Sidharth and Rohit Srinivasan love solving problems. The brothers frequently participate in robotics competitions and have traveled from their home in Austin, Texas, to India to teach STEM courses at orphanages. In 2015, that’s where they discovered their most intriguing problem yet: “The schools didn’t have an affordable way to teach robotics,” says Sidharth.
Conventional robotics kits typically require wi-fi and fast computers. They’re also limiting; extra robot parts cost money, but what if an inventive kid wants to experiment? So the Srinivasans launched Trashbots, a kit that allows young people to build bots using cheap supplies like rubber bands, paper clips, and ice-pop sticks. “We wanted to encourage kids to see the world in terms of tools,” says Rohit. “The only thing you’re limited by is what you have around you and what’s inside your brain.”
The hardware kit includes motors, lights, speakers, sensors, gears and axles, and some “trash.” It costs $100 and comes with lesson plans that span kindergarten through the 12th grade. The Srinivasans have shipped units all over the world, helping kids build things like temperature-controlled fans and soda-can whales.
As they prepare to fill this school year’s demand, they’re also thinking about how to turn Trashbots into the category leader for promoting STEM. Their plan: Recruit more problem solvers as they grow. “For every problem that exists, there’s one person who can solve it,” says Sidharth. “The question is: How do you find that person?”