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PicassoBot is a robotic arm kit that can draw pictures and sketches. It is open source, compatible with Arduino, and USB powered.
PicassoBot is a robotic arm kit that can draw pictures and sketches. It is open source, compatible with Arduino, and USB powered.
100 backers pledged $13,415 to help bring this project to life.

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PicassoBot - The Portrait Sketching Robot Kit project video thumbnail
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$13,415

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After the Kickstarter campaign, visit us at http://educatedrobot.com for updates and future robotic awesomeness!

"Potato" drawing done by 9 year old at Las Vegas Mini-MakerFaire
"Potato" drawing done by 9 year old at Las Vegas Mini-MakerFaire

PicassoBot is the perfect combination of "wow" and learning. It allows kids to solve problems using concepts that they learned in school, but were never allowed to actually use in real situations. PicassoBot was designed and created to help Junior and Senior High School students learn STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) concepts in a tangible way.

Drawings done by Natalie at the OpenWest Open Source Conference
Drawings done by Natalie at the OpenWest Open Source Conference

PicassoBot is a kit that contains everything (including the screwdriver) needed to create a robot arm that will draw pictures with a pen or pencil. Building the robot takes one to two hours, allowing kids to get to that "cool" moment quickly in a classroom setting or at home without losing interest. No soldering required!

The PicassoBot Simulator (desktop application) is used for drawing pictures on the computer (Mac, Windows, Linux) and sending them to the robot. Kids can sketch pictures on the screen and the software translates those mouse strokes into lines and curves which are then converted to angles for the PicassoBot shoulder and elbow servo angles and sent over the USB cable to the robot drawing the creation on the paper.

Live camera capture screen in PicassoBot Simulator.
Live camera capture screen in PicassoBot Simulator.

It even includes the capability to use the webcam to take live pictures and draw sketches of them! No batteries are needed as it is powered by the USB cable. We will post a link to download the PicassoBot Simulator as an update half way through the campaign so you can have a chance to play with PicassoBot before you actually get to touch it.

With the optional capacitive touchpad placed under the drawing paper (it is thin as paper), kids can program the robot to play tic-tac-toe with them or expand their horizons by coming up with their own interactive creations. The touchpad attaches to the PicassoBot with four wires and can detect the nine separate tic-tac-toe grid sections when someone touches a finger on top of the drawing paper. The bottom of the touchpad is clear plastic so that kids can see everything inside, inspiring them to modify it and build their own. A modified version of the touchpad can even be used to roughly detect how far your hand is above the drawing surface.

With the optional bluetooth upgrade, an Android phone can also be used to take pictures, vectorize them and have the robot quickly draw the sketch. The optional WiFi upgrade allows connection from any web browser.

The PicassoBot Kit and a kit under construction.
The PicassoBot Kit and a kit under construction.
  • Drawing base with paper holder
  • Laser cut arm pieces
  • TI MSP430 LaunchPad microcontroller development board (the brain)
  • 3 micro servo motors and horns
  • Power bus and extension cables
  • USB cable for communication and power
  • Fasteners (velcro, rubber bands, glue dots)
  • Screwdriver 
  • Metal gears for smoother and longer lasting servos (Upgrade 1)
  • Touchpad (Upgrade 2)
  • Bluetooth or WiFi module (Upgrade 3)

The PicassoBot Kit is cut and assembled in the US by local students.

The PicassoBot is great for parties to draw portrait sketches and really is a good ice breaker for geeky dads. Even though drawing pictures with the robot is really cool and will keep kids (and adults) interested for hours on end, the real purpose of PicassoBot is to open the creative minds of kids and let them innovate and explore. All of the project is open source including the hardware, microcontroller firmware, and the computer software. We tried to make the hardware simple and understandable by including as few parts as possible and using existing open tools that are targeted to a learning environment. With PicassoBot, kids can create their own IoT (Internet of Things) projects within hours.

The included TI LaunchPad is a perfect platform for young engineers to learn "physical computing". With the Energia IDE (fully compatible with Arduino code) the students can program the robot easily with only a few lines of code. All software on the computer was written in Processing, a good introduction to programming that leads directly into C and Java later. Internally the images are stored as simple SVG graphics paths that can be easily integrated into numerous applications that the kids can tie in with. Conversion math (turning XY coordinates into shoulder and wrist angles) is kept at a minimum needed so that kids will not get lost in translation, literally.

Just as an example, one teacher used the kits in his classroom to teach basic programming principles. After the formal training was done he challenged them to “build something useful” with the kit. One student then wrote code to get the current temperature once a minute from a weather site and used the PicassoBot to graph it on paper throughout the day.

Another cut out a paper hand and attached it to the wrist of the PicassoBot and mounted it on the front of the fridge. He programmed it so that whenever he sent it an email from school, it would wave to everyone in the kitchen. Another way to reach out and touch someone!

Camille, Melanie, Wayne, Natalie, and Cassie (not shown)  ready to help as members of The Educated Robot team
Camille, Melanie, Wayne, Natalie, and Cassie (not shown) ready to help as members of The Educated Robot team

The Educated Robot team is led by Wayne Rust, an entrepreneurial engineer with over 25 years of experience in the world of servers, smart phones, optical media, and robotics. An award winning mentor for FLL, TSA, Boy Scouts, iGeneration and more, he firmly believes in the open source community and that kids learn best by actually using hands-on challenges to enforce concepts taught in the classroom.

Wayne is joined in this venture by his four teenage daughters who provide inspiration, technical support, soldering, testing, artwork (including composing the music and layout for the video above), and lots of frank feedback. They are hoping to have enough kits to build during the summer so that they can go to Disneyland to see more robots - that is a LOT of kits, so PLEASE support them!

