Modular active cell robots (MACROs) are a design paradigm for modular robotic hardware that uses only two components, namely actuators and passive compliant joints. Under the MACRO approach, a large number of actuators and joints are connected to create mesh-like cellular robotic structures that can be actuated to achieve large deformation and shape change. In this two-part paper, we study the importance of different possible mesh topologies within the MACRO framework. Regular and semi-regular tilings of the plane are used as the candidate mesh topologies and simulated using finite element analysis (FEA). In Part 1, we use FEA to evaluate their passive stiffness characteristics. Using a strain-energy method, the homogenized material properties (Young's modulus, shear modulus, and Poisson's ratio) of the different mesh topologies are computed and compared. The results show that the stiffnesses increase with increasing nodal connectivity and that stretching-dominated topologies have higher stiffness compared to bending-dominated ones. We also investigate the role of relative actuator-node stiffness on the overall mesh characteristics. This analysis shows that the stiffness of stretching-dominated topologies scales directly with their cross-section area whereas bending-dominated ones do not have such a direct relationship.