Exploring robotics for kids

I recently purchased a robot chassis to be used in pair with the BBC:microbit. The chassis is from DFRobot and I must say I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of the build and the packaging of the product (all of their products in fact, because I ended up buying few other items as well).

The only comment I could make (actually two!) that could be consider more as an improvement suggestion rather than a criticism, is the fact the position of the ultra sonic sensor blocks almost half of the LED display array on the BBC:microbit. At the same time, it feels a bit wobbly  inside it’s intended socket and I feel like it’s not giving me accurate readings!?

Angle_Shot

The real reason why I have purchased it, was as a birthday present for my older daughter and in doing so, introduce her to the world of robotics and programming – regardless whether she ends up pursuing a career in IT or robotics. That’s not the point!

The point is that as a parent, I feel it’s my responsibility to fuel my child’s creative urge! She was super excited when she opened the box and she was even more excited when she learned what she could do with it. The “problem” was, I don’t know who was more excited – me or she?

The really cool thing with the BBC:microbit (the brains behind this particular robot), is that it teaches the child programming skills in a progressive manner. What I mean by that, is that the child could start exploring programming using the Scratch environment (Wikipedia article here) and eventually, progress on by utilizing JavaScript and/or MicroPython – all three are supported! And the flashing process couldn’t be easier: copy and paste the produced hex file into the micro’s flash storage and voila! All is taken care of automatically in the background. You don’t need any fancy IDE as you have it all online, in the form of Microsoft’s MakeCode (this does not apply to programming the board with MicroPython I believe?).

Things cannot be simpler than that!

I cannot say more but: well done BBC and Microsoft! Well done!

The story of the development and the reason behind the BBC:microbit (encourage children to get actively involved in writing software for computers and building new things, rather than being consumers of media where additionally, the BBC planned to give away the computer free to every year 7 (11- and 12-year old) child in Britain starting from October 2015 (around 1 million devices)) is even more inspiring. Check it out here!

DFRobot_Scratch_Basic_IR_Ctrl

It’s “a bit” overwhelming for a first-timer :), but we’ll get there – one step/lesson at a time. Together! Having fun!

P.S. I found out that using the ultra sonic sensor in this way does not yield reliable results? The “refresh” of the state of the LEDs is slow? I guess if I have a look at the schematic and see how they are driven would shed more light, but I’m not so sure the problem lies there? Same goes for the IR remote… press the button just a tag longer,and you might as well have pressed it twice, resulting in executing it’s intended function twice! We’ll see if we can improve this as we go along?