The Trot Bot is the culmination of a 3 year journey of a group of teens and one geek-dad, Wade Vagle, to design a new walking mechanism and scale it up to a mini-van sized monstrosity.
Inspired by the Maker Faire movement and the Chris Anderson book “Makers”, Wade decided to develop a significant design challenge for his LEGO engineering afterschool club. He discovered the Strandbeests by Theo Jansen and proposed building a walking sculpture to the kids and their parents, without sugar-coating what it would take. “Building walkers is not easy. We would not be building a kit with instructions. Instead, we would be figuring out how to go about it, and the students would inevitably make a lot of mistakes along the way which will require repetition of steps or rebuilds. Of course, I would be supporting them to increase their odds of ultimate success, but the motivational burden would fall largely on them, and they will require a mindset to handle frustration and soldier on. If you think your child is up for such a challenge, then I would love to play the role of coach/teacher to help them succeed.
The first step was a design challenge – how to break the project down into questions that could get solved one at a time? Wade structured the questions and the whole team would work on problem solving each step. Design answers were debated and decided by team vote. The project required learning and using a broad range of tools from design thinking, computer programming, engineering problem solving, and building. This video illustrates the process.
Wade has Maker movement in his DNA, seeing that “all of our breakthroughs come from prototype modeling. Computers optimize, but major breakthroughs come from prototyping physical things. Evolution of our minds as tool builders help us solve problems in 3 dimensional objects…..The goal of coming to the Denver Mini Maker Faire and all the attention from the Maker Faire has stimulated the group to work on taking this to another level. Having a place for the kids to show off the results of all their hard work and thrive on the attention has been transformative.”
Geek Dad Leader Wade Vagle with team members
Come and see the TrotBot at the Denver Mini Maker Faire on June 13 & 14!