoBeth Martin: Design Lead, Team Member

Rohan Sohani: Project Partner Liason, Team Member

Maggie Steinrauf: Team Member

Team Picture

Eric Holloway: Faculty Advisor

Soonam Lee: Teaching Assistant

Delivered Projects

Since 2005, projects like these have continued to
enhance the capabilites and possibilities of the Columbian Park Zoo.

Primate Biscuit Feeder

The Primate Biscuit Feeder is an interactive game similar to the game "Simon Says,". A light pattern flashes on the four buttons, and the primates must repeat the pattern to earn a biscuit. When the pattern is completed correctly, a hopper containing around 80 biscuits (the amount of biscuits the primates are allowed to have each day) will release several biscuits. The biscuits are released by a linear actuator, which retracts and then returns to its original position, pushing the biscuits into a drop box that dispenses the biscuits to the primates. A de-jammer was installed to prevent the biscuits from getting stuck in the hopper. The de-jammer consists of a triangular wooden block with a bungee cord and trimmer line wrapped around a pulley that moves with the linear actuator, pressing the biscuits downward when the linear actuator retracts. The Primate Biscuit Feeder was delivered to the Columbian Park Zoo on November 29, 2012.

Puppet Stage

The Puppet Stage is approximately 4.8 feet tall and 5 feet wide. It is free-standing and has sound effects that the children can activate by pressing various buttons. Safety issues have been addressed so that the children can be the puppeteers when using this project. There are three different background themes: arctic, nocturnal and underwater. The project involved designing and constructing the stage, the backdrops and sound system. Puppets for the plays may be chosen and purchased in the future. This project was delivered to the Columbian Park Zoo on April 1, 2005.

The Zookeeper Game

The Zookeeper game is a board game based off "The Game of Life". The purpose of the game is to teach young children the responsibilities involved with being a zookeeper. Each player moves along the game board by moving the number of spaces designated by an electronic spinner. Some of the spaces are questions about the responsibilities or opportunities a zookeeper would face when working at the zoo. Others are fact squares that provide information about zookeeping. The player who passes by all the spaces wins the game. We are incorporating a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) to use instead of event cards. When instructed, the child may press the "Enter" button on the PDA and the PDA program will pick an electronic card at random and display it on the screen. The card has a picture and some instructions and, in the future, may also incorporate sounds and/or links for more information. This project was delivered to the Columbian Park Zoo on April 1, 2005.

Animal Simon

The Animal Simon is a game based on the game "Simon" and is intended for young children. The objective of the game is to test the memory skills of children while educating them about animals and the sounds that they make. First, animal sounds are played from a speaker. Then the child must press the button corresponding to the animals that made the sound. Every time the child presses the correct button, that animal sound will be played again followed by another. The sequence continues until the child presses an incorrect animal button. The game is then restarted. The child who gets 99 sequences correct will win the game. There will be 8 buttons with animals pictures arranged in a square grid around the center of a 1 foot square board.

Butterfly Donation Box

The Butterfly Donation Box is designed to promote donations from Columbian Park Zoo patrons to fund the expensive butterflies and maintenance for them. It's unique design and interactive qualities will entice people to donate. When people put money (either a coin or paper money) into the slot on the front of the butterfly, interior LEDs will flash and a fact about butterflies will be play from a interior speaker. It cycles through 4 different facts. The money is kept safely on the inside and can only be removed with a key. It has a wood and transparent plastic exterior and will be securely mounted to the wall in the exit room of the butterfly exhibit.

Otter Feeder

The Otter Feeder (disassembled above to show all components) houses food for the otters at the Zoo and releases the allotted amount for them at the appropiate eating times. It is able to do this with an internal timer. This project was previously delivered to the Zoo but is now back for maintenance and repairs this semester by the Project Rehab team.


The Kiosk project is a tablet housed in a wooden enclosure. The tablet displays the Columbian Park Zoo website and allows the user to navigate around it to find out about upcoming zoo events, how to get involved and general information about the animals. This project was delivered in 2009 and is back this semester for maintenance and repairs. The paint significantly faded, the touchscreen malfunctioned frequently, the audio stopped working and the enclosure became structurally unstable. This semester the Kiosk Team has been working on repainting (with orange and black this time for tiger colors), installing a rain guard, fixing touchscreen problems, installing a firewall to limit access to only the Zoo's site and incorporating more audio. Additionally, an interactive game resembling Xbox 360™'s Kinect™ will be incorporated in the Kiosk. The user will "race" other animals by running in place in front of a sensor. The screen will display how fast they are moving in relation to another animal for a short-distance race.

Animal Operation

The goal of the Animal Operation game is to educate children about the geographic location of the natural habitat of various animals, and the sound that each makes. Based off the game "Operation", the object of the game is to dextrously and carefully remove the animal pieces from holes without bumping onto the edges of the holes. If the tweezers make contact with the edges of the holes, the sound of that animal is played and the child's turn is over. An electronic timer keeps track of the time. The children have a certain amount of time to remove as many animals as possible, and the child who removes the most animals wins. The amount of time set on the timer can be varied, so older children can be challenged by playing with less time, while younger children can play with more time. The animal sounds are stored on a compact flash card and are played through a digital sound board. All circuitry is located under the game playing surface to safeguard children from hazards. The lid of the case is decorated with facts about the animals exhibited in the game. This project was delivered to the Columbian Park Zoo on April 1, 2005.

Contact Us

EPICS Office

Neil Armstrong Hall of Engineering, Room 1200
701 W Stadium Ave.
West Lafayette, IN 47907

Connect with Purdue Engineers

Zoo Team

Faculty Advisor - Eric Holloway

Teaching Assistant - Soonam Lee

Project Manager - Valarie Bogan

Webmaster - Kushol Bhattacharjee