Making STEM Stick

Recent Jacobs School of Engineering graduates Daryl Stimm, ’14, and William Mutterspaugh, ’14, are doing their part to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to San Diego youth. And they’re using a classic puzzle to do it.

The pair created Ruku Robot, a kit that students in middle or high school assemble to get hands­-on experience with the fundamentals of robotics, computer science and engineering. Once complete, Ruku is capable of solving that elusive Rubik’s Cube.

“It’s a fun, interactive teaching tool for every school,” says Stimm. “And a great way for kids to get involved in science.”

Once students build the robot, they use a smart­phone app to detect the colors of the cube and determine the fastest way to solve the puzzle. The app then sends instructions to the motors, which turn the cube as needed. While not quite Guinness-record worthy, Ruku is able to solve the cube in as little as 20 seconds.

After meeting in a computer science and engineering course in their senior year, it took Stimm and Mutterspaugh just eight weeks to build the Ruku Robot prototype. Stimm, a computer science major, worked on the robotics, while electrical engineering major Mutterspaugh did the 3D modeling and built the special circuit that powers the robot’s brain.

Stimm and Mutterspaugh hope to package Ruku Robot as a kit, together with the iPhone app and lesson plans, to help teachers use the robot in and out of the classroom. After students build their first Ruku, the hope is STEM has stuck: they can disassemble it and use the parts to build and program a completely different robotic device.

Watch Ruku Robot in action.