In the field of soft robotics, engineers use squishy materials to make robots durable, flexible, and safer to operate around humans. Now intrepid DIYers can also bring life to squishy machines: Last September, Harvard University published an open-access Soft Robotics Toolkit online. Some of the materials and skills Harvard recommends may be beyond the reach of a typical garage roboticist. But with a little ingenuity, you can substitute cheaper parts and simpler techniques. This project makes actuated “fingers” out of ribbed hose from a cheap foot pump, long thin balloons (the type you can twist and fold into animals), and other basic items. By attaching five fingers to a limb–in this case, a plastic gauntlet from a set of toy armor—you can form a robot hand. Once you’ve assembled your appendage, it’s time for phase two of the project: building a fluidic control board. The Arduino brain controls and coordinates air valves to make the hand flash the peace sign, hang loose, or even flip the bird. A


Time 8 hours

Cost $70 (hand), $400 (control board) Difficulty

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