I am looking for people who would like to be part of a project to develop and make available a cheap robotics platform for would-be makers. A concept statement follows:
Robot50 Program Description
Goals for builders
To learn basic maker skills on an inexpensive and extendable starter project to the extent that they may independently pursue new projects. These skills include:
- Fabrication (cutting, drilling, assembly). The project will be suitable for fabrication from commonly available materials with hand tools, but with the option for learning basic CNC work and 3D design and printing.
- Electronics (introductory soldering and working with both prefabricated electronic modules and basic components and wiring). Parts will be inexpensive, commonly available, and well supported.
- Programming (installing a programming environment, setting up drivers, and working within a high-level programming environment). The programming environment will be wildly accessible but allow for professional-level work.
- Skill at participating in physical and online support communities of peers.
Goals for developers
To learn how to shepherd a project from idea through prototypes, community building, crowd-sourced funding, to project evolution and support.
The starter project
The program’s initial focal point will be providing access to a small, autonomous robot design that uses the Arduino microcontroller and costs approximately $50 to build.
The target audience is individuals or groups age 16+ who aren’t afraid to learn to use saws, drills, or soldering irons, to install software, share what they learn, or make mistakes.
- Construct a series of prototypes of the starter project.
- Based on a final prototype, prepare a bill of materials, a list of part vendors, a set of assembly and set up instructions, and basic software libraries.
- Disseminate the project online, at maker events, and with local partners to obtain feedback.
- Conduct a crowd-sourced funding campaign to finance a run of kits.
- Prepare and disseminate the kits. Support the project with robust online information and community.
- Generate new starter project ideas advancing the same general goals. Provide a path to graduate builders to developers.
- Lather, rinse, repeat.
At this point I am in stage 1. I would like to get to stage 3 for the Tampa Makercon in April and/or Orlando Makerfaire in September. To whet your appetite, here is a picture of the prototype I am currently playing with (i.e. testing to destruction).
There are a number of ways for anyone who is interested to get involved. It would be great if one or two students would like to get seriously involved: building their robots, developing code libraries and helping to populate a website and promote the project. I hope it could lead to a summer SURE grant for somebody (application due 3/11). Maybe a senior project in Computer Science. But there are less intensive ways to get involved also. Anyone who is interested should get in touch with me: firstname.lastname@example.org
By the way, this is a good commentary on the likelihood of the Robot50 project actually ushering in the robot apocalypse.