Most telepresence bots share a sleek monochromatic form factor. AR-Duo, on the other hand, is a rolling hulk of steampunk’d, metalshop’d glory. In addition to functioning as a 4-foot-tall telepresence robot, AR-Duo features light-up wheels and a built-in pipe organ.

Photos by Austin Dilley, Will Ferrari, and Nathan Strich

Photos by Austin Dilley, Will Ferrari, and Nathan Strich

Check out this “making of” slideshow to see how AR-Duo was brought to life:

For over a year, Mike Fulkerson has been iterating on the all-steel bot with his maker team, the AXR, and students from the San Dieguito Academy in Encinitas, California. “AR-Duo was built to promote the metal program at SDA… specifically to save the night time adult education welding class,” says Fulkerson. “People stop and talk with me when I roll a 300+ pound robot down the sidewalk. It’s a fishing lure/work of art, to hook people on upping the stakes of their making. It’s not for profit or self-promotion, it’s just using what I know to make a stand.”

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AR-Duo is clearly a robotic work of art, and the skillset that went into its fabrication might be more than what meets its steel-blue exterior. Fulkerson says it required “real engineering, clever machining, difficult skilled welding, ingenious sheet metal forming, technical electrical wiring, coding, and 3D printing.” AR-Duo currently runs on four Arduinos and a Raspberry Pi, and Fulkerson plans to add a Stirling engine to power the pipe organ, which he hopes will drive home the bot’s statement that 19th century tech and 20th century skills will be crucial in solving 21st century problems.

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With every overhaul and upgrade, AR-Duo represents Fulkerson’s mission a bit more fully, as he continues to engage more students and curious passerby in his project:

I have been promoting the [metal shop] class and raising awareness for the last year at whatever local event I can manage getting AR-Duo to. I’m also committed to saving the school’s fully equipped 1970’s era metal shop (and the auto, wood, and photography shops) from the wrecking ball, or poor planning, as the school gets remodeled. I believe and have seen the value to students of learning with their hands.

As this is the only shot I might get at speaking nationally to the Maker community, I would really like to say to everyone that they should search out existing resources that have survived into this century and preserve them by helping them transform from the divisive moniker of “the trades” to Maker spaces for school age kids and everyone needing to learn a marketable skill.