3D printed bats bursting out of their capsules
Education Play/Games

Last Chance to See Capsule Machine: Bat Edition

Last Chance to See Capsule Machine is an interactive capsule toy machine featuring endangered animal art toys. It’s intended to be a novel approach to engaging with others about critically endangered species using toys to tell the stories of these non-human animals.


Dhemerae Kay Ford


Sharleen Smith


Last Chance to See Capsule Machine is a capsule toy machine that accurately represents the population changes of endangered species. The likelihood of you receiving a specific bat is directly tied to how many of them still exist in the world.  This toy machine is part art-piece, part educational experience that strives to engage with people in a playful way while introducing concepts around scarcity and the importance of biodiversity and conservation. You don’t know exactly which species you’re going to receive out of the machine and once the animal is gone you won’t be able to collect it anymore. ​Some of the bats in the machine are infected white-nose syndrome (WNS), caused by the fungal pathogen Pseudogymnoascus destructans, a disease that has decimated North-American bat populations for the past 10 years.  The amount of infected bats in the machine is derived from the estimated percentage of the species' total population that has been effected by the disease.

3D printed bats bursting out of their capsules


One thing I learned throughout my research is that we are by-in-large under-informed about endangered species. According to one poll conducted by National Geographic in 2022, 68 percent of Americans polled were found to be under informed about endangered species with 30 percent of participants admitting that the ecological issue of animal extinction is not on their radar. I chose bats as my flagship species for the first iteration of this project because are highly misunderstood animals. We see them represented so often in film and literature, but we know far less about them.  They are often are treated as pest animals, this negative perception has only increased as a result of covid-19. However bats actually serve as a critical component to our ecosystem and save our agriculture industry over 1 billion dollars by doing what they do best - eating a lot of tasty insects. The bat species population data and infection rates of WNS that I used for my project are derived from the North American Bat Monitoring Program.

Technical Details

I designed the machine in Solidworks referencing existing gumball and capsule machine designs to ensure the mechanics would function properly. The machine was 3D printed in ASA plastic using Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) technology. The capsule machine is driven by a database running on a Raspberry Pi that uses Ultra-High Frequency (UHF) RFID scanning technology to record the capsule toys as they enter and exit the machine.  Video animations are triggered on the machine showing information about which bat species you received. Inspired by the unique character of each bat species, I designed and painted each bat in ZBrush.  They were then 3D printed in color using Multi-Jet Fusion (MJF) technology. The infected bats were flocked in white rayon fibers to mimic the white fibrous appearance of white-nose syndrome and to give these bats a soft velvet-like surface.  Additionally, the bat toys have magnetic feet and prefer to be displayed hanging upside or on a vertical surface.

ZBrush render of bat toysfully assembled capsule machinebat toys hanging off metal vent