Ben Hockman holding HedgehogWhat do you make?

I make robots that explore extraterrestrial worlds in the solar system.

Who do you make it for?

NASA, and by extension, for humanity’s understanding of the cosmos.

Where are you located?

I am originally from Hockessin, DE. and I now work at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, CA.

How long have you been making?

I have been making things since I got my first K’nex set as a young kid, and I have turned my focus to space robots over the past five years.


What inspired you to make Hedgehog?

I have always been inspired by the cosmos and all its many strange and exotic environments. The small objects in our solar system such as comets and asteroids hold many interesting possibilities for scientific research and resource mining, but they have extremely weak gravity which poses a serious challenge for traditional wheeled rovers that rely on surface traction forces to move. In order to enable future surface exploration missions on small bodies, our team from Stanford University and NASA JPL have developed a hopping robot that can more efficiently negotiate these extreme environments.

What makers inspire you?

I am inspired by all makers who turn simple ideas into creative and unique products which may be functional or purely artistic.

What’s next?

I will be working with a fantastic group of engineers at NASA to develop the next generation of robotic systems to explore the far reaches of the solar system.

Joining Hedgehog and Hockman will be Michael LaPointe and Katherine Reilly from the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts program (NIAC) who funded the project.