Bot on a budget

Melissa and Lavanya Jawaharlal with their Pi-Bot.Melissa and Lavanya Jawaharlal with their Pi-Bot. (Photo courtesy STEM Center)In 2011, mechanical engineering student Lavanya Jawaharlal, with her sister Melissa, co-founded STEM Center USA to increase access to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. Early on they decided to use robotics as a way to get high schoolers and college students hooked on STEM concepts, but they kept running into a problem: off-the-shelf robotics kits were either too simple or too complicated—and they were always expensive.

This inspired them to develop their own robot kit called the Pi-Bot. Its namesake is the Greek letter, which is also the shape of the kit’s frame. The kit is powered by an open-source Arduino-compatible microcontroller to keep costs down. A Pi-Bot kit will cost around $75, roughly half the cost of what’s available now.

 

Pi-bot diagram

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