staff, October 29, 2015

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Its name is Iggy. Its wild, colorful design and lively movements mirror the sunny, energetic disposition of its creator - a bright-eyed little girl who controls Iggy?s very movements with a flick of her wrist.

Iggy is a robot, one created using HandiMate, a toolkit from Purdue University professor Karthik Ramani and graduate student Ansh Verma.

?We learn a lot of things by doing,? said Ramani, the Donald W. Feterson Professor of Mechanical Engineering. ?So we want to inculcate that kind of thinking to children to learn by doing, learn by making.?

Pulling together cardboard, Velcro, duct tape and other crafting supplies along with motorized ?joint modules,? children are able to craft their own robot in around 90 minutes. The creations spring to life thanks to specially designed gloves that translate hand gestures into bends and rotations in the joints.

?They bring their imagination out in terms of the robot,? Ramani said. ?They want to be more engaged, and they see that [it?s] a natural extension of their hands. They get very much involved in designing and becoming an engineer in this process.?

Ramani and his team have found that design on a higher level is not an alien concept to kids.

?We?re finding that even younger children are able to design fairly sophisticated robots and [come up with] creative and innovative concepts,? he said. ?Once engaged in a process, they want to make it work ? they?re thinking very creatively so [we] get that portion of engineering and design thinking into children using this HandiMate robotic toolkit.?

[btn-post-package]And they have made no small plans concerning the future of HandiMate. They are envisioning the toolkit being as big, or bigger, than the world?s largest maker toy: the LEGO Group.

?Our goal is to have this HandiMate all over the country and all over the world,? Verma explained. ?We?re not going to give you one toy. We?re going to give you a kit by which you can make [an] infinite amount of toys. So one minute you can have one robot, disassemble it, make a new craft material, assemble it, and the next minute you have a new robot.?

?HandiMate can grow with the child,? Ramani added.

Watch the one-minute video above to learn more about Purdue?s robot toy toolkit.

By John Tolley