A prototype is a preliminary model of something. Projects that offer physical products need to show backers documentation of a working prototype. This gallery features photos, videos, and other visual documentation that will give backers a sense of what’s been accomplished so far and what’s left to do. Though the development process can vary for each project, these are the stages we typically see:
Proof of Concept
Explorations that test ideas and functionality.
Demonstrates the functionality of the final product, but looks different.
Looks like the final product, but is not functional.
Appearance and function match the final product, but is made with different manufacturing methods.
Appearance, function, and manufacturing methods match the final product.
Why Everyone Should Know Robotics
Robotics is the most multidisciplinary field in engineering. It encompasses everything from electronics to neuroscience, helping to prepare students for any number of careers in the STEM fields. But this breadth is not always obvious, or interesting, especially to kids who are just getting started.
So we created a robot that is different from any other. It let's kids see that entirely new "creatures" can be created with robotics and technology that do not exist. They can see that they don't have to be limited by biology, or even past engineering, they can create things that are entirely new with robotics.
We wanted to show kids that robots can be something completely new and exciting.
What Kids Can Learn from the Critter
3D Printing and CAD
Robotics (Sensing, locomotion, construction)
Electronics (Servos, microcontrollers, sensors)
Programming (Arduino C or graphical languages)
The Self-Motiviation that comes with building something.
The Details of the Design.
The Critter is the fifth robot in the LittleBot family of 3D printed arduino robots. We had already made arms and wheeled robots, we knew that with the next one we wanted a walking robot. But while creating the new walking robot we had to ensure that we met the same quality of design for easy assembly that we established with all of our other kits.
Walking robots are generally pretty complex. They generally require a lot of calibration, precision, and special programming to operate effectively. When we decided to build a walking robot we knew that it couldn't be a traditional system. We needed something that was easy and rugged enough for kids to build while still being interesting enough for hobbyists at higher levels.
We took a little inspiration from mudskippers and the first animals to crawl out of the ocean. We knew that it would be a belly-dragger, and that is where the similarity ended.
The LittleBot uses its two front legs to drag itself along. This gives it many of the capabilities of walking robots, such as traversing difficult terrains, while not having the downsides (falling over when a program is bad). This lets new roboticists experiment with code without having to worry about damaging the robot as much.
Easy to Build
Largely Snap Together Constuction (The kit only has 12 screws)
Since we simplified how the walking was to be done we were able to use many of the standards we created with our previous kits.
The Legs themselves only have 8 screws (4 apiece), and since we design for 3D printing a large majority of makers and schools can build the kits from scratch without a great deal of difficulty.
The electronics of the Critter are based around the Meped board. This custom PCB allows simple connection of bluetooth, sensors and even wifi. The board greatly reduces the complexity of the electronics. Instead of having to go through complicated circuit diagrams it is basically just plug and play. Using this board within a few minutes you have a robot that can see the world with its ultrasonic eyes and start moving.
Every single plastic part on the Critter is 3D printed. Since we designed it this way there are only 6 3D printed parts in the Kit and less than 2 dozen parts total (not counting the 12 screws). Making the Critter 3D printed ensured that anyone can build one anywhere in the world to take advantage of what it can offer.
The other advantage of 3D printing is that students can change and add to it. We will be releasing details of the Critter design so that kids can design new features like feet for his legs that provide different amounts of traction, or even extra sensors added to his shell.
Easy to Reprogram
Since the Critter is a based entirely on Arduino its code is very well supported. We work to post tutorials and explanations of the code on each of our robot kits. And the wider Arduino community provides resources and tutorials on basic programming concepts.
Additionally, since the Critter uses Arduino it can be programmed with graphic programming tools such as Scratch and Blockly, reducing the stress on new programmers to learn syntax.
Just Fun to Play With
The Critter can be operated with an Android app that we have created. The app allows for "driving" the Critter around, activating "Autonomous Wander Mode," (where they Critter uses his eyes and various internal behaviors to wander) and executing various motions such as waving and dancing.
If we exceed our initial goal for the campaign we will add a "Training App" where you will be able to use bluetooth and USB to teach the Critter your own motions, much as we have implemented with the LittleArms.
What You Get
If you have a 3D printer and would like to make those parts yourself go right ahead. We will send you all the other parts and the 3D printing files.
Everything you need to build a full Critter. You just provide the batteries
The Full Kit with a few extras (assembly required). We added the Developer Kit for those that intend to spend a lot of time reprogramming and adding to the Critter. The Power Supply allows you to keep his servos powered as you program different gaits and behaviors. The extra breadboards give you the electrical space you might need to add other sensors and peripherals.
Assembled and ready to go. Add batteries and connect your Android device to start using him.
Risks and challenges
The Critter is the fifth robot in the LittleBot family. It is the fifth robot in that group that we have brought to Kickstarter. We have successfully fulfilled, on time, all of the previous campaigns. This is not our first rodeo.
The Critter is going to be produced in the Slant 3D printing factory. That printer farm has the capability to produce thousands of parts per week and we have already booked time. As soon as the campaign ends and the design has been fully tweaked for production printing will start.
The rest of the components are in inventory if necessary. But we prefer to order batches specifically for this project. Our suppliers are reliable and we have proven that by using them on past projects. Either way we will get the parts.
The largest time sink will be in the prep of support materials (tutorials, videos, etc.) and making any final design tweaks to the Critter to make it as close to perfect as we can. We generally spend several weeks ironing out the kinks in our products after the launch.
With all of this we plan to start deliveries 3-4 weeks after the campaign ends. Getting the Critter kits to you for Christmas.