Pleo dinosaur robot


When Pleos are turned on, it’s easy to forget they’re robots. They squeal when you hold them by their tail and cuddling calms them down. Kids love it when they fall asleep, because it seems as though the dinosaur likes them. A colour sensor on the nose detects green, so waggling a leaf under it’s nose encourages it to eat, of course only when it’s hungry.

I bought some second hand Pleos from eBay and took the covering off one to see the tech inside.


Nao Robot


This is the latest robot to join my growing collection. 13 years after shaking hands with Asimo, I’ve now got my own humanoid robot that I’m learning to program. The Nao is designed by a French company called Aldebaran Robotics.

Circuit Building

There’s now loads of ways to make electronic circuits without soldering. My current favourite is littleBits because they’re perfect for prototyping ideas quickly.

The Lilypad Arduino is great for programming textile projects, because it’s sewn in with conductive thread and is machine washable. There’s a smaller, cuter version called Gemma, which is more basic, but is good enough for controlling LEDs.

Making circuits from Play Doh or homemade dough is a fun activity to do with kids. They can add LEDs to their models and in the process learn about material properties. Salt makes the dough conductive whereas sugar based dough is an insulator.

Glastonbury Festival

Taking our robot elephant to Glastonbury Festival turned out to be brilliant. On the way there I wasn’t sure if anyone was going to like it. Compared to all the amazing displays, I thought my little elephant covered in duct tape might be insignificant. But kids and parents loved it. Even the marshals started talking about it as we drove in with the elephant bobbing up and down in the trailer.

Brighton Hackathon

Last week I went to my first hackathon. It was run by the Met Office, so all the projects were weather related. I helped create a game for kids to understand weather networks using a polystyrene globe and simple electronics.

Making a Robot Elephant

When I went to the Brighton Maker Faire last year, it was fun controlling my lecturer’s robot. Kids enjoyed interacting with it but girls tended to watch for a while before tentatively approaching.

So I decided to create a soft, friendly, approachable robot in the form of a baby elephant.

It’s made using recycled materials. The wheels and electronics are from a broken electric wheel chair. Dexion (which is like Meccano for grown-ups) from a mill that closed gives it enough strength to ride on and foam from an old mattress makes it comfy.

The elephant will be in the Green Kids field at Glastonbury Festival in June.

Designing a Game

Widening Participation Game

As part of my work for the university’s Widening Participation programme, I go into schools to introduce children to the idea of university. I offered to redesign a game for 11-13 year olds and was asked to create something new.

The idea of the game is to collect skills, study and independence points towards a degree. The board is a map of a campus and students pick up cards with fun facts and trivia about university as they go round. The game is going to be trialled in schools this term and hopefully played for real from September.

Update: The trials went well and one of the schools put up a lovely article on their website