The Care of Robotic Dinosaurs

  • Dilophosaurus

“Necessity is the mother of invention” – Plato. This is what came to mind after interviewing Don Kerven,employee of the Museums of Western Colorado for 20 years. Due to necessity when faced with budget restrictions throughout his career, Don has used his creativity to maintain what Dinosaur Journey is today.

Joining the Museum in 1998, Don started his employment at the downtown Museum of the West while undergoing its large remodel. From the beginning, Don was involved in all aspects of the day to day, behind the scenes maintenance of the Museum. It was this same year that the Museum designed a 2,500 square foot woodworking shop in the basement of the Museum of the West where Don was able to build exhibit cases and other needed amenities for the site. This space continues to be used for the building and construction of such needs for both the Museum of the West and Dinosaur Journey.

In the year 2000, Dinosaur Journey moved to Fruita and Don found himself with a new job: dinosaur repairs on the Japanese built, robotic dinosaurs. This was not a skill that came easily to learn. In the beginning, when a robotic dinosaur stopped working, or when the skin material tore, a company named Creature Craft was hired for a large fee to make these repairs. Not wanting to lose the Museum’s business, Creature Craft was very careful to keep secret their purchased materials for repairing and replacing the “skin” of the dinosaurs. In fact, they removed the labels from their supply cans to prevent Don from learning the source of their materials. However, Don was clever and spent a large portion of his time researching and studying materials online that he could purchase in order to do the work himself.

It was a steep learning curve, one that Don forged on his own, because there is no repair manual for these robotic dinosaurs. Don had a lucky break when one day a salesperson stopped by Dinosaur Journey with a urethane product that would be a reliable source for skin repairs on the dinosaurs. He continues to use this product today.

The upkeep on these animals is constant: skin repairs, foam replacement, and paint. Additionally, the moving robotic dinosaurs need constant maintenance on the air cylinders and air hoses that feed the air supply to the cylinders. These air cylinders are as old as the dinosaurs, and are based on the Metric System, meaning there is a process of conversion to our Imperial System (used in the United States). All of these repairs incur large amounts of Don’s time to investigate, research, and ultimately repair.

When he isn’t working on dinosaur repairs, Don can be found monitoring and repairing swamp coolers, maintaining Museum vehicles, training employees on driving and safety issues, and keeping the grounds of Dinosaur Journey. Don’s necessity to learn how to fix things on his own, and maintain the ever-popular robotic dinosaurs on the Museum’s small budget make Don an invaluable employee, and one who can be honored for his ingenuity and creativity.