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In Search of a Do-It-Yourself Wall-E

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Members of the Wall-E Builders Group will show off their projects at Maker Faire at the San Mateo County Expo Center this weekend.

Wall-E Builders Group

There has been an explosion in hobbyist or do-it-yourself (DIY) robotics, with one recent example being a 16,000-member community attempting to individually create a live version of the robot Wall-E from the movie of the same name. Sherry Huss, organizer of the Maker Faire festival, says the availability of various robotics kits has sparked greater interest from hobbyists. Also contributing to the phenomenon is the emergence of inexpensive components and easy-to-use, solder-free microcontrollers such as Arduino.

Make magazine editor Phillip Torrone is building a solderless robot, which he describes as "servos, rubber-banded to a battery pack, rubber-banded to an Arduino, and a wire as the front 'wheel.' " The machine can be designed to seek hot or cold temperatures, or be bump-aware, or to use a pen or pencil to function as a drawbot. No less than 24 robotics hobbyists are expected to be showcased at Maker Faire, although Torrone says the DIY robotics movement has yet to truly take off. "I would say it still hasn't 'started,' until more people with a casual interest can make robots," he says. "We're just starting to get to that point."

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