The world's first modular, affordable, and intuitive robotics

Story

A bit of background first

2015 an epochal year. A Stony Brook University professor, who is also a member of the U.S. National Academy of Inventors begins teaching a new Freshman Design Robotics class created with support from a Teaching Innovation grant from the NY state. The goal of the class?

To provide students with an authentic exposure to design, coding and circuits through a project oriented approach.  With the use of robotics, students would learn these three core concepts in a hands-on fashion.  It was here that he realized a fundamental problem with his plan: the cost and lack of versatility of a robotics kit.

The professor and his students began to create something that would provide an authentic and affordable design-driven robotics education.

For everyone. Not just college kids.

Meet SnappyXO  - the world's first  STEM/Robotics education product meant for students all the way from elementary to college students.

Now and Future

Soon, the word got out. Several K-12 schools, STEM camps, after-school STEM/Robotics programs, hackathon, and makerfaire in Long Island where Stony Brook University is located joined the chorus and asked if SnappyXO could work for a larger range of students?

So, Mechanismic Inc. was formed in 2017 to investigate this possibility.

Then, Mechanismic received a highly prestigious and selective grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) SBIR/STTR program earlier this year to develop this cool Robotics Education product. 

Problems and Limitations with Existing Robotics Products:

1. Too costly -- $350+. Gasp!

2. Little design experience -- think how to design mechanisms in a robot that can have a specific motion, such as walking, scooping, launching, etc.

3. Coding-focused

4. Lack of Electronics Design and Prototyping -- think the joy of bread-boarding and dealing with the crippling reality of not having enough voltage for your motors. Now, that's fun.

5. Did not allow students to design their own custom robot parts -- want a curved piece? Sure,  do an injection molding run. Wait, that would be $10k+?

6. Lack of openness in choice of electronics parts and programming platform, such as Arduino, Raspberry Pi, etc. -- example: an ultrasonic sensor can be had for less than $2 on amazon.com, but the same capability in a high-end robot kit comes at a steep price of $35+. Ouch!

That class needed a robot kit that provided for significant design experiences rather than just coding. They did not want to follow a manual to create their highly personalized robots. They could not. They asked for something affordable and intuitive. In addition, they wanted to choose their electronics and their programming platform. Again, why? Because...

The goal is education, not cookie-cutter Robotics.

What is SnappyXO?

SnappyXO consists of hardware, which are our own plastic components, such as beams, plates, connectors, gears, wheels, etc. and a mechatronics kit containing sensors, actuators, microcontroller, and misc. electronics.

The mechatronics kit components are open source, inexpensive, and off-the-shelf. Which means that you can rapidly move on to another programming platform or buy more and better electronic components.

1. Hardware

SnappyXO contains a patent-pending hardware kit made from high precision laser-cut parts from flat sheets of Acetal plastic. The hardware is a set of minimalistic pieces, which allows one to create 3D structures and moving systems.

It is completely customizable and works with the off-the-shelf electronics and any open source programming platforms, such as Arduino, Raspberry Pi, and Micro:bit. 

The method of assembly is unique and novel. Yet, it's very intuitive and does not need too many different parts. 

2. Apps

MotionGen: SnappyXO comes with MotionGen, the only Android and iOS app of its kind in the world, is developed on top of the state of the art research in Mechanisms and Robotics done at Stony Brook University. There is a version available on the app stores already, but will be updated soon to allow more functionality. It allows one to design and simulate robot motions. You can design a robot motion in the app and can prototype it using the hardware kit and see it come to life! You can also import images of existing mechanisms and see how they work.

MotionGen is in V1 right now and is constantly being updated.

ArduinoBlue: We will also provide an app to control robot motions over Bluetooth called ArduinoBlue, which works with Arduino family of Mircontroller boards and SnappyXO Robot kit. It's currently available on the app stores. 

So, here we are!

After having tested it in numerous classes, schools, STEM camps, and hackathon, we are super excited to bring this product to the backers at Indiegogo. A successful campaign will help us set up our manufacturing (laser cutter and fume extractor) to create the product and deliver to you in time for the holidays.

What We Need and What You Get

We have spent a lot of time figuring out the hardware. Now, we are excited to put this in your hands and have you design and build your own creation.

Worry not! We will provide many projects that you can simply start designing, prototyping, and programming with. We are confident that even if you followed our instructions, you will still end up with something different than what we thought. 

We have been operating out of an incubator, but now our challenge at this time is to set up a manufacturing facility where we can laser cut parts and for that we need two primary equipment: a laser cutter and a fume extraction system. We estimate that a starter version of these two pieces of equipment will cost no less than $20k, but a higher powered and bigger laser cutter made and sold in U.S. (not the cheap ones made in China) themselves can cost as much as $35k.

Your backing of this project will allow us to offset the cost of the equipment and also allow us to buy raw material and electronics for the perks.

Perks

So, apart from our gratitude what are we offering you in return?

