When Max Shepherd was about 10, he saw a robot arm on Lego’s mindstorms.com. It inspired him to build his own. "I built a bunch of moderately decent arms (I was in middle school, come on)," he says "and then slowly built my Lego collection in high school, and started experimenting more with the pneumatics."
About halfway through college, he says, "I started following some Lego blogs, and realized that with the new stuff out (power functions, linear actuators, more connectors), there was a real opportunity to do something new." That new thing was a biomimetic robot arm, built in Lego.
Unlike his previous arms, which were more like factory robot arms, this one is designed to as closely as possible mimic the full range of motion of a human arm. "This made me feel like I was putting my biomedical engineering major to good use," he says.
Shepherd says his interests lie somewhere between design, engineering, and art. "My favorites tend to involve a combination." Indeed, for all that the arm is technically interesting, for Shepherd that’s just part of it. "While the arm is mechanically pretty cool," he says, "I also spent a couple weeks making the fake shoulder, getting the colors right, and making the pneumatic tubing look organized."