(Image via Leesburg Today)
(Image via Leesburg Today)

“Most robotics kits are hundreds or even thousands of dollars, so we wanted to give kids who don’t have that kind of money a chance build their own robots,” Ritvik Jayakumar tells Leesburg Today.
The really cool part? Jayakumar isn’t a Silicon Valley whiz (yet) or a crowd-funded entrepreneur (yet). He’s one of nine Ashburn, Virginia, middle-school students on “Team Geared UP!” competing at the FIRST Championship taking place this week in St. Louis, Missouri.
One of the program’s elements tasked teams to come up with an innovative solution to improve learning around the world, and before the team knew it, the Craft-A-Bot kit was born. The kit includes 32 biodegradable, cornstarch-based pieces, two control switches, and two motors to get students started. In addition, “users can access a website with thousands of other pieces that can be printed with a 3D printer and snapped together to create practically any type of robot” they can imagine.
Instructions are graphical so any user, regardless of language, can follow them. Templates on the box can be cut out for “bodies,” and recycling salvaged parts (think jar lids) is encouraged.
The team—composed of Pranav Bangarbale, Vishnu Maddipatla, and Mihir Kulkarn of Stone Hill Middle School; Jonathan Vanderlyn and Ritvik Jayakumar of Eagle Ridge Middle School; Neil Rayala of Farmwell Station Middle School; Chloe and Kenzie Green of Loudoun School for the Gifted; and Ananya Rajkumar of Virginia Academy—has already met with, and impressed, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) and his wife, Virginia Secretary of Education Anne Holton, as well other political and business leaders. After the competition, they plan to meet with a local company interested in manufacturing and distributing the kits on a large scale.