Children generally love to create art and are fascinated by robots, so what if there was a way for them to turn their art projects into robots? Well, there is. Carnegie Mellon University spin-off company BirdBrain Technologies has introduced the Hummingbird kit, which contains everything kids (or adults) need to add powered movement and interactivity to their dragons, kitties or spaceships.

The kit itself includes a controller, power supply, cables, servos, motors, colored LED lights, along with light, temperature, sound and distance sensors. The idea is that users will create projects out of rigid materials such as foam-core or cardboard (or Lego, or wood, or whatever), and then rig them up with the motors, lights, and/or sensors. Once everything is assembled, the finished product is connected to a computer, where the controller is programmed using a free drag-and-drop application.

The company claims that no technical or programming skills are required, although the kit is recommended for children who are at least 11 years old.

Unlike some other educational robotics kits, in which people simply follow instructions to build a specific robot, Hummingbird is intended to foster a DIY spirit in its users. “We want students to become inventors of technology rather than users of technology,” said Carnegie Mellon Robotics Professor Illah Nourbakhsh, whose CREATE Lab initially developed the kit. “Hummingbird feeds a student's natural curiosity about technology by enabling her to incorporate robotics into something she is making that is meaningful or useful.”

The kit is integrated into the university’s Arts & Bots program, which provides schools or other clients with guidance and suggestions for its use.

Hummingbird can be purchased from BirdBrain, for US$199. To see what sort of things could be created with it, check out the following video of an advanced project (which, admittedly, wasn’t built by a child).

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