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 Spring 2019 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.

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.

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.

Current Members

Interactive Bird Exhibit


Tyler Oelking: Design Lead

Feidi Xie: Financial Officer

Claire Moorman: Project Archivist

Lillian Hough: Project member

Butterfly Donation Box


Flynn Botkin: Design Lead

Stav Zeliger: Financial Officer

Alex Echeverria: Project Archivist

Matthew Maliekal: Web Master

Primate Interaction


JoBeth Martin: Design Lead

Kobe Martin: Financial Officer

Mattei Jacks: Project Archivist

Cole Clements: Project Member

Delivered Projects

Since 2005, projects like these have continued to
enhance the capabilities 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.

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. The Donation Box was recovered from the zoo in Fall 2012 and has been improved. The team has done cosmetic improvements to the box by painting the box and adding the Columbian Park Zoo and EPICS logos, as well as a Purdue "P" on the side. During the Spring 2013 semester, the team also replaced the damaged ramps with new ramps that matched the color of the box. In addition, the team replaced the scratched plexiglass with a thinner plexiglass sheet to reduce scratching from the pegs. The donation box was re-delivered at the end of the Spring 2013 semester, and in the spring of 2015 after minor maintenance. The project was delivered again in spring of 2019 after retouching on box-aesthetics and fixing the tipping issue of the box.

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.

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.

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 - Amrit Nagarajan

Webmaster - Kobe Martin