In January 2012 I took a trip to the London Science Museum with my family. Whilst wandering through the exhibitions I came across one of the first Turtle robots built in the 1970s and it brought back a lot of memories from my childhood. My father was a teacher and involved in the early days of computing in schools using the BBC Micro computers. One of the best accessories for this amazing bit of kit was a dome shaped plexiglass "Turtle" robot that you could make draw shapes as a route into learning the basics of programming. I was struck by how complex it was (and how expensive it must have been - you only ever had one per school and it was a treasured piece of equipment) and thought to myself that with modern open hardware platforms it should be relatively straightforward to make a new version that could be built by the children themselves.
A bit of history...
Mirobot has been designed to make it easy for children to start learning about technology and programming. It's all open (hardware and source code) and hacking* is actively encouraged. Get your geek on from an early age!
As the father of two children I'm passionate about the possibilities that arise from teaching children about technology. There's a fantastic resurgence in teaching children about technology, driven by the likes of Code Club and Young Rewired State that gives me some faith that after so many years of just learning about Powerpoint things are moving back in the right direction. Children have "Turtle" robots in their schools already, but these are more like toys and are quickly dismissed because they generally aren't as much fun as the other toys they have. I believe (and evidence has shown) that if children are engaged in building something, their engagement levels will be considerably higher in using it as a result.
Mirobot is the result of this history. It's a 100% open source, open hardware drawing robot that is very low cost so that schools can afford to let every child build one. It uses WiFi so that it's easy to get up and running and has been carefully designed to eliminate a lot of the difficulties that children would normally have in building something like this. The pilot version launched on Kickstarter in 2014 and the final version launched a year later, also on Kickstarter.
* For any insurance agents out there, that's the good kind of hacking, not the bad kind!