There are scores of robot kits designed to help children and teens learn about science and engineering. However, many of these sets use proprietary technology like Lego pieces or littleBits modules that students will never encounter once they graduate to the world of adult electronics. Enter STEMI Hexapod, a very powerful $349 build-it-yourself robot that employs the same standard motors, circuits and boards that makers use in the real world while also teaching you how to use each part.
The Hexapod — the first product from Croatian startup STEMI — looks like an electric crab as it walks along the floor on six highly-articulated legs. Each leg has three different servo motors, for a total of 18. The robot's brain is an Arduino-compatible microcontroller, the same kind that many serious developers use. A rechargeable battery promises one hour of walk time.
Designed for users aged 14 and up, the Hexapod comes with a series of detailed instructional videos that teach you how to put the robot together, control it and even program it. Though you may have to screw some parts together, the robot does not require any soldering. STEMI Co-Founder Josip Vukičević told us that some students have completed the initial build in as little as 5 to 6 hours.
After you've put the Hexapod together, you can move it around or make it dance, using an Android or iOS app on your phone. The device itself connects via Wi-Fi.
More ambitious users can expand the robot by adding additional sensors or appendages. In a brief demo at the company's CES booth, Vukičević showed us a Hexapod with a gripper arm he had added to it. You can also create your own applications for the robot and write them in C or Java.
So far, STEMI has only shipped 150 Hexapods and most of them have gone to schools in Croatia, Vukičević said. However, the company plans to send out a few hundred more units to early backers this spring, with mass production coming by the end of 2017. You can pre-order a device from the next batch by signing up for the wait list on STEMI's website.
Though the Hexapod is simple enough for a teenager to build, the kit is definitely flexible and intriguing enough for an adult. No matter how old you are, you'll have a lot to learn from STEMI's kit.