The Real Robo-Cop
Everyone needs a hobby. And for some, that hobby is not discovered until late in life, when they finally find the passion that drives them, that captivates them, that presses them on.
For 49-year-old Mark Haywood, that passion is building robots from parts lying around the house. While this may not seem an unusual hobby for a retired electrical or mechanical engineer, Haywood took a different path.
The former Baltimore police officer began looking for a new mission in life upon the passing of his father some three years earlier.
“I really enjoyed being a cop. I wanted to go out and lock up the bad guys and that’s what I did. But policing completely takes over your life. That’s one of the reasons I got out,” he says in a CNN article.
So, he turned to something that had given him pleasure as a child: robots. “I grew up very poor in Baltimore and every Christmas my mother used to purchase toy robots for me — the kind that shuffled across the floor, spun around with lights flashing. I thought they were the most marvelous things on the planet.”
Over the last four years Haywood has been visualizing, designing, engineering, and building his first ever robot. “The legs are made from outdoor speakers — they’re gorgeous. His shoulders are made from fans, his forearms from power tools. The chest and back are made from kid’s riding toys and his head is a clock radio. I also employed a 3-D printer for the hands, using a combination of the Inmoov open-source design and my own artistic expression.”
Now, tens-of-thousands of dollars later, Haywood has brought his robot, HEX, to life. “He can step unsupported, but it’s not completely stable — I have a slight problem with joint compliance at the moment. But his hands are fully functional, his legs are functional and he has 23 degrees of freedom.”
But, he is not done. Haywood is already looking forward to his next robot project. Only this time, he hopes to not have to finance it completely on his own. He started a Kickstarter page to help raise funds to get his next venture off the ground.
This time he plans to document the entire process and help others to get their own projects going. More importantly, however, he hopes that this project will serve as a way to engage with at-risk youth in the Baltimore area.
“Because of the crime problems in Baltimore, it’s a perfect opportunity to try and snatch some children back from the abyss. That’s my objective. It’s a really beautiful thing to be able to introduce robotics to kids.”
Image Credit: RATOCA / Shutterstock