RAWrobotics, a Brisbane-based hardware startup, has recently won $30,000 as part of the Queensland University of Technology’s bluebox robotics accelerator.
RAWrobotics has developed a suite of robotics education tools that can be used in high schools and higher educational institutions such as universities. Co-founder Samual Ashcroft said he found robotics education to be out-of-date and missing a lot of modern technology.
“In terms of programming languages, they all used proprietary languages that do not exist in the real world. So the kids are learning proprietary languages that are throwaway,” Ashcroft said.
“What RAWrobotics wants to do is provide robotics educational tools for the high school market and upwards that reflect the robotics being used in the industry right now, like that coming out of Boston Dynamics.”
RAWrobotics’ main product is the mobile Proteus robot, with five separate modules as part of the offering. It can be used by beginners to more experienced users, with students beginning with Python on the RAWrobotics’ web-based integrated development environment (IDE).
Students can then progress to more advanced languages and techniques as they learn more.
RAWrobotics’ modular platform is made up of several classes of module, the main one being the brain module – the other four classes are modules that are attached to this brain module.
The first of those four classes is power, which could include battery modules. The next class is locomotion, which could include omniwheels, normal wheels, tracks and legs. A sensor module could be anything from Lidar or infrared to scanning, sonars and even radars. The fourth class involves universal manipulation, including Orion5, a robot arm that can be attached to Proteus.
Orion5 can carry out tasks such as drawing and picking up objects, and can be mounted on a desk and controlled via USB or mounted on the Proteus combined with other sensors.
“The point of the Orion5 is to validate and help in teaching things like trigonometry, physics, inverse and forward kinematics, dynamics and calculus,” Ashcroft said.
It connects to the user’s machine and allows them to receive kinematic feedback, such as the position of servos, the velocity and its torque.
It also allows teachers to respond to the often-asked question of why trigonometry is important – teachers can show how the subject can be used in the real world by programming Orion5 to reach over and pick up something.
The product also includes a software platform, including a simulation engine attached to an IDE, where students can write code.
The RAWrobotics team has its sights on expanding beyond Australia to target Asia and the US as well. It plans to launch a Kickstarter to fund a second revision of the Orion5, which will incorporate feedback from the QUT trial run.
While Ashcroft said it can be difficult to recruit talented people, a problem many startups face, he said initiatives like equity-free grants have meant it’s much easier for engineers to become entrepreneurs.
“I think Australia needs to do more hardware startups. There’s too much of a focus on software and IT … There are some hardware gems out there, and I think those gems need to be cultivated,” he said.