ASU student's startup develops robot kits for kids

Make-A-Pede is providing an educational outlet for students looking to learn about robot design

You don't need to be a mad scientist to make a robot anymore. Make-A-Pede, a startup created by brothers Cole and Jude Brauer, designs and sells robot kits for kids.

"Make-A-Pede is an educational robotics kit I've designed," Cole Brauer, a junior robotics major at ASU and creator of Make-A-Pede, said. "It's intended to teach students about mechanics, how to build a robot, electronics, how to wire it up and then programming."

The Make-A-Pede kit has a modular-based design, allowing budding engineers to add new components over time. Each module is attached linearly, allowing the robot to crawl forward much like a centipede.

"Once it's done, it's using an Arduino-based controller, so you can program it to run autonomously or to be remote controlled over Bluetooth," Cole Brauer said.

A smartphone app, designed by Jude Brauer, allows the Make-A-Pede to be remote controlled thanks to a HC-08 bluetooth chip embedded in the robot. In addition to being user friendly, the brothers have focused on making the robot adaptable to changes that the users want to make.

"The robot's open source, so if somebody really gets into it, they have the freedom to develop their own add-ons, sensors and wire in their own electronics," Cole Brauer said.

The design itself places a large emphasis on teaching the user the fundamentals of robot design. The entire robot moves with the help of direct current motors attached to the bottom of each module. However, each module has a different purpose and houses a different component of the robot. 

"Cole had some spare printer motors from a printer he'd taken apart and he wanted to find something to do with them," Jude Brauer, a home-schooled high school student and creator of Make-A-Pede, said. "So it started out as a way to use those up. Eventually we had the idea to turn that into a product."

Make-A-Pede now has a website where consumers can go to directly purchase their own kits, but the startup initially worked alongside a homeschool co-op.

"I had mentioned to the Brauers that it would be really awesome if they were able to put together a girls' technology class or a girls' robotics class," Terri Babick, a teacher at Branches Homeschool Community, said. "And so they did, and they used the Make-A-Pede as the platform to introduce all of the technology."

The program they started, called Gears for Girls, consisted of six girls. Two of the girls, Ellie Fromm and Rachel Babick, enjoyed the program so much that they started their own robotics team at Branches Homeschool Community.

"It was a bit overwhelming," Ellie Fromm, a middle school student at Branches, said. "But we figured it out, and we have a mentor helping us."

Fromm and Babick's team is currently designing a robot that they plan to enter into their first competition. The team is enrolled in three competitions, which are hosted at schools across Arizona. Some competitions focus on developing a robot with particular skills, while others have robots competing for ranking in state qualifications.

Fromm attributes her newfound interest in robots to her time with Make-A-Pede.

"I knew nothing about robots when I started the class," Fromm said. "It was just learning how to solder, and learning what certain parts are."

For Fromm, Make-A-Pede offered an engaging way to problem solve, teaching her some of the fundamentals of robotics.

"It was kind of fun to figure out what was working and what was not working with the robot," Fromm said.


Reach the reporter at sdeadric@asu.edu or follow @deadrick_sam on Twitter. 

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