Geek holiday gift ideas: Robot roll call!

The entire universe in blog form
Dec. 13 2011 12:46 PM

Geek holiday gift ideas: Robot roll call!

[NOTE: A lot of folks are posting geek holiday gift ideas, which is great! I have a few things I want to mention, so I'll be posting a few of mine as well this week. I have a bunch I'll put in one post later, but what follows here needed some pictures, so it goes in a post by itself. Enjoy!]

The other day I got an email from my friend, the appropriately-named Bob Goodman. He told me that another friend of his, Sarah Stocker, had co-founded this company called My Robot Nation -- where you can design your own little toy robot model, and then the company will create it using a 3D printer! Would I be interested in checking it out?

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  


Duh. Emails and introductions were exchanged, and Sarah -- full disclosure here -- sent me a coupon code so I could make my own little toy minion. I called down my 15-year-old proto-geek daughter, and the two of us sat in front of my computer, logged in to My Robot Nation, and started playing with the robot design web interface.

It was fun! It was also pretty easy to get the hang of it. You can choose among many different styles of heads, bodies, and lower portions (legs, treads, and so on) as well as decorations (flames!), eyes, other accouterments (a jetpack!), and then finally colors. It took us about a half hour all told -- punctuated with us saying things like "Cool!" and "Oh, that's awesome" -- and when we were satisfied, we submitted it.

A few days later, in the mail arrived... Chip!

Isn't he adorable? He stands about 6.5 cm (2.5 inches) tall, so he's not huge. However, different sizes are available up to 15 cm (6"). The robots are made of gypsum powder and a binding agent, and have a high-impact plastic feel. The 3D printer builds them up millimeter by millimeter, so there's a lot of detail -- we put flames on the side of Chip's treads, and they look really cool. The colors are pretty much just as they were displayed when we designed Chip, too.

Again, I'll note that Sarah at My Robot Nation gave me a coupon, so Chip was free. However, if I didn't really like this product (and process!) I wouldn't write about it, and designing Chip was just as much fun as getting him in the mail. This truly is a very cool idea, and I know a lot of geeks on my holiday gift list who would love this. In fact, I think this would make a great last-minute gift; you can buy a gift code for someone, present it to them on your holiday of choice, and then they can create the robot at their leisure. This is a great way to share your geekery with a loved one, and help indoctrinate introduce them to the Geek Way.



The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

Congress’ Public Shaming of the Secret Service Was Political Grandstanding at Its Best

Michigan’s Tradition of Football “Toughness” Needs to Go—Starting With Coach Hoke

A Plentiful, Renewable Resource That America Keeps Overlooking

Animal manure.

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10


Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.

Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

Hasbro Is Cracking Down on Scrabble Players Who Turn Its Official Word List Into Popular Apps

Florida State’s New President Is Underqualified and Mistrusted. He Just Might Save the University.

  News & Politics
Sept. 30 2014 9:33 PM Political Theater With a Purpose Darrell Issa’s public shaming of the head of the Secret Service was congressional grandstanding at its best.
Sept. 30 2014 7:02 PM At Long Last, eBay Sets PayPal Free
Sept. 30 2014 7:35 PM Who Owns Scrabble’s Word List? Hasbro says the list of playable words belongs to the company. Players beg to differ.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 30 2014 3:21 PM Meet Jordan Weissmann Five questions with Slate’s senior business and economics correspondent.
Brow Beat
Sept. 30 2014 8:54 PM Bette Davis Talks Gender Roles in a Delightful, Animated Interview From 1963
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 7:00 PM There’s Going to Be a Live-Action Tetris Movie for Some Reason
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 30 2014 11:51 PM Should You Freeze Your Eggs? An egg freezing party is not a great place to find answers to this or other questions.
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.