Local Crowdfund: Everybody gets a robot!

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When you walk into Technocopia, you feel as if you’re in the presence of the next generation of great Worcester inventors.

Imagine, if you will, such famous Worcester industrialists as Ichabod Washburn, John Boynton, George Crompton, Horace Wyman and Lyman Gordon working in the same place at the same time and you begin to get the sense of what can be accomplished at this nondescript building at 95 Prescott St.

Technocopia is a makerspace. If it’s true these days that every invention was created in someone’s garage, a makerspace is large communal garage. You can also think of it as coworking space for people who build things.

Run as a nonprofit, Technocopia manages the space and tools, such as routers, laser cutters, saws, hand tools and a 3D printer. Memberships are $75 per month.

The latest invention by one of Technocopia’s members promises to bring robotics design and creation to the masses.

Neuron Robotics launched a Kickstarter last week to produce a wireless robot controller. Combined with its free Bowler Studio software and access to a 3D printer, the controller will allow people ages 8-80 to design, manufacture, assemble and control wirelessly their own robot.

Robot with controller

Courtesy of Neuron Robotics

A robot with a Neuron DyIO controller

The wireless controller is a second-generation product. A wired version (via USB) is available from Micro Center.

NeuronroboticslogoThe goal of Neuron Robotics is to help bring the creation of robotics to the masses and become the 21st century’s version of Legos, said Kevin Harrington, a WPI graduate and cofounder of the cooperative.

Harrington, Nick Bold, Alex Camilo, John Fiegel and Kent Flowers make up Neuron, whose roots date back more than four years and whose engineering disciplines include robotics, software, mechanical and electrical.

Watching a designed robot respond to commands is interesting, messing around with the design even more so. To know that under the hood Bowler is keeping track of the parts needed to produce what you’ve designed is truly remarkable.

To sit at a computer screen and begin the process of creating a robot with Bowler Studio is a straightforward process. We downloaded the studio and a java software update and launched within five minutes.

The studio itself runs much like a web browser. The current version of the studio has five premade robot templates: Robot Arm, Six Leg Walker, Grasshopper, Input Arm and Elephant, the code for which is all hosted on GitHub, for which we also created an account.

A game controller is handy, but in our instance we used a mouse as a controller.

Watching a designed robot respond to commands is interesting, messing around with the design even more so. To know that under the hood Bowler is keeping track of the parts needed to produce what you’ve designed is truly remarkable.


Courtesy Neuron Robotics

Neuron Robotics controller

For those without access to a 3D printer, it’s possible to save the plans and send them to someone who has.

It’s at this point, the wireless robotic controller comes in. Designing a robot is fun and free. Putting it together and running it requires hardware.

Neuron’s business model is to sell the hardware and controllers, which are called DyIOs (short for dynamic input/output) so once you’ve printed out your creation, you can assemble it, attach the controller, and have it respond to commands from your computer.

The $35,000 from the Kickstarter campaign would allow Neuron to complete manufacturing of the wireless controller (DyIO), refine Bowler Studio, and add new templates.

Neuron has already drawn the attention of major publications and was a semifinalist for the Hackaday Prize. Said the website 3DPrint.com, “Neuron Robotics has made substantial progress within the space, and could end up being a key player in the 3D printed robotics equation moving forward.”

As of Saturday, Sept. 19, Neuron is about 10 percent of the way to its goal with 25 days remaining.

Neuron Robotics is a company on the move.


LogoSpeaking of moving, Technocopia itself is on the move and launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to help make it happen.

The nonprofit is moving from Prescott Street to the Printers Building, 44 Portland St.

The goal of the move is to unite under one roof Technocopia, the Worcester Think Tank (an art, science and technology center) and IA Design (a professional wood and metal shop).

The $15,000 campaign allows Technocopia to perform the initial buildout of the space.

“Moving into the Printers Building would be an immediate upgrade to all three organizations,” said Bold.

“If we all join forces under one roof in one location, we would be able to bring the amazing things that we do to the Worcester community in a way that we never really imagined before,” said Adam Zelny, co-director of the Worcester Think Tank and Technocopia board member.

“With the energy of all of us in the same space, we’re going to be able to have more staff, have more resources, have access to tools and equipment,” said Lauren Monroe, founder of Worcester Think Tank. “In general, the whole layout of the floor is in such a way that we’re not closed off to one another. It’s in a way that we daily engage and interact with each other.”

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