Nobody says robots have to have that take-me-to-your-leader look. The ones designed by the California-based Dash Robotics look like tiny armadillos, or perhaps really big bugs. They’re bursting with energy, interacting with each other and zipping across the room at lightning speed.
And the best part is that Kamigami Robots aren’t just a super-fast version of the remote-control car all of us played with as a kid. They can actually teach young people—and even not-so-young people—how to code.
Dash Robotics just launched a Kickstarter campaign for this innovative product. In less than a week it had gotten halfway to its goal of $50,000.
Who’s behind it?
Co-founders Nick Kohut and Andrew Gillies met in a robotics lab while in a doctoral program at the University of California Berkeley. Dwight Springthorpe, the hardware engineer, joined soon after the company started in 2013. His background is in biology, specifically animal movement. The team also has a head of marketing, a software product lead, and a graphic and industrial designer.
What makes it unique?
Available in red, green or blue, each robot has a plastic-composite frame that snaps into place using an origami-like process. There’s a small circuit board with an array of sensors, including a light sensor, infrared sensor, gyroscope, and accelerometer, and a rechargeable battery and USB charger.
Instead of a joystick, the robots are controlled with an app that kids can program. The intention is to give kids the basics they need for learning how to code.
Kohut says teachers and parents like the robot because they’re learning tools disguised as toys. The product has been tested in classrooms, where there’s been a high level of engagement.
What’s the strategy?
At a time when the Department of Education is pushing for more of a focus on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education, Kohut says not every classroom can afford the luxury of a robotics lab.
“What we saw when we did outreach in schools is that most schools can’t afford STEM education or robotics, and the ones that could, you have six kids working on one robot,” Kohut says. “ One kid does the programming, one kid builds the robot and four kids are doing nothing. But with our prices, each kid could have their own robot to work on.”
Kohut says one of the company’s goals moving forward is to “build partnerships with educators.”
What are the best rewards?
Pledging $49 or more means you can receive one Kamigami Robot by next March. If you can’t wait that long, you can pledge $59 or more for shipping by January. By pledging $99 or more, you receive two Kamigami robot kits, a ramp and a decal.
The prize for “platinum backers” is a visit to the company’s headquarters in San Francisco. You meet the co-founders, tour the lab, design an exclusive shell, and grab dinner with the team for a donation of $2,500 or more. In addition, you get original art signed by the artist.