Quirkbot lets Makers build robots with drinking straws


A hackable toy that makes toys! 


Last January, Strawbees made its debut on Kickstarter. At the time, it was a construction kit that enabled Makers of all ages to create toys by simply connecting drinking straws and pieces of cardboard together. Now a year later, a spinoff project has emerged. The team behind the aptly named Quirkbot is working together with Strawbees to explore a whole new world of robotic creatures.

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Using the new DIY platform, young Makers will have the ability to build and program quirky robots, blinking outfits and weird sounding “Qreatures” out of ordinary drinking straws, LEDs and hobby servo motors. Quirkbot itself is based on an ATmega32U4 MCU with an Arduino-compatible bootloader that can be made part of a Strawbees creation without any soldering or breadboarding.

The open-source, hackable tool allows Makers to easily program the bot directly from its website via USB. Quirkbot’s unique drag-and-drop components also enable users to connect and upload their toys with just a click of the mouse.

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“Any child or grownup can do it. Let your creations express themselves and interact with their environment through sound, light and motion. Standalone or connected to computers, tablets or musical instruments. You’ll quickly see the potential in learning how to program something physical — the magic of connecting online and offline worlds,” the team shares.

At its most basic level, Quirkbot kits include dual-color LEDs, light sensors, a servo and backpack, as well as a USB cable. Meanwhile, more advanced users can obtain backpack extension sets that feature distance and sound sensors, along with speakers and MIDI capabilities. Adding these components to a project are done through what the team calls “squeeze on electronics.” Just like it sounds, Makers effortlessly squeeze the parts onto the toy’s legs using ordinary drinking straws. So, whether it’s devising a bot that hulas, sweeps, crawls, or rocks out, Makers are only limited by their own imagination.

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“The Quirkbot has two ways of doing touch sensing already built-in to make almost anything into an interface. Loop touching for bigger things with water in them like humans and other fruits and capacitive sensing for metallic things. When plugged to a computer, the Quirkbot can work like a keyboard or mouse input. This makes it very easy to program the Quirkbot into a controller for any game or application,” its creators add. “The Quirkbot can also act as a MIDI-device, so it can play with music programs and you can even use it with an iPad.”

Interested in making your own robots with drinking straws? Learn more about and back Quirkbot on its official Kickstarter page, where the team is currently seeking $55,000. If all goes to plan, the first batch of shipments is slated for August 2015.

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