Meet Robotgrrl – Making Robots from Popsicle sticks and Arduino.

Written By: Bill Griggs - Jul• 15•11

One of the nice things about blogging is that it encourages you to read other folks blogs to see what they are up to.  I recently stumbled across a really interesting blog by Robotgrrl, a 19 year old, young lady who is making Robots out of popsicle sticks, pencils, Arduino and basically anything she can scrounge together.

RobotGrrl Erin Kennedy

RobotGrrl, as Erin Kennedy prefers to be known is a very modest, soft spoken young lady. She is also an extraordinary achiever. After our interview, I had a chance to research further and I discovered that she is constantly taking steps to put her ideas into action. She is extremely passionate about creating robots and making them social and fun. At 19 Robotgrrl has a body of work and list of achievements that can put most adults to shame. She has written scientific papers, released iPad apps, been featured on news broadcasts and web shows. She is truly one of Canada’s national treasures.




BILL:  Tell me what’s your website?

ROBOTGRRL:          My website is  And it’s basically a blog about everything that I’ve built and seen and stuff like that.

BILL:  Fantastic!  So you’ve been building robots, and you’ve been blogging about it.  How long ago did you get started making robotics?

ROBOTGRRL:          I think about five years ago. I can’t remember if I was 13 or 14.

BILL:  What got you started in Robots?

ROBOTGRRL:          Lego Mindstorms RCX2.

BILL:  I’d be interested, what made you think about buying a Lego robot?  I mean, that’s not your average choice.

ROBOTGRRL:          Oh, well, it was just one of the coolest kits at the time, and there was going to be a robotics class at the high school for, the next year. Also that summer I hurt my leg so I couldn’t do track and field so I just thought, “Okay, let’s just build robots the whole summer.”

BILL:  That’s a really cool decision at 14; to go build robots instead of running track.  When you got the Lego Mindstorms, what was the first thing you built with it?

ROBOTGRRL:          I can’t remember what I built first. I remember I built a rover type of thing. I also built a dancing Mickey which actually used motors on the bottom so that it could wiggle its feet back and forth, so that’s how it would dance.  I built a science fair project with a group of friends that sort of compared the difference between a light sensor and a touch sensor using springs and Hooke’s Law. That project is currently what the Mindstorms RCX2 is being used for right now.  I haven’t built anything else with Lego RCX2.  I just left it with the science fair project still standing.

BILL:  When you moved on from the Lego Mindstorms to other types of robotics, what was your platform of choice?

ROBOTGRRL:          After Mindstorms, I decided to go into humanoid robotics so I got the Kyosho Manoi AT01 kit. I didn’t know at the time that it was the most advanced and difficult humanoid robotic kit. It took a while to figure out everything, and eventually I was introduced to the Arduino, the Arduino Diecimila.  Once I got an Arduino I was able to change the brain for the Japanese controller port in Manoi to the Arduino, and then I started to add on, first a serial servo controller, then more sensors. Things like that.

BILL:  For those who don’t know, the Arduino is an open source microcontroller that’s fairly inexpensive.  Did the Arduino actually give you more functionality than the one that came stock with the kit?

ROBOTGRRL:          The one that came with it didn’t have many capabilities, and it probably wasn’t open source.  It was all in Japanese and hard to understand and stuff.

BILL:  But you made it through that roadblock. So…. You’re an above average teenager, obviously, playing with one of the most advanced/expensive humanoid robots out there.  Yet, you’re getting it. It clicked. You understood it and then you went in and really hacked it to have a different brain and then give it more functionality.  That’s not something you see every day. That’s amazing.

ROBOTGRRL:          Yeah, it’s all right.  But I sort of injured the robot in the process. One of the favorite things that Manoi and I like to do, I guess, is play hockey. We played a lot till his knees sort of melted inside so he can’t walk, but he can stand still and sort of play hockey still.

Manoi ready to play hockey

RobotGrrl's Manoi ready to play hockey

BILL:  Those were probably digital servos? They’re not metal gears obviously.

ROBOTGRRL:          Well, they do have some metal gears inside, but not all of them.  So the plastic gears sometimes melt if you run them too hot. And then, of course, to get the plastic gears, you have to order from a store in the UK, which has to order them from China.  And so shipping is usually a ton. So you get a gear that’s, so small and probably won’t last that long, but it costs so much.

BILL:  Manoi is the same robot that you featured on your blog with some bells in its hands dancing to a Christmas carol? Yeah, that’s a really cool video.

ROBOTGRRL:          Thank you.

BILL:  So you know, one thing that’s really unique and interesting about your site and about the robots that you build is that you take common, everyday items from around the house, and you add them to the robots or you build the robots using them.  So that makes it really kind of an affordable way to do these projects.  How did you get started with that?

ROBOTGRRL:          Well, the servos cost so much. They cost so much that there’s no money to buy anything else once you buy the servos. So that’s pretty much how I got started with it.  Because, I don’t have a 3D printer, I don’t have a CNC, I don’t have a laser cutter so I just make stuff with Popsicle sticks and pencils and things that I have instead of things that I don’t have and would have to buy.

BILL:  Use what you’ve got. Many of the robots that you’ve built so far have very expressive faces, and they look like something that maybe Jim Henson would have built at the Muppet studio.  You’ve got a very good designer’s eye for how these things should look.  They’re adorable – you wanna pick them up and cuddle them and play with them.  There is little Manoi at the Holiday Extravaganza with his little Santa hat and bells. Cute! Usually these things look like robot Samurais or something, but not your designs. Everything is unique. Very human, very cool.

ROBOTGRRL:          Oh, yeah?? Yeah (modestly). Thank you.

BILL:  – What caught my attention from your projects was the RoboBrrd.  Could you tell me a little bit about RoboBrrd? Click here to read more about Robobrrd.


Robobrrd is a robot made with popsicle sticks, pencils and Arduino


Robotgrrl Blog

All Photos and images graciously provided by Robotgrrl.

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


  1. […] is a continuation of an interview did with RobotGrrl, a teen Robot […]

  2. RobotGrrl says:

    Hey Bill!

    Thanks again for the interview, it was a pleasure talking with you! I hope that this will inspire some people, or at least it will be in the time machine so we can look back on it in 50 years! 😛

    I dug up the video of the dancing Mickey, here it is:

    Also, not too sure what “Chinese gelatin foam” is, but it was probably me mumbling saying “coffee stir sticks”, at least, that’s what seems to make sense.

    Thanks again! Excited to see interviews of other Makers on here too :)

  3. Archdave says:

    2nd link from bottom on this page below has a broken robobrrd link:

    Link in the recent articles section at right is correct

  4. Bill Griggs says:


    Thanks for reporting that link. I appreciate the help.


  5. […] This talented teen is using an iPad to control her Arduino powered Robot RoboBrrd‘s servos.  RobotGrrl created an iPad app which will allow her to feed her Feather covered robotic bird using the iPad […]

  6. […] v0.8 Alpha  is an new open source Graphical Development Interface that will kickstart your Arduino Programming without making you write code. As I reported in June of this year Julian da Silva […]

  7. […] a 19 year old Robot maker has found a new way to control her pet Robot, Robobrrd with her Ipad. RobotGrrl is using a Redpark Serial cable to connect her iPad to an Arduino microcontroller. The Redpark […]



  9. Automatización Industrial | Diseño e ingeniería de sistemas automáticos | programación de PLC | sistemas Scadas y redes….

    […]Meet Robotgrrl – Making Robots from Popsicle sticks and Arduino. « « Maker Masters Maker Masters[…]…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.