Kickstarter of the Week - Anderson High School Students' Switchbox Robot Gears

There is so much to like about this week’s Austin Kickstarter. The Switchbox: Flexible, rugged gearing for robotics Kickstarter is part of the High School Startups project. Clever young entrepreneurs get mentoring and guidance about real world uses and applications of their ideas. Then they build their prototypes using 3D printers, like a MakerBot, and launch the prototypes on Kickstarter to see if the world is ready for their idea.

The young men behind Switchbox tour the competitive robotics circuit as members of LC Anderson High School’s FIRST Robotics Team. If you’re not familiar with competitive robotics, it’s just as awesome as it sounds. The team noticed both they and their competitors had real problems with robots stripping out their gears in competition conditions, plus a few less dramatic but equally frustrating gearbox related problems. Being young engineers, they saw an obvious solution: build a better gearbox.

This is one of those projects that makes me happy crowdfunding exists. These guys want to solve a real-world problem for a small, niche group of hobbyists. Twenty years ago it would be nearly impossible for them to get any kind of funding. Now, people who want one of their gearboxes can support the Kickstarter. If there’s enough demand, they’ll get to go to market. Switchbox is exactly the kind of project Kickstarter was made to support.

If you just want to show them a little moral support, you can buy a t-shirt for either $15 or $25. If you or a budding roboticist in your life wants a gearbox, the single ratio model costs $140 while the one with two different gear ratios costs $175. They also have an unlockable $100 stress test reward. Basically, if enough people want to see them do it, they’ll put their gearboxes through some extreme challenges to see just what it takes to make them break.

I’ll be honest - I love everything about this project. This kind of hands-on, real world engineering is exactly what we need in order to get more young people interested in science and technology careers. To keep “real world engineering” from sounding too boring and mature, throw in a good robot fight club. Oh, and while they’re learning to make and fight robots, running a Kickstarter teaches them business skills.

It’s a shame they don’t have more support levels for people who love the idea but don’t really need a gearbox. If you do know someone on the competitive robotics circuit, a Switchbox would make an excellent gift. Just make sure they program their robot to understand you are to be spared in the Robopocalypse.


Curious how our previous Austin Kickstarters did?
The Ghastlycrud Zombies was fully funded! They earned over $6100 with an initial goal of $4300, so the book is in good shape.

The Live Action Jem and the Holograms Movie was over 250% funded! Mind you, they were only asking for $200. Go ahead and throw them a couple more bucks just to be part of something awesome.

Jumpshot made an amazing 500% of their goal! They raised more than $147,000, putting them in the top tier of all Kickstarters.  

My Education was fully funded!  Our instrumental band is set for their European tour.

Rockrgrrl Magazine’s GRL Talk Book was fully funded! They made over 120% of their original goal.

Strange Kid Comix was over 114% funded! They raised more than $2850 for their taste of pure pop culture nostalgia.

Wholly Kabob was 100% funded. They raised $15,250 to start a tasty new food trailer.

Texas or Die: An Anthology of Horror sadly didn’t reach its $7000 goal and therefore didn’t receive funding.

The Anachronist sadly didn’t reach its goal and therefore didn’t receive funding.

Stabil-i-Case sadly didn’t reach its goal and therefore didn’t receive funding.

The Doctor Who Review Project sadly didn’t reach its goal and therefore didn’t receive funding.

Taskbox sadly didn’t reach it’s goal and therefore didn’t receive funding.

The original Spinferno Kickstarter was cancelled and replaced by a new Spinferno for Android kickstarter.

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