The Laika Story
Andy Bakin is the creator of Laika Explorer. Here is Andy’s story of Laika…


It all started back in April 2013 when, after working as a Freelance Electronics Designer for a year, I decided that it was high time to have my own product – and so Laika was born. The concept is to allow anyone to easily interface with real-world physical devices (think motors, switches, volume controls) using their Raspberry Pi and Scratch. After a successful Kickstarter campaign, I now have my design in production and into distributors.



It hasn't been easy though, as I have had to learn a lot about marketing, making videos, presentations and communicating with the masses. My background is Electronics so I haven't had much exposure to the art of selling and this was perhaps the hardest part. The Kickstarter was successfully completed on 4th August reaching a total of £10,315 with a target of £7,000. It was not looking good for most of the campaign as I only had half of the required pledges with only 3 1/2 days to go. However, this suddenly changed as mentioned the project on their blog. And wham! The pledges rose from around £3,500 to over £10K in just a few days. This is a valuable lesson: next time I will make sure that I have good publicity before I launch the Kickstarter. With the Kickstarter finished, the serious work had to begin as I had nearly 300 boards to get into production, packaged up and sent out. This wasn't just a hardware project though, as many hours were spent finalising the software and uploading it so that users could install it on their machines. There were a few issues with lead-times (the time it takes to receive components) but these were overcome. The only way to make the project feasible was to buy components in bulk, otherwise you end up paying an awful lot per device. In some cases this meant buying enough components to build 5,000 when my first production run was on 500. To anyone setting out on their first design, you need to be aware of these upfront costs when you set your Kickstarter target. This project has thrown up a few unexpected and joyful experiences. I remember getting an email out of the blue on a Friday afternoon in August from Pete at Raspberry Pi asking if I could run up to York on the Monday to help with a CBBC Newsround article. After some timetable rearranging, I made it up to York and was actually interviewed by the BBC. I wasn't at all prepared for this and so I came across a bit 'rabbit in the headlights' but it was fun. Most of my bit ended up on the cutting room floor but you can see a shot of Laika if you're quick: I have been working closely with Highgate School, London, with the view of introducing this technology into their programme of study next year. Over the summer we held a workshop to program and control a robot arm and robot buggy. It was fantastic and worked really well. The day ended with a competition to see who had designed the best Scratch interface for controlling the equipment. The students raced their devices against each other’s, either racing their buggies around a track or manoeuvring sweets using the robot arm.



This workshop has paved the way to a close relationship with Highgate School and just a few weeks ago, I held a short course on programming for the teachers there. I spoke about what a computer actually is and how it works with a program. Taking a look at the new curriculum, we discussed algorithms, abstraction, I/O and physical device control. Having learnt all of this, it was time to get some hands-on experience with programming and to do this we used a Raspberry Pi running Scratch.


So, there we have it. It has been a busy summer. If you are at all interested in Laika you can find more information here: Laika is expandable and I have plenty of ideas for add-on modules so watch out for another Laika Kickstarter soon.


Finally, I want to say a big thank you to all of those lovely Backers out there who have helped this project come to life: it has been a joy. Here is a sample of some of the great feedback that I have had:   ********************************************************************************** “I'm very impressed by your project.” Rodrigo “I have been involved in a couple of Kickstarter projects. This is quite easily the most professional. Communications are clear and regular. There are functional repositories that get updated. The product is outstanding. I congratulate you on a job well done. I hope that it has been rewarding for you.” Phil – Netherlands Just received my inventors kit in Canada Thursday very nicely packed. It was a great surprise.” Lou - Canada I am one happy Dad. I received the inventors kit on Friday, had my son (10) and daughter (8) installing the software and building a simple circuit on Saturday. We now have the scratch cat moving when we turn a dial. They loved it and want to play again soon. Looking forward to seeing more tutorials on the website. All in all a fantastic kit!” James - UK “…a great product that I hope will come very handy. Oh, and one of the closest-to-promised fulfilment's I've ever seen on a KS campaign, well done!” Lorenzo – Spain “Received my kit today, couldn't be happier, great looking board and loads of extras. I very much like the Perspex layout board, looks so neat. Congratulations on a well executed project, I look forward to supporting you again in the future. Well done and thank you.” Myles - UK “Returning from a trip I was happy to find my Explorer Board waiting for me. It is the middle of the night, I haven't hooked it up yet, but it looks, for the lack of a better word, beautiful. I have backed several Kickstarter projects so far but Laika was one of the smoothest ones. Thank you!” Markus - Germany “And a big thank you for the frequent updates and progress reports! Too often I've seen projects with limited or no update from the creator. Luckily, you're not one of those ;) Cheers from Norway!” Roger - Norway I Want to let you know I'm very happy with my Laika board.” Tom – U.S. It is all working well. Good job. Thanks for your efforts.” Frank – U.S. **********************************************************************************

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