Tie And Jeans

MakerFaireNYC: Bad Robots

MakerFaire was a great experience, if complex and a bit confounding. As a way of managing my own reflective process, I’m going through my photoroll and pocket detritus.

That lady, with a comically thick Long Island accent, either walked through MakerFaire blinkfolded or has a very stingent definition of what counts as a robot.

I didn’t go to MakerFaire looking to spend money, but I had a chunk of cash set aside in case I found the one true robotics learning platform. I need one that’s cheap, exandable, abstractable, and I need it now.

I saw lots of robots over the weekend, but I spent more money on juice than on robotics kits. Some were simply too big and too awesome for my needs.

Arcbotics’ Hexy is cheap for what it offers. $200 buys a kit 20 servos with support for 12 more on the board, ready to assemble with laser cut acrylic case and a range sensor. It’s freakin’ sweet. But I’m looking for something simple, where movement or steering are never an issue, and where students can easily swap sensors into the platform.

The Hexy has those capabilities, but it’s wrapped in this very fancy toy-like exterior. The price is cheap for what you get, but it also comes with a lot more than what I need for this robotics project. But I almost bought one for the house…

The Central Jersey Robotics Group had some hardcore DIY bots, but entirely from standard breadboards with DC motors hot glued underneath. The board hosted an HBridge and Microcontroller and a ton of expertly folded jumper wire. I was really excited for about 10 minutes while talking to a student. Then I learned that the Microcontoller was a PIC, and that the whole robot building process was part of a kit/curriculum bundle.

I recognize the value in teaching kids to build robots, but that’s not what I’m after. I’m trying to build a science unit around robotics, where students play with sensors and robot behavior at a very high level of abstraction. I want to hand them functional robots with a LOGO-esque syntax and back away.  I do not want anything to do with any flavor of BASIC.

I walked away, knowing that I could never assemble a breadboard as neatly as that 10yo girl.


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  1. Pingback: ISO Robots: Must Love Logo « Tie And Jeans

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