Monday, March 14, 2016

PancakeBot: A Robot that Makes Pancakes (product more creative than name)

Miguel Valenzuela - father, husband, civil engineer, and the creator of the PancakeBot.  Valenzuela, when he is not working, enjoys building with Legos and drawing pancakes for his two daughters.  He currently lives in Norway, was born in Mexico, and has lived "all over the United States."  He moved to Norway after obtaining a Bio Resource and Agricultural Engineering degree from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in California.  Looking at Valenzuela, his life seems orderly and typical - not quite the makings of a "creative."  Nonetheless, this happily married father of two is who we have to thank for the invention of the PancakeBot.

The PancakeBot, a fairly recent invention, was bought by "StoreBound" only two years ago in 2014.  This artistic pancake machine's original design is featured below, along with Valenzuela and his two daughters:

Valenzuela credits his two daughters as his inspiration in his invention.  In an interview with "Digital Cooks," the inventor tells us: "It was an accident as a matter of fact.  I was reading an article in 'Make Magazine' when Lily [daughter] asked me what I was doing... She turned to her sister and said, 'Papa is going to build a Pancake Machine out of LEGO!' and that is how it all started."  From then on Valenzuela carefully created the original PancakeBot, handcrafting some pieces that took up to 6 months.  The original was finished in 2010.  Now, no longer using LEGOs, the PancakeBot functions as shown below:

Under the website's return policy, it states: "we developed the PancakeBot to be a product that inspires creativity and builds a deeper understanding of technology."  Any person can play a part in creating a design to be made into a pancake.  Creativity can be created and used personally, via SD card, as well across the world, when uploaded to PancakeBot's website.  Designs range from Snoop Dog to Jesus and the Sydney Opera House to a T-Rex.  This vision is also due in part to Valenzuela's wife, Runi.  When he asked what to do now that he had a PancakeBot she responded, "Make art with it."  Valenzuela has done just that with his own creative short video and the help of the PancakeBot:

As mentioned above, Valenzuela does not appear to embody what one might view as a typical creative type.  In Handbook of Creativity, Collins and Amabile touch on this subject admitting that it is a "widespread belief that creativity stems from madness" and although this is a controversial topic, it remains a common view that creative types are the person who stays awake for days, skips meals, and is socially isolated.  Again, when looking at motivation, Valenzuela does not fit in with many theorists' view of the creative.  Here I stopped to ask myself is Valenzuela was actually creative.  He simply does not fit in with the early theorist's perception of creative people.  His stated motivation doesn't appear to be driven by reducing the tension of inappropriate desires, as Freud would have argued.  Crutchfield's belief that creativity must primarily be intrinsically motivated also does not align with Valenzuela's case; his daughters' joy is an extrinsic motivator.  Studies reported by Collins and Amabile also support that when creator's are being watched, they are less creative.  Again, Valenzuela counters this as his daughters were a large influence on his project.  Despite all of these theories, I would argue that there is no way a PancakeBot and subsequent breakfast food video are not creative.  My personal takeaway from this is that though creative types may generally fit a certain status quo, there is not limit to who can be creative or to what extent.  Perhaps Valenzuela's main motivation is the joy he feels as a result of his daughters' joy.

To find out more about the PancakeBot:

Full interview with Miguel Valenzuela, inventor of PancakeBot:

Handbook of Creativity, Mary Ann Collins and Teresa M. Amabile (in syllabus)


  1. This is an invention I need in my life! I love how this invention came from a spontaneous comment his daughter made, and he ran with it. I like the fact that the invention itself is creative, but also leaves a lot open to the users to be creative in making designs for their pancakes.

  2. I absolutely love that he made half of this out of legos! It just seems very fitting to me since lego has always had a huge push for creativity in their advertising (I mean, it makes sense, but still). For me, it just goes to show how you can make an ordinary thing extraordinary. Although I probably won't ever need this in my life, I think it's a really fun idea for kids and special occasions, especially since kids can design and "cook" their own perfect pancake. Hopefully this will help encourage kids' creativity from a young age.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.