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The MOSS Huck Tank

We’re finishing up the final preparations toward launching our most awesome product ever: the MOSS Huck Tank. I can’t wait until November. The Huck Tank

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Engineer, Grant, Project, Product

By: Modular Robotics

We’re announcing something awesome on November 7. I promised the team that I wouldn’t announce it early, so consider this a meta-announcement or a second-order announcement. No further announcing follows. Well — we’ve been so focused on details and finishing touches recently that the origins of our new thing have faded a little bit. The story of how it came to be is worth telling.

Back in 2009-2010, some of our startup funding came via SBIR grants from the National Science Foundation. These grants are free money, but they come with some unanticipated benefits too. About three years ago, I got email from the American Society of Engineering Education announcing their new post-doc scholar program. As a NSF SBIR recipient, the ASEE would pay for almost all of a postdoctoral scholar’s salary and health insurance if we hired someone who had recently finished (or was about to finish) their PhD in a technical field.


I immediately thought of Jon Hiller. When I was a post-doc at the Cornell Computational Synthesis lab (now called the Cornell Creative Machines Lab), Jon was a PhD student. Even in a world-class lab filled with the smartest people you’ve met, Jon stood out. He was working on discrete 3D printing, figuring out how to deposit tiny beads of material in dense grids to create forms with variable material properties. He built apparatus, wrote code, ran 3D simulations, and finished some super cool research. I wondered if he was getting ready to defend.

I called Jon. He was about to defend his dissertation and was ready to accept a job at Lawrence Livermore National Lab. It’s hard to compete with a cush government job but modbot had a trump card: Jon’s a rock climber and we’re in Boulder, CO. Proposals were written and he moved out here a month later to start.

Under normal circumstances, there’d be no way that a little, underfunded startup like Modular Robotics in 2010 could embark on the design of a second, totally unique robot project. But when Jon came out to join us, much of the work on commercializing Cubelets was complete. Since Jon was basically “free” to Modular Robotics, we decided that we should make the most of this bonus: we’d put him to work on a brand new something. Here we are, a couple of years later.


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