I remember my dad always kept lots of jars of spare parts in the garage–screws, wingnuts, nails, bolts, and so on. While my own collection isn’t as big, I do tend to hang onto spare screws and nuts and other bits, just in case. Well, here’s somebody who decided to take a bunch of spare parts and turn them into little robots.
Roy Barazani is the creator behind the Offbits, a line of open-source robots that encourages you to tinker. They’re little kits of brightly-colored bits that can be assembled into cute robots. Plus, there’s a little dystopian storyline behind them: the Offbits are the cast-offs of their neat and tidy robot society, rejected for pushing boundaries and testing limits.
I was sent one of the kits to try out, plus some extra parts for customizing. There are a few basic robots to choose from, but they have a similar assembly: a head, neck, legs, body, arms, feet, plus some bits to attach to the sides of the head. You can easily swap out different bits to mix and match, or add your own. There are also some other kits that include wheels so you can make little vehicles for the robots.
The kit comes in a small slider box, a little smaller than a deck of cards. You get a mini-screwdriver and instructions along with all the parts. There’s also a magnet with some double-stick tape so that you can stand the completed robot on the box when you’re done.
My kids had fun disassembling and reassembling the robot using the extra parts I got, mixing and matching colors and the “horns” on the side of the head. I did note that some of the pieces, like the spring legs and the screws for the eyes, could be a little difficult to remove, but for the most part everything was pretty straightforward.
The Offbits started with some kits for sale as a pilot series, and are now on Kickstarter to put more of the kits into production. There is a little irony, I suppose, in custom-manufactured “spare parts,” but the kits are intended as a starting point, and you’re highly encouraged to modify and add to them with your own spare parts. Of course, if you’ve got a lot of odds and ends around the house, you may be able to pull together some robots of your own with your kids, but an Offbits kit may be a fun way to jump start their imaginations, or provide a base that they can build from.
For more information, visit the Offbits Kickstarter page!