Trap doors, laser rooms, ceiling vents, and even a scene similar to Mission Impossible. Former NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory engineer and Apple Product Design Engineer, Mark Rober, attempted to build an obstacle course to prevent four thieving squirrels from stealing his bird seed. After some heavy design, and trial and error from the first rendition of the secret squirrel obstacle course, Rober took some inspiration from some of our favorite secret squirrel films like Mission Impossible and Ocean’s Eleven to set the stage for one of the biggest steals: The Walnut Heist to grab the loot from “Fort Knuts.”
We appreciate how punny this engineering project is, and how Rober filmed the entire heist truly from the lens of a spy. End result? The course failed.
Behold this epic backyard squirrel maze
“I never thought I’d be that crazy guy in the neighborhood obsessing over the squirrels, but they started it first when they would constantly pillage the bird seed from any bird feeder I would put up,” Rober says. The obstacle course idea was born out of his efforts to bird watch during the pandemic, because no matter how substantial a bird feeder he installed, the thieving squirrels had no issue circumventing the “squirrel-proof” defenses. This sounded more like a fun project similar to Rober’s mechanical engineering background, and his experience designing Mars rovers would be more than enough to help.
Not only is Rober the crazy guy in the neighborhood, but he even named these Secret Squirrels performing the heist of the century.
Secret Squirrels, Rick, Marty, Frank, and Phat Gus had to navigate a long obstacle course and restart from the very beginning every time they failed one of the steps, but they’d also have to face obstacles like rooms filled with laser tripwires that trapped them into a room, a helicopter that travels down a zip line if weight is shifted, a rooftop maze that looks like a ventilation system, and an iconic Mission Impossible style room that can only be escaped using a ladder that lowers when pressing a button on a computer.
After a tour of the course, funny clips, and even some interesting facts about squirrels, viewers make it to the finale where Rober has the bird feeder protected. Phat Gus takes to the decoy nuts, but smarty pants Marty the Hacker cracks the wooden safe known as “Fort Knuts”, safeguarded with a spin lock mechanism.
COURSE FOR ASPIRING ENGINEERS
Mark Rober teaches a Creative Engineering course every summer where anyone can become a creative engineer in 30 days. During this one-month class, individuals learn to use engineering and science to bring creative ideas to life, finishing the class with 3 original engineering builds, including mechanical, electrical, and advanced techniques. All similar to the squirrel obstacle course laid out on YouTube.
While enrollment for his class has closed, we’re waiting on the edge of our seats to see what they come up with.