Modular Robotics hopes to hit the stores this December with limited editions of a new robotic toy, colorful "Cubelets" that help kids connect with the scientific thinking and STEM concepts behind robotics.
"It's Lego on steroids," laughs Mark Gross, co-founder and research director of Modular Robotics, describing the blocks that encourage kids, ages seven and up, to wrap their heads around computation thinking. "We're in the creativity business. With our Cubelet toys, kids learn to create things that think."
The company, a Carnegie Mellon
spinoff, was founded in 2008 by Gross and a former doctorate student, Eric Schweikardt, based on Schweikardt's doctoral work. The toy will be sold in kits of 20 cubelets that contains an assortment of sensor, action and operator blocks. There is no central brain the controls the robot, Gross explains. When connected, larger robots are technically being created out of the smaller robots. The behaviors emerge based on the way they are constructed.
Parents will, thankfully, find it takes kids less than a minute to figure out how to make the blocks work, he adds. No parental assembly required.
As a 21st century micro-global company, Modular Robotics has five employees and locations in Pittsburgh, China, Port Louis, Mauritius and Boulder, Colo. "We hire wherever we find like-minded talent," Gross says.
The company launched with funding assistance from the National Science Foundation, private foundations and seed funds from CMU's Office of Technology Transfer. Initial beta testing of the toys will take place through science centers and children's museums such as the Carnegie Science Center and the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh.Sign up
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Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Mark Gross, Modular Robotics
Image of Mark Gross copyright Brian Cohen for Pop City