Early last year, a Kickstarter project for a product called Strawbees that turned ordinary drinking straws into a giant building toy rocketed past its modest funding goal. And in the same way that Mindstorms brings ordinary Lego to life, the Quirkbot wants to bring those Strawbees to life, letting kids build robots and other animated toys using a few additional electronic components — and of course those plastic drinking straws.
At the heart of the Quirkbot is this starfish-shaped controller that can be wired to servos, LEDs, sensors and endless electronic components to help not only bring a Strawbees creation to life, but also give it a bit of intelligence. The Quirkbot is recommend for kids ages ten and up, and while it does involve programming, it doesn't necessarily require all users to know how to pour through lines of computer code. In its simplest form, programming one of these creations is as easy as arranging and connecting various boxes all on the Quirkbot website.
Looks pretty easy, right? And ease-of-use seems like it might be Quirkbot's greatest strength. Because once kids master the programming end of things, it allows them to be more creative and imaginative when it comes to thinking up, and actually building, more complex robots.
The creators of the Quirkbot have already sold their creation to a science centre in Sweden, but they want amateur roboticists from all over the world to have a chance to play and build with the toy. So they have turned to Kickstarter to help them raise the $US55,000 they need to put Quirkbot into production.
Since it's designed to work with the Strawbees building sets that are already available for sale, there doesn't seem to be too much risk here. If the Quirkbot doesn't succeed after you've already gone and bought a mountain of Strawbees connectors, your kids will still have a pretty unique building toy to play with.
But the Quirkbot hardware and software are already polished, refined, and very much ready for primetime. And with a donation of just $US60 you get a simple starter pack in August that also includes a handful of light-up LEDs and a server motor so you can start building your first robot. Just don't forget to visit your local McDonald's first to borrow a handful of straws for your experiments. [Kickstarter - Quirkbot]