Plant Robot Cyborgs Can Teach Stem Concepts

The goal of the Citizen Scientific Workshop is to "make the adventure of science and making available to everyone." David Ultis runs the organization based in Boise Idaho and works to contribute to STEM education with a twist. Partnering with a local botanical garden the team began to build robots that could inspire technology and conservation. A Kickstarter campaign is currently running for the Plantoids, organic plant-robot cyborgs.

Plantoids use Arduino boards to pull in sensor input and drive the robot. The soil moisture, air temperature, humidity, ambient light, and air quality sensors all give information about the health of the plant onboard the robot. An RGB LED and speaker are also included for the robot to give visual and audio feedback to the user.

Conceptually a cyborg can use its robot body to drive itself somewhere that conditions are ideal for the plant to grow. Mobility will also help the robot to drive away from predators. These first Plantoid robots house carnivorous Butterwort plants in a small terrarium but it's easy to imagine a small fleet of robots delivering new species to transform the face of a dead planet.

Plantoids are a great addition to the massive catalog of educational robot kits on the market, with the cyborg twist. The project combines coding, robotics, biology and biomimicry in a unique way due to the plant life and science fiction feel to the project.

The Citizen Scientific Workshop also works hard in the Boise area on STEM projects, and my favorite is the Junkyard Robots Workshop. Working with the Advocates for Inclusion group David built robotic prototype sculptures. Old project components, recycled materials, and failed 3D prints were used as base materials. If Ultis' lab is anything like my workspace there's never a shortage of half-finished projects and unfinished 3D printed parts.

Plantoids are running as a Kickstarter campaign until September 8, 2017. If successful first units will ship in February 2018.





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