Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

The real Robocop: Ex-policeman builds robot from household goods

Former Baltimore cop, Mark Haygood and his robot HEX, which he made by recycling electrical equipment. Former Baltimore cop, Mark Haygood and his robot HEX, which he made by recycling electrical equipment.
HEX: The homemade humanoid robot
HEX: The homemade humanoid robot
HEX: The homemade humanoid robot
HEX: The homemade humanoid robot
HEX: The homemade humanoid robot
HEX: The homemade humanoid robot
HEX: The homemade humanoid robot
HEX: The homemade humanoid robot
  • Ex-cop builds a humanoid robot called HEX made from electrical appliances
  • The self-taught robot maker spent over two decades in police force in Baltimore
  • Robot weighs 50 pounds and has a clock radio for a head and cooking trays for feet
  • Walking robot can help kids learn about robotics, says Mark Haygood

(CNN) -- Take a pair of hi-fi speakers, an old radio, a couple of DVD players and countless other household appliances, apply some ingenuity and what do you get?

If you're Mark Haygood, an ex-cop turned robot maker, you get HEX -- a four foot, three-inch tall humanoid robot.

"Frankly, I think of it as a very large toy. I think that mindset helped me get the build done, because it's such a daunting task," said Haygood.

Four years in the making, it's been as much art project as engineering feat, he says, requiring the visualization of the various body parts.

"The legs are made from outdoor speakers -- they're gorgeous. His shoulders are made from fans, his forearms from power tools. The chest and back are made from kid's riding toys and his head is a clock radio. I also employed a 3-D printer for the hands, using a combination of the Inmoov open-source design and my own artistic expression," the 49-year-old from Baltimore explains.

Read: How USB turned engineer into 'rock star'

"There are so many diverse parts on the machine that it would take me all day to tell you. It was a really complex build, but I love this machine and I'm anxious to build another."

All the major components used to build HEX were sourced from ex-police officer Mark Haywood's home.
Inez Torre/CNN

The self-taught roboticist has drawn inspiration from Honda's ASIMO robot and Drexel University's HUBO as well as sounding out opinion at his local hackerspace.

Assembling HEX has cost the proverbial arm and a leg -- "tens of thousands of dollars," says Haygood -- and is controlled remotely using a Zigbee USB dongle attached to his laptop.

"He can step unsupported, but it's not completely stable -- I have a slight problem with joint compliance at the moment. But his hands are fully functional, his legs are functional and he has 23 degrees of freedom."

It's all a far cry from Haygood's previous life as a police officer -- serving the Baltimore Police Department for over two decades before retiring in 2006.

"I really enjoyed being a cop ... I wanted to go out and lock up the bad guys and that's what I did. But policing completely takes over your life. That's one of the reasons I got out," he says.

The death of his father three years later prompted Haygood to re-evaluate his life and in looking for a new path he turned back to an old passion.

Read: World's first Braille smartphone in development

"I grew up very poor in Baltimore and every Christmas my mother used to purchase toy robots for me -- the kind that shuffled across the floor, spun around with lights flashing. I thought they were the most marvelous things on the planet."

This was trial by fire. I chose the most difficult thing a person could build and I've learned so much that my brain is just brimming now and ready to go
Mark Haygood

Not content playing with them, Haygood would pull them apart and put them back together in differing configurations.

It helped numb the pain of poverty, he says, while also keeping him out of trouble -- a trick he's hoping to pull off for a new generation of kids.

Haygood has already introduced HEX to the robotics club at Baltimore's Dunbar High School and plans future visits to other schools and clubs in the city.

"Because of the crime problems in Baltimore, it's a perfect opportunity to try and snatch some children back from the abyss. That's my objective. It's a really beautiful thing to be able to introduce robotics to kids."

To help spread the message, and the cost, Haygood is launching a Kickstarter campaign. The money raised will be used to iron out flaws as well as document the entire process -- "so anyone can see every nut, bolt and screw," he says.

