Originally, MakerPet was meant to be a physical version of a Neopet (specifically, a white Lupe) from the website Neopets.com. As we looked into Neopets, we realized that the website’s usage of HTML encouraged children to learn basic coding; by making a physical version of this, we could inspire children to do the same with hardware.
We based our design on a walking machine created by Mount Holyoke alumna Erin Mullin, class of 2017. Erin’s design featured 3D printed parts that simulated animal movement using a bar-and-joint framework. Inspired by this, we decided to make a laser cut version out of wood to provide the legs for our MakerPet.
What it does
The MakerPet serves to provide a basic understanding of robotics, sewing, and programming to kids, all while teaching about maker culture. Initially packaged as a kit, the end result of the MakerPet is a toy with robotic legs that can walk forward and a plush body that can light up different colors. Currently, this can be customized to change how the lights function and the speed of the servos.
How we built it
There were 2 main parts to our design: the plush body and the robotic legs.
For the plush, we started with drafting preliminary designs on paper. After finalizing the patterns in Adobe Illustrator, we laser cut fabric accordingly. Using a combination of hand stitching and machine stitching, we then assembled the pieces together. We also programmed some neopixels to give the effect that the MakerPet could change colors. These were placed under the fabric.
Using Erin’s design as a guide, we created Adobe Illustrator files to laser cut each part of the legs and foundation. Once the pieces were cut, we then used screws, wood glue, and a drill to assemble the pieces together. After that, it became a matter of programming the Arduino Uno to control the servos that in turn, control the movement of the legs. This involved testing the amount of power needed, experimenting with speeds, and finding ways to keep the project steady.
Challenges we ran into
We ran into several challenges. However our greatest difficulties were with the legs. We had to experiment with different ways to keep the MakerPet up as well as finding what tension to have each of the screws at (so the robot could still move forward without falling apart).
Accomplishments that we're proud of
What we learned
How to use servos, a bar-and-joint framework, Adobe Illustrator, and Arduino.
What's next for MakerPet
Adding leg covers, finding a way for the MakerPet to stand on its own, making it walk more effectively
Long Term Goals
Creating a community of MakerPets where children can find new project challenges and can feel more connection to the maker community.