Robot enthusiasts raise funds to build large rideable robot

Robotics enthusiasts in the US have raised $69,365 (£44,207) in 12 days to help build Stompy, an 18ft (5.5m)-wide six-legged rideable robot that could be deployed in humanitarian relief operations.

The funding, raised through funding platform Kickstarter, will be used to purchase the steel, waterjet, electronics and hydraulic components required to complete the 10ft-tall machine that could equally serve as a fairground or festival attraction.

For humanitarian missions, it is anticipated that the machine will be able to use its six force-sensitive legs with a ground clearance of 6ft to access areas unreachable to other ground vehicles, as well as walk in water at depths of up to 8ft. While navigating such terrain, Stompy — powered by a 135hp propane engine — could carry 1,000lb (454kg) at 2–3mph (3–5km/h) and up to 4,000lb at 1mph.

Project Hexapod is being led by research roboticists Gui Cavalcanti, Dan Cody and James Whong, who have enlisted 15 engineers, programmers and electronics enthusiasts to help bring Stompy to life at a dedicated facility in Artisan’s Asylum, a non-profit community craft studio in Somerville, Massachusetts.

Open-source project

The robot is being developed as an open-source hardware project. Once complete, all project software, plans and schematics will be released so that other groups can build large, hydraulic robots.

Over the past four months, the team has reportedly developed low-cost computer-controlled hydraulic joint designs; designed, built and successfully controlled a half-scale prototype leg; designed a simulation environment with models of hydraulic force and flow to test the design before build; successfully run the engine and hydraulic power unit for the full-scale robot; and designed and ordered parts for a full-scale prototype leg.

Eighty per cent of Stompy’s chassis is complete and the team is building a full-scale prototype leg to validate design methodology and actuator sizing prior to Stompy being operated by a human. The team will finish the design of the chassis when that stage is complete.

There are currently 18 days remaining in the current funding round and the team said that extra modifications will be made as funding increases.

These include integrating new sensors that will help Stompy detect and respond to rough terrain more accurately and upgrading the hydraulic power plant to allow for a higher ground speed.

Fundraising to $300,000 will see the team purchase a waterjet cutter for installation at Artisan’s Asylum for public use and start a company devoted to creating open-source high-end robotic technology.

Any remaining funds will be held for the seed funding of future large-robot projects.