These kid-made hitchbots just might restore your faith in humanity

See what happened when grade 4 and 5 Calgary students took a chance on the kindness of strangers.

22 hitchbots went in search of the 'ultimate Canadian adventure'

22 hitchbots went in search of the 'ultimate Canadian adventure' 0:47

Judging by the gloomy headlines, there's no love lost for 2016 — but let's not forget the roaming robots that did their part for national cheer.

This past summer, 22 handmade robots left Calgary looking for adventure. These "hitchbots," with ice bucket bodies and pool noodle arms, were made by a group of grade 4 and 5 students at Erin Woods School. While the bots looked low-tech at first glance, they had a top level mission.

Each of the hitchbots — named after the original Hitchbot that hitched rides from Halifax to Victoria in 2014 — had a "bucket list" attached to them; a bucket list dreamt up by the students of the "ultimate Canadian adventure."

And ultimately, the adventures surpassed the kids' dreams.

"The whole idea behind this project was to identify what it means to be Canadian," says Jim Quigley, one of the teachers involved in the project at Erin Woods.

"One of the most interesting things was that one of the student's identified they wanted to meet a Syrian refugee which I thought was really thoughtful and reflective" says Quigley. "Another one was a student wanted to hear an oral story from a First Nations elder."

Simple bots, big dreams

The students collected materials to withstand all types of weather, and they built simple circuits to light up the hitchbot bodies and make them easier to spot at night. For the bucket list of adventures, the kids spent time researching Canadian landmarks and chose places they wished to see.

At first, Quigley thought the students' goals were maybe a little ambitious — far away places like Peggy's Cove in Nova Scotia seemed far fetched — but the hitchbots, and the kindness of strangers, surprised Quigley and the kids.   

Unexpected results

Thoughtful strangers not only picked up the hitchbots but also took care of them, often sharing their adventures across Canada on Twitter.

Quigley was the first to see the online notifications.

"The first update I got I was extremely excited and I wanted Monday to roll around so I could share it with the kids, and the moment I did they were just ecstatic, they were blown away that this kind of social project was actually working for us."

This collective Canadian road trip designed by a group of Calgary kids and relying on the adventurous spirit of strangers, managed to reach the western reaches of British Columbia, as far east as Prince Edward Island and many stops in between.

The hitchbots didn't just hitch rides by car, they also travelled by plane and boat.

Back at school in the fall, the students of Erin Woods School put out a call for their hitchbots to come home. 

But unfortunately, none of the 'bots have found their way back. (Canada, if you see a hitchbot, give it a ride to Calgary, eh?) Either the cold weather has been their demise or they've gone rogue, as we know from the movies that robots sometimes do.

Undeterred and still inspired, the students are already looking ahead and planning new ways to adapt the hitchbot experiment next year.

Be sure to keep an eye out while on your own 2017 road trip adventures.

Follow the Erin Woods hitchbots on Twittter @HitchbotWoods.


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