Kids waiting for their turn to create art at the Las Vegas Mini-MakerFaire.
Kids waiting for their turn to create art at the Las Vegas Mini-MakerFaire.

PicassoBot began life over three years ago as I was trying to find an inexpensive way to introduce kids to robotics principles including multiple DOF (degrees of freedom) arms, communications with the outside world, compact design for the classroom, and a practical use for the robot. After many, many iterations the current configuration was found to be the best compromise that met all of my criteria. It was introduced into the curriculum of a couple of high school robotics classes with great success and a lot of feedback that was incorporated into current revision.

Girls are just as likely to use the PicassoBot as boys.
Girls are just as likely to use the PicassoBot as boys.

The PicassoBot has also been presented at the Utah Association of Career and Technical Education Conference, Las Vegas Mini-MakerFaire, and OpenWest Open Source Conference to great applause. Meet up with Natalie and Wayne at the San Fransisco MakerFaire May 17-18, 2014.

After seeing the great response that many other robots kits received on Kickstarter, we decided it was time to release it to the world in order to get the funds to make it inexpensive and available.

You can help us provide this unique kit to kids and help us get enough funding to move on to the next level. Even with Wayne’s undying passion for robots, money is still needed to pay for robot parts and support more cool projects in the future.

Pledge now to support us with ANY amount that you would like. The rewards on the right side are set to cover the cost of materials, shipping and minimum wage labor to put them together. The more people we have pledge, the lower the costs will eventually become. You can also pledge more than the reward amounts listed, those are just minimum amounts to cover costs. Need two or three kits? Just double or triple the pledge and we will take care of you. We can even drop ship a kit as a gift with a note written by PicassoBot on your behalf (you have to come up with wording though, PicassoBot is not fluent in English). Don’t worry about us getting too many pledges, the girls have lots of friends that are waiting on the sidelines to help us fulfill any large orders :)

Even if you don’t have anyone in mind that might desire one of these, PLEASE pledge and we will donate a kit to a school for you.

We need your help in getting the word out to EVERYONE you know via email, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and more! Click on the buttons below to get things started:

Although no reward is enough to tell you thanks for pledging and helping us get the PicassoBot out to kids who will benefit, we would like to give some reward for even the smallest pledge. All rewards will ship by the end of August 2014 at the latest. We feel very confident that this is a realistic goal with plenty of margin for any unforeseen problems that may (will) crop up. All parts have been sourced and are waiting for final numbers before orders are confirmed.

For a minimum pledge of $20 you can get your portrait drawn and signed by PicassoBot. As soon as we meet the minimum funding level we will get with you and ask for a photo of you (or your pet) so we can get those out early.

For $75 you will get the PicassoBot kit with all of the parts needed to get going on your own portrait sketching robot. Be sure you name your robot after it arrives as each one will have a unique personality that will be an extension of your own. Feel free to tweet #picassobot with the name you have chosen as soon as you pledge.

For $90, $100, and $125 you can upgrade your PicassoBot to have metal gear servos for a smoother drawing, a touchpad to play tic-tac-toe against the robot (he is pretty smart, but I am sure you can program him to be dumb – or only let you win and not your friends), and Bluetooth or WiFi capabilities to allow you to connect with Android phones and browsers.

We highly recommend getting the metal gear servo and touchpad upgrades.

Don’t forget that you don’t have to get one just for yourself. You can get one, two, three or more and send them to those needy or nerdy kids down the street, that brilliant nephew or niece, your administrative assistant who needs an extra hand, or if you can’t think of anyone else we will select a school that can use them and take advantage of your generosity. Just double or triple your pledge and we will get the details from you at the end of the campaign. Email us directly at picassobot@educatedrobot.com with your desires if you can’t wait until then.

Too lazy to spend a couple of hours reading instructions, building it, and calibrating the servos? Just add $10 to your pledge and let us know when you get the survey that you would like to have your PicassoBot ready to go out of the box in less than a minute and The Educated Robot team will gladly take care of building it for you.

Again, thank you for the time to check out PicassoBot. Please pass the word on to others about how cool this project is. We need YOU to let others know what you have seen.

The Educated Robot team

Risks and challenges

We feel very confident that we can deliver the rewards before the end of August 2014. The biggest issue is that of sourcing of parts. We have checked on the supply and it is more than adequate for even a very large order and we have multiple sources for most parts.

Shipping delays are a concern, but we have previously ordered parts from each of the suppliers to check transit times and have built a large margin into the time frame.

We plan on keeping our backers up to date with any scheduling concerns as they arise. Software will also be upgraded during this time and will be beta tested by a large group of current users before being shipped to our backers.

Shipping costs have been estimated and should be covered by the reward pledge levels and the additional international shipping cost.

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Support

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $10 or more About $10

    CUSTOM SKETCH: We will have PicassoBot sketch a portrait of you (or anything you want) and send you the result!

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    2 backers
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    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    EDUCATED ROBOT T-SHIRT: Due to popular demand we are offering the Educated Robot T-shirt with our robot logo on the front and name on the back.

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    Ships to Only United States
    Limited 0 backers
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  3. Select this reward

    Pledge $75 or more About $75

    PICASSOBOT KIT: The complete portrait sketching robot kit.

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    7 backers
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    Pledge $90 or more About $90

    PICASSOBOT KIT (Upgrade 1): The complete portrait sketching robot with metal gear servos.

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    9 backers
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  5. Select this reward

    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    PICASSOBOT KIT (Upgrade 2): The complete portrait sketching robot with metal gear servos AND touchpad.

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    15 backers
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  6. Select this reward

    Pledge $125 or more About $125

    PICASSOBOT KIT (Upgrade 3): The complete portrait sketching robot with metal gear servos AND touchpad AND bluetooth or WiFi module.

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    60 backers
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Funding period

- (26 days)