Robots are great tools for learning – encompassing mechanics, electronics, programming and more. There are learning robots for many ages, but is there one for all ages? Hedgehog tries to come close to this ideal!
Hedgehog is a robot controller: it connects to a robot’s motors, servos and sensors and executes the robot’s program. What makes Hedgehog stand out is its consistent white box approach, allowing you to tinker with every part.
Exciting from elementary to university – how can that work?
We worked hard to make Hedgehog what it is: simple enough for use by elementary schoolers, yet versatile enough to allow even university students to learn new things. The secret lies in our modular hardware and software design, together with open source technology throughout.
Read on to see what we have to offer for beginners, or scroll down to "Plug & Play" to learn about the specs and your options as an advanced user. Look at "classroom ready" if you're a teacher looking for a tool for your classes – but do check out the other sections as well.
We use the Blockly visual programming editor to allow kids to start their first programming experiences. The programming blocks still use text, so it is appropriate for elementary school and up. Blockly is an open source project developed by Google, with great usability and reliability – a Must for software used by kids.
Some day, you will grow out of visual programming, but don't worry – you can transition smoothly into textual programming. You can even convert your existing Blockly programs to Python code, and continue where you left off!
We use a web-based integrated development environment (IDE): code on any operating system without installation, using your browser! The IDE's server runs on the controller itself, so an internet connection is not required. Connect to the controller either via WiFi or Ethernet.
Apart from programming, the IDE lets you control connected motors and servos, and displays analog and digital sensor values, making it easy to quickly test your creations.
Hedgehog is compatible with standard RC servos and DC motors. Choose from a variety of sensors: from simple push buttons to infrared or sonar range sensors, different components can be connected to your robot. A standard webcam can be used to give your robot vision. And you can, of course, add any USB device that the Raspberry Pi supports!
All software tools necessary for developing Hedgehog are installed on the controller: an STM32 microcontroller toolchain for the firmware, KiCAD for designing circuit boards, Python 3 and node.js for the server software, and of course Git for getting the sources and blueprints. Our standard case can be made with a laser cutter, just visit your closest fab lab and make your own. Hedgehog is a maker product through and through.
You're an experienced programmer, and our beginner-friendly IDE is not enough for you? Or our default Raspbian install doesn't suit your taste? Or you're interested in microcontroller programming and need a simple development platform to get started? Or you don't like the programming languages we support? Or you're reading this in 2020 and the Raspberry Pi 3 has become an antiquity?
There are so many things to do, and we try to support you in going your way. That's why we prioritized a modular design with clear interfaces, and easy access to all of Hedgehog's power:
- The Hedgehog shield is designed for the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B. Hedgehog thus benefits from Raspberry's great compatibility in form factor and pin layout.
- Installing or re-installing the Hedgehog software is simple and well-documented: take a clean Raspbian SD card, and execute our Makefile. You don't need to worry about bricking your Hedgehog, hacking it is what Hedgehog was made for.
- The pre-installed microcontroller toolchain makes it easy to develop your own STM32 projects. When you're done, you can simply re-install the official firmware.
- Regular programs – such as your Blockly or Python creations, but also our IDE – talk to the controller using the message based Hedgehog Protocol. This lets you run programs remotely, and embed Hedgehog commands in various environments. The protocol uses ZeroMQ and Protobuf – technologies that target over 20 popular programming languages, making it easy to port.
- Of course, you can access the controller and run programs using SSH, giving you full control over everything happening on your Hedgehog.
This gives you full control, but it also helps us extend Hedgehog's functionality. We use Hedgehog everyday in our workshops, so we want it to be the best controller it can be!
Hedgehog is developed for the classroom as well: by default, controllers connect to an existing WiFi network, avoiding the overload that would result from a one-network-per-controller strategy. The large range of use cases makes Hedgehog a long-term investment: teach programming to elementary schoolers and undergrads, on the same device. Introduce computer vision and closed-loop control, with the same device. Explain closed-loop control and gear ratios, using Hedgehog.
At the Practical Robotics Institute Austria, we already use Hedgehog in classes, workshops, robotics competitions and projects, and we know how well it works. It has already helped us engage dozens of kids with engineering subjects, and inspired multiple bachelor's and high school diploma thesis projects.
We are certain that Hedgehog is the right tool for robotics beginners, enthusiasts and educators alike, but to get it out into the world, we need your help. With the money raised from this campaign, we want to fund a first larger production run. What you get in return is not just a product, but a product supported by a team that is invested in its success.
Support us with a small amount to get listed as a supporter, or to get the Pac-Hog T-Shirt.
Choose a "Do it Yourself" option if you have a Raspberry Pi and are not afraid of installing the Hedgehog SD card yourself. (We provide images, and instructions for starting with bare Raspbian)
Choose the "Hedgehog Controller" or "Hedgehog Robot Kit" options to get a ready-to-run controller, fully assembled and installed. The robot kit includes all parts for building a driving robot.
Choose between a one-day afternoon session for anyone, and a one-week robotics course for teenagers, both in August 2017 in Vienna, Austria. Workshops are held in German!
Feel the satisfaction of making a big difference. Our sponsor packages include a Hedgehog controller and a t-shirt, plus the visibility you'd expect, on our website and in the Hedgehog IDE.
Custom color and engraving for your controller's case are included (colors according to supplier availability). The Gold Sponsor reward also includes a robot kit.
Risks and challenges
We are currently working on a new version of the Hedgehog shield that will make the controller even smaller. This hardware needs to be tested of course, but even if anything does not work out, the current version is ready to use; all the features we present on this page are ready.
To sell Hedgehog as a "ready for connection" product, it needs to undergo certification for electromagnetic interference. We are already in contact with local certification authorities, but we also have a strategy for dealing with prohibitive delays: as certification is only required for "ready for connection" products, selling the controller as a kit for assembly will allows us to hold our timeline. This would affect the "Hedgehog Controller" and "Hedgehog Robot Kit" rewards.
As with the hardware, we're always trying to improve our product, so chances are, you will get even more features than we advertised here. The only feature on this page that still needs work is the camera, and there is no reason why it shouldn't be ready on time. Still, if anything should happen, we will add support with a software update.
We have experience with handling the supply chain for electronics products, but this will be our largest order yet. Problems in acquiring certain components could lead to delays, but our timeline should allow for such occurrences.
- (60 days)