We have four different tiers of STEM/Robotics kits as well as two special kits focusing on 1) wheeled robots and 2) walking robots built out of unique walking mechanisms, and several add-ons, which you can add to your perks. Add-ons are simple contraption kits, which would be perfect for a younger child at home or to gift a friend or family member. During check-out, you can also add more servos and DC motors.

 

1. SnappyXO Mechanics Kit

This is the most basic kit to get started in the world of SnappyXO! Consisting of only the plastic hardware pieces and rubber bands, this kit is a perfect learning tool for young kids to get started with design and engineering. You can build contraptions that serve as a perfect medium for having fun and learning at the same time! 

2. SnappyXO Invention Kit 

This is a kit for inventors! It comes with all the parts in the mechanics kit and some more along with two DC motors and electronics to help you build motorized contraptions. No programming required. Just design, invent and bring your projects to life!  

3. SnappyXO Robotics Kit

SnappyXO Robotics kit consists of our own hardware with a mechatronics kit that has a perfect combination of basic sensors, actuators, and Arduino to get started with robot design and programming and build what you imagine! The best part is that the sensors, actuators, and electronics in the kit are inexpensive off-the-shelf electronics. So, if you need more, you can purchase from pretty much anywhere.  You can use Arduino IDE or any graphical programming interface to program your robot. 

Intended End-users: advanced middle- and high-school students, college students, makers and hobbyists, engineers, and computer scientists.

4. SnappyXO Advanced Robotics Kit

SnappyXO's Advanced Robotics kit is our biggest kit offering. It consists of more hardware parts than the Standard Robotics kit and comes with a mechatronics kit that has a wider range of sensors and actuators. A perfect kit for building complex robots with multitasking capabilities. Once again, you can buy more relatively low-cost off-the-shelf motors, sensors, etc. to augment the capabilities of this kit.

1. SnappyXO Walking Robot Kit

Walking robots are cool! Get this kit and build your own. Not one, but many different types of walking robots using linkage systems. Use our app MotionGen to play with different motions and create your own walking machine. This kit is perfect for someone more interested in learning how to design unique walking motions rather than programming. 

Intended End-users: advanced middle and high school students, college students, teachers and professors, makers and hobbyists, and engineers.

2. SnappyXO Wheeled Robot Kit

Calling out all the robotics enthusiasts out there! A kit especially for you. Get started with the basics of programming with our wheeled robot kit. It is the perfect platform to learn and experiment with. Build two wheel, four-wheel drive robots, control them using IR remote, or drive them autonomously. You can drive them using DC motors or Continuous rotation servos.

1. Handheld Catapult

A fun toy to design yourself and then play with! Get two or more of these for a full-fledged ping-pong war.

Teachers can use this to demonstrate the concept of energy storage and conversion, levers, and mechanical advantage.

2. Extending Gripper

No hands allowed! Extend your reach and grab everything with this gripper.

A great science tool for illustrating the power of levers when combined to achieve a larger range of motion.

3. Crossbow

Raise your marksmanship with this ancient yet fun device. Load, lock, and release!

Uses an Ingenious locking mechanism using a four-bar linkage system to provide the perfect spark for innovation.

4. Catapult

Ready, aim, fire! Build and modify your own catapult to see who launches the farthest!

This is also a teacher's dream science tool as it presents a fun context for discussing simple machines, energy conversion, and projectile motion.

The Impact

The impact of your participation in this project has far-reaching consequences. 

Our goal is to make Robotics affordable and fun for everyone without sacrificing the authenticity of design and engineering experience.

We believe that every student deserves to have a robot kit of their own so that they can continue to learn with it without worrying about breaking things. SnappyXO makes that possible. It is low-cost and craft-like feel lowers the barrier for experimentation. 

Your backing will, of course, help us raise some capital for manufacturing. However, we want you to be part of our journey to develop this product and bring to the general market by providing us with your input and feedback. To us, that is of far greater importance.

At this time, STEM education has huge socio-economic implications. Consider following:

1. The U.S. Department of Labor estimated that in 2018, 2.5 million STEM jobs went unfilled,
which at an average pay of $85,000 per year for such jobs translates to $200 billion in lost wages.

2. Robotics education, which brings several STEM topics together, has a great potential to create a workforce that is prepared to tackle the technical challenges of the 21st century.

3. 78% of high school graduates are not prepared to take STEM classes at college level.

SnappyXO could relieve some of those pain points.

Andy from AndysTechGarage saw us at the Eastern Long Island Makerfaire and made this wonderful video, which touches upon some of the problems we have mentioned above.

Risks and Challenges

We have manufactured hundreds of these kits  and have reduced risks to a large extent. However, we are still reliant on our plastic and electronics suppliers for manufacturing and the mechatronics components. We will need them timely and on a cost-effective basis. Fortunately, we have several suppliers from whom we can purchase raw materials and working with the off-the-shelf electronics means that we have a lot more choices.

Our other challenge is the actual manufacturing as we need to set up a proper laser cutting facility with adequate fume extraction and ventilation set up. A successful campaign will mitigate these challenges to a large extent.

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David Allen USA
676 Calico Drive Spokane Valley, WA 99206, USA