Robots for Tots

My son in the 3rd grade was being a normal 3rd grader with interest in video games. I saw that he was playing with “MIT Scratch” and showed some interest in programming. Thus, I saw an opportunity to wean him off video game for some time. I came across a robot called MakeBot for $70 which lets you program using Scratch. Fortunately, my son liked this and I enjoyed spending time with him in an educational experience.

Initially, I helped him assemble the robot and then I got busy with other stuff. He tried his best connecting it to the PC, writing some sample programs but was not getting anywhere. Then I spent couple of hours poking through forums, googling and figured out how to make it work. Though out of the box their instructions are not that good, their forum is very helpful. For those, who want to try, here are some basic tips.

  1. Place four “AA” batteries and the CR2025 button cell battery for the remote
  2. Install the make block studio, connect it to the PC using the USB cable (the only way to flash any program or firmware to the robot.
  3. Once you turn-on the robot (the black switch), click connect-> searialport -> COM4
  4. From File -> upgrade firmware.

These are the basic steps to getting started. Once you connect, you can see the new “Robots” block appear in the makeblock studio. In order to run a program in the robot, you need to pull “When Robot” block instead of “When clicked”. you can use the “when clicked” for debugging purposes. Once you have “When Robot”, right click and select “upload to Arduino”. then you will see a new window show up with the “C like” code. click the button “Upload” on the top, you will see the code getting compiled and get uploaded to the robot. The moment this is uploaded, the robot will start doing what the program asked it to do.

You can choose to program in “Arduino” or  Scratch. Scratch is very easy and is a great way to start learning programming. He used it for his school science fair and wrote the program to control the robot using the remote. Here are some fun things to do , you can use the line sensors to make it follow a track, use the ultra-sound sensors to avoid obstacles. It comes with a Wifi chip while the blue tooth is optional.

Some useful link –

If you need more info, drop me a line.




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