Student-Built Ruku Robot Encourages Others to Join STEM Fields

Feb. 2, 2015

UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering graduate students created a robot called Ruku Robot to show school-age children what STEM is and how fun and necessary STEM is.

For years we have been saying that leaders in STEM fields need to do more to entice younger generations to enter STEM fields. But what if the techniques our leaders are using to teach children about STEM fields and its careers are not capturing enough minds and yielding results? Maybe we should let a robot do that job.

Well, recent graduates from the UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering, Daryl Stimm and William Mutterspaugh created a robot called Ruku Robot to show school-age children what STEM is and how fun and necessary it is.

The Ruku Robot is the first Raspberry Pi, a credit card-sized, single-board computer, Rubik’s Cube-solving robot that can be assembled by students of any age and skill level from a kit. After assembling the kid, all that is needed is a smart phone and an app to put the robot to work.

Stimm and Mutterspaugh hope the robot and its building process helps engage future generations in subjects such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Last year, the UCSD graduates students launched a campaigned on Kickstarter to raise $50,000 and get the Ruku Robot kits into homes and schools more quickly. The kit is initially manufactured through 3D printers, but the developers hoped to reach their fundraising goal and move the production to injection mold-based manufacturing. The switch in manufacturing method would lower the kit's $200 price to just $99.

Last summer, Ruku Robot kits were presented to high school students at the California State Summer School for Mathematics and Sciences at UCSD and students showed great interested in the kits. Female students were as interested in the robot and its capabilities as male students where.

"One of our main goals is to get girls interested in STEM," said Stimm. "We think the Ruku is really great because it's not a tank or car like the other traditional robots for boys. The Rubik's Cube is a gender neutral toy."

The robot’s circuit board is comprised of a universal motor driver and six programmable stepper-motor drivers. The brain of the robot is the Raspberry Pi.

Stimm and Mutterspaugh hope the Ruko Robot is accessible to all children in their classrooms and because the robot comes with teacher and student lesson plans, educators can easily integrate this innovations and motivate children to become interested in STEM.

Watch the robot in action.