More than 1,500 donors have pledged a total of almost $100,000 on Kickstarter to help a handful of robot enthusiasts in Somerville build a giant, rideable, walking hexapod.
From left, Jonathan Raphael, and James Whong, both of Somerville, with a one-legged, half-scale robot nicknamed “Gimpy” that is a testbed for a massive, diesel-powered six-legged robot at Artisan’s Asylum in Somerville.
Affectionately called Stompy, with two jump-seats, a safety cage, and six massive legs all powered by a repurposed forklift engine, the project is odd, even in the quirky world of high-level robotics.
Unlike most of the machines churned from the more than 80 robotics companies in Greater Boston, this creature has no purpose other than awe — it’s an outsize toy built just because.
The hexapod project is a culminating moment for the Artisan’s Asylum, a shared workspace that is home to about 300 craftsmen, scientists, builders, engineers, and artists.
From left, Dan Landers of Cambridge, and Matt Dunlap of Somerville work on the hip-joint for a diesel-powered six-legged robot at Artisan’s Asylum in Somerville.
Housed in a 40,000-square-foot industrial space near Somerville’s Union Square, “the asylum,’’ as its congregants call it, resembles a 21st-century Santa’s workshop.
Pictured: Gui Cavalcanti and Jonathan Raphael discussed how to install the hip-joint.
Stompy’s three lead designers have made the project their full-time obsession; two left well-paying posts at respected robotics firms. Since April, a class of 15 students paid $750 each to take part in the project.
“What I like about Stompy is that it’s not supposed to be commercially successful,’’ said Helen Grenier, cofounder of iRobot, the Bedford-based manufacturer of the popular Roomba robotic vacuum, among other products. “It’s supposed to be fun.’’
Starting in April, Gui Cavalcanti and his two fellow designers, Dan Cody and James Whong, both 25 and Olin classmates, assembled a class of 15 volunteers who in their spare time have done what usually requires millions of dollars and military-level backing.
From left, instructor Gui Cavalcanti, Dan Landers, and Michael Soroka work on the hip-joint for the robot.