"It's full speed ahead for me now. This was trial by fire. I chose the most difficult thing a person could build and I've learned so much that my brain is just brimming now and ready to go. I'm excited for the future."

Part of complete coverage on
updated 7:48 AM EDT, Wed October 1, 2014
Imagine if going through airport security was just a matter of walking past a stretch of wall.
updated 9:03 AM EDT, Fri September 26, 2014
From spotting allergens to counting calories, technology can lend a smart hand in the kitchen.
updated 9:26 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Meet the 'Flavour Conductor', a magical instrument that took 10,000 hours to build and can change the taste of your drink through the power of sound.
updated 12:09 PM EDT, Wed September 3, 2014
Mogees is a technology that turns any object into a musical instrument, by converting the vibrations you make when you touch it into sound.
updated 9:06 AM EDT, Thu September 11, 2014
Scientists are attempting to harness the power of a star by mirroring how the sun produces heat and light. CNN's Nick Glass reports.
updated 7:37 AM EDT, Fri September 5, 2014
Neil Harbisson is the world's first legally recognized cyborg. He has an antenna implanted into his skull that gives him the ability to perceive color.
updated 12:18 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Move over, hoverboard: new technologies promise to make everything float free through levitation.
updated 12:45 PM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
Getting a foothold on the property ladder can be a challenge, and the prospects for many of us have been battered by the global recession.
updated 8:37 AM EDT, Thu August 21, 2014
It's like a chair that isn't there, but magically appears whenever you need it. It's called the Chairless Chair. Find out how it works.
updated 5:39 AM EDT, Fri August 8, 2014
Engineer Alan Bond has been developing a new concept for space travel for over 30 years -- and his creation is now on the verge of lift off.
updated 8:10 AM EDT, Fri July 25, 2014
Crumbling buildings, burnt-out PCs, and cracked screens -- a new generation of "self-healing" technologies could soon consign them to history.
updated 5:09 AM EDT, Tue June 24, 2014
Discover a dancing cactus field, basketball on the Hudson River, and mind-bending 3D projections on robotic screens.
updated 1:07 PM EDT, Fri May 23, 2014
Would you live there? Design student Peter Trimble says it's actually a surprisingly good idea.
updated 10:50 AM EDT, Wed May 14, 2014
Alpha Sphere
Singing Tesla coils, musical ice cream, vegetables on drums... and this ball? Find out how "hackers" have created a new generation of instruments.
updated 12:43 PM EDT, Wed May 28, 2014
Technology has long learned from nature, but now it's going micro. "Cellular biomimicry" sees designers take inspiration from plant and animal cells.
updated 1:08 PM EDT, Wed April 9, 2014
Forget wearable tech, embeddable implants are here. Learn more about the pioneers who are implanting devices into their bodies.
updated 6:26 AM EDT, Wed May 7, 2014
A visitor of the 'NEXT Berlin' conference tries out Google Glass, a wearable computer that responds to voice commands and displays information before your eyes. It is expected to go to market in late 2013.
We know how wearable tech can enhance our fitness lives but there's evidence that its most significant application is yet to come: the workplace.
updated 4:13 AM EDT, Thu April 10, 2014
Samsung's research unit announces new way to synthesize graphene, potentially opening the door to commercial production.
updated 8:15 AM EDT, Mon March 31, 2014
iRobot, creators of vacuuming robot Roomba reveal how they learned from secret experiments -- in space travel, minefields, and toys.
updated 12:23 PM EDT, Fri March 28, 2014
A light-bulb glowing in middle of a room with no wires attached. "It's the future," says Dr Katie Hall.
updated 11:26 AM EST, Mon March 3, 2014
Knee replacements that encourage cells to regrow could soon be manufactured -- by spiders. Find out how.
updated 9:03 AM EST, Fri February 14, 2014
Meet Chuck Hull: the humble American engineer who changed the world of manufacturing.
updated 9:48 AM EST, Thu February 6, 2014
The key to self-knowledge? Or just the return of the phony "mood ring"? Check out our top mood-sensing technology in development.