Today, as I was picking up the 400th piece of something left somewhere by one my children, I wished for a robot that could help me around the house. I also wished for children who would clean up after themselves, but that still seems well outside the realm of possibility. The dream of a helpful robot, however, may not be as far away as many of us have thought. Granted, robots already do a lot of work from self-propelled vacuuming to the assembly of cars, but we’re still a far sight from The Jetsons‘ Rosie. John Choi of Choitek is making steps towards that dream with his Multipurpose Mobile Manipulator MK1-001 (M4.1) that he designed and released through Instructables.
The M4.1 is a large scale robot that can be programmed to do any number of tasks, depending on what is desired of it by its programmer. It features 3D printed, adaptable grippers suitable for the performance of a wide variety of actions, a mobile base allowing it to navigate, and a series of features that can be adapted, expanded, or modified depending up need. The laptop controlling the device is also its face, meaning that, in theory, you could make it look like George Clooney.
Clearly, once the creature becomes sentient it will want to shorten its name, in the meantime, Choi has explained in great detail how anybody, with access to some specialized machinery and tools of course, can build their own high functioning robot for around $2,000. This isn’t a project for the faint of heart — it has 80 steps from start to finish and requires working knowledge of 3D printers, laser cutters, and other tools — but there are plenty of other beginner projects available if people want to build their way up to this.
One of Choi’s aspirations for the M4.1 is that educators will use it as a way to integrate advanced robotics into their curricula. As such, the project is completely open source and based on five primary principles: modularity, accessibility, affordability, compatibility, and support. There is more to the invitation to add the M4.1 to the robotics program than just the instructions, Choi is currently pursuing schools to participate in a pilot program designed to integrate this project-based learning into the school year.
Choi summarized the objectives for his M3 program:
“Coming from one of the best schools in the world for robotics, we aim to provide a university-level robotics education to high schools around the nation and beyond. Throughout this process, students will grapple with all the fundamentals of what it takes to make a robot: mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, software engineering, testing and design as well as how to work as a team. By giving students a chance to work with state-of-the-art robotics in a high school setting, we give them an opportunity to unleash their full creative ingenuity at the same level as some of the best research labs in the world.”
It’s more than just following a set of instructions. The project is begging for customization and creative adaptation. Further supports can be 3D printed as necessary depending on the task its creators have set for it and parts not yet imagined may need to be designed and printed as students become increasingly comfortable with developing their own performance parameters.
Choi notes as well that the project has been “made possible in part by generous support from the following programs, organizations and initiatives at Carnegie Mellon University,” expressing his gratitude:
- Project Olympus
- CMU Robotics Club
- Undergraduate Research Office
- Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry
- Henry Armero Memorial Award for Inclusive Creativity
And, of course, It’s only a matter of time before a super-villain programs one to be his evil minion…so clearly the fate of the free world is at stake here. Let’s get building! Discuss further in the DIY Humanoid forum over at 3DPB.com.