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Next: the TekPet

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Friday, February 01, 2008


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The TekPet is, for lack of a more erudite description, ridiculously cute. And cute with nine “emotions”: Pat its back and it makes happy noises, scoots smoothly across the floor and its eyes glow green. Bonk it on the head several times and it gets mad: red eyes, angry noises, jerky movements. But it’s cute with a purpose. TekPets are simple, build-it-yourself robots designed to get middle- and high-school kids — particularly girls — interested in electrical engineering and computer science, says lead developer Ellen Porter, a 20-year-old Gilchrist native and Oregon State University student. But 12-year-olds soldering circuit boards? You bet. Last summer, Porter and a team of OSU students had 38 middle-schoolers build TekPets during a two-week tech camp called “Out of the Box.” In December, the Cascade School District outside of Salem agreed to use TekPets as part of its teaching curriculum. Next up: TekPets in toy stores. While it’s still unknown who would do the actual commercialization (OSU initiated the concept and owns it), Porter and her team think they can have a $40 version — comparable kits cost around $200 — ready for market early this year. Suddenly cute sounds synonymous with smart.  ABRAHAM HYATT




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