Karl Castleton, head of Team Grit, the all-volunteer DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) contender out of Grand Junction, Colorado, sent me this photo of the team’s robot, Cog-Burn.

The DRC Finals is going down this June 5-6 at Fairplex in Pomona, California. It’s the most ambitious robotics competition in the world, and as the competition’s website puts it, “Twenty-five of the top robotics organizations in the world will gather to compete for $3.5 million in prizes as they attempt a simulated disaster-response course.”

Getting to go toe to robotic toe with the likes of Carnegie Mellon University, MIT, Lockheed Martin, and other heavy hitters in the world of robotics is a major score for Team Grit, but it’s not unusual for them. They competed as Team Mojavaton not just in the DRC Trials in Florida in 2013, but also in all three of DARPA’s robotic car races in the 2000s.

How are they pulling this off? Castleton tells me:

3D printing was a big part of our previous robot, and it’s a big part of our process this time. We are 3D printing a new kind of gearbox. This one is called a hypocycloid gear box, and it gives us about a hundred-to-one reduction in about three-quarters of an inch to an inch of plastic. We didn’t think of it. We found the design on Thingiverse and we’re tuning it for our purpose. We plan to take advantage of the open source communities a lot.

A win for Cog-Burn and Team Grit will be victory for DIYers and makers everywhere.

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