When you think of recycling a plastic bottle, most people don’t imagine turning it into a robot. But one Dubai-based startup wants to make trash into treasure and help children grasp the basics of how to build a robot to boot.
Aimed at children from six-years-old and up, Junkbot is a small kit that contains basic electronic components, such as a gear wheel, brushless motors and a battery. The kit spurs children to tap into their creativity and add everyday unwanted junk to complete the item – a DIY robot. The only limit, says Junkbot’s CEO Ehtesham P.A., is their imagination.
“While building these robots, children get to learn the basics of science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” says Ehtesham. “[But] it also teaches students about recycling, showing them they have things in the home which can be used to do something creative.” Junkbots can be made of anything, from old ice cream tubs, CDs and even shoes, he explains. The resulting robots can then be controlled by any TV remote or even smartphones.
With pre-seed funding from Dubai-based business accelerator Turn8, and then more support from German startup accelerator Hardware.co, Junkbot has developed two robot kits. The starter kit ($100) is for a robot pre-programmed to perform basic tasks such as following a line you draw and avoiding obstacles. The programmable kit ($150) encourages analytical thinking, problem solving and lateral thinking. The company is currently doing the final industrial design for the kits, according to Ehtesham.
“With the programmable [kit] you can build different robots, such as a vacuum cleaner robot… a robot which feeds your pet, or a music board which plays your favourite song when you enter the room,” says Ehtesham. “Most children and parents think robotics is something very difficult, but when they see Junkbot and the product they feel confident this is something they can do, that anyone can do.”
The fledgling business is attracting attention from many quarters. So far Junkbot has almost 500 kits on pre-order, with interest mainly from the US and Europe, and venture capitalists in Russia and Kuwait are circling. Junkbot hopes to build on this momentum through a crowdfunding campaign to raise $300,000, which is set to launch in two months’ time. Junkbot plans to start delivery of the kits some six months down the line, after the crowdfunding round.
“[The] programmable kit will also have an online interface, so there will be a lot of apps that can be downloaded to the Junkbot and make it perform as a different robot. Taking it further, we want to convert the online platform into a place where designers, children – whoever – can come and submit ideas that we potentially help them manufacture,” says Ehtesham. “Our vision with Junkbot is to create inventors in every home.”