Pat Starace launched his StarBots animatronic kits with a successful Kickstarter campaign in late 2013. I first met Pat at Orlando Mini Maker Faire 2012 where he exhibited several of his animatronic creations including a singing toucan and what one exhibitor called “creepy singing fruit.” Pat was a hit with the crowd, and with our Maker Faire crew from Orlando’s hackerspace, FamiLAB. Pat later become a FamiLAB member and started teaching us all about animatronics. It was then that Pat realized that he could help others enjoy making animatronics too!
Now that Pat’s backers are receiving their StarBots, and he’s working on his next products, I asked Pat about his experience – from the original idea, to the Kickstarter process, all the way to customers using their StarBots in their own projects.
Where did the idea for StarBots originate?
I’ve been making animatronics for many years, and would always enjoy the look on people faces when they see my animatronics perform. From skating Stanley Puck (an animatronic skating and singing hockey puck) on the ice with the NY Islanders, to an animatronic singing pineapple with backup singing oranges, nothing is more rewarding than when I take these to children’s hospitals. I love the look on the kids faces when they see these, there’s always a “how does it work” look on their face. I wanted to make an animatronic kit, and the spark was when I helped teach an Arduino class with FamiLAB at the Orlando Science Center and realized how excited the children were when they could build their own.
What were your biggest surprises with the StarBot Kickstarter campaign?
I was amazed by the help I received from the Kickstarter team. Taking this on at first was a little scary, knowing that making a small mistake could make or break a campaign. Kickstarter was extremely helpful with their feedback and suggestions on what the campaign should look and feel like.
The biggest surprise while manufacturing was the amazing support of my local maker community. For example, I promised StarBot deliveries in time for the holidays, and this would only leave me three to four weeks from the end of the Kickstarter campaign. FamiLAB was ordering a new laser, but it wouldn’t arrive till after the deadline. Brooks Zurn, a FamiLAB member, was starting an incubator named Sunshine Labs, and she provided 24 x 7 access to their awesome new Epilog laser. There were so many tasks to do in such a short time, and many, many FamiLAB members were there to lend a helping hand.
Photo by Jim Carchidi
What advice would you offer for makers looking to bring their product to the market?
Bringing a product to market as an individual with a power of one, can only gain you so much success. Being part of a community extends your reach much further, while also lending the support that the maker community offers. After seeing my successful Kickstarter campaign, others are now planning their own Kickstarter campaigns and I look forward to helping them!
How have your Kickstarter backers used their StarBots?
StarBot owners have been making some pretty cool videos. From the build process to making them sing, it is very cool to see one of your bots go out into the world and become something you never imagined. So far I’ve seen them used in Science Expos, exhibits, demos, and school projects. I also mentored a few bot owners across the country that were using their StarBot for their school science projects. As more bots are built, I’m sure I’ll be seeing more and more awesome videos.
What’s next for StarBots?
I see StarBots and the STEM / STEAM learning process growing rapidly. I’m currently developing some additions to the StarBot line including a custom control board with more features, and an affordable kit for introductory classes.
After his Kickstarter campaign, Pat launched animatronicshop.com, where you can find StarBot kits and links to an amazing number of instructional videos including a set of tutorials on how to build the PAPER skull (it looks like chrome, but it is paper!) in his Maker Revolution video. I’m looking forward to seeing his new custom boards, and spending time with my sons building the kits that we received by backing Pat’s Kickstarter campaign. If you backed the StarBots kits, share your StarBots videos by posting in the comments!