A Carnegie Mellon University Robotics Institute spinoff has begun selling a kit that can be used by kids to bring their arts and crafts projects to life in the form of kinetic sculptures and the like. The kit was developed with the idea in mind of getting more kids to take an interest in technology, and in particular getting and keeping girls of middle school/high school age interested.
The Hummingbird offering from BirdBrain Technologies costs $200 and uses a drag-and-drop user interface that requires no programming experience on the part of the user. The kit (which includes components such as a controller, power supply, cables and senors) can convert artwork made from paper and cardboard into creations that move or display lights based on sensors. More elaborate creations have included a working replica of Star Wars' R2D2.
“We want students to become inventors of technology rather than users of technology,” said Robotics Professor Illah Nourbakhsh, whose CREATE Lab developed Hummingbird for a project called Arts & Bots. “Hummingbird feeds a student’s natural curiosity about technology by enabling her to incorporate robotics into something she is making that is meaningful or useful.”