Qoopers from Robobloq is a 6-in-1 STEM robot that reminds me a little of the 'Meccano' construction sets I enjoyed so much as a kid. I started off with the Robobloq app on iPad and, having chosen to build 'Captain Alloy', the on-screen instructions were easy to follow and I was finished in just over an hour. Once you're done, you can choose to control your robot wirelessly using the app or use it to start coding. There are 2 methods of coding in the Robobloq app - either using 'Primary programming' (Scratch Jr) or 'Intermediate programming' (Scratch 3.0). Qoopers can also be controlled by PC or Mac using the MyQode app and this has the added advantage of allowing you to program your robot in Python. For experienced programmers, you can even program Qoopers in the Arduino IDE and the transition is made easier as the C++ code is displayed within the MyQode app.
I've received some sensors and modules from Robobloq that I'll be showing off in a future video. These expand Qoopers features and allow it to detect (among other things) light level, colour, sound and temperature as well as play mp3 files and connect with the BBC micro:bit.
I was lucky enough to get my hands on an EdSTEM pack which consists of 2 Edison robots, 2 EdComm programming cables and 1 EdCreate kit. Unlike most of the robots I've reviewed, Edison uses 4 x AAA batteries rather than rechargeable ones, although this helps to keep the cost down. Despite its low price, Edison works right out of the box with all its sensors ready to use. Another thing that sets Edison apart is the method it uses to transfer the code. Where many robots use a bluetooth connection in order to do this, Edison uses the 'EdComm programming cable which is inserted at one end into the robot with the other into the audio jack of a tablet or computer. Again, this helps to reduce the cost of the robot and that cost saving is passed on to the consumer. With Edison, it's possible to teach robotics and coding with one robot being made available to each pupil. The same cannot be said for the majority of Edison's competitors.
The EdCreate 5-in-1 expansion pack is a LEGO-based construction system which allows you to build 5 EdBuild projects:
EdCreate can also be used in a wide range of open-ended engineering, design and programming challenges.
Edison can be used by kids as young as 4 (with adult help) and, to get started, there is not need for any prior experience of coding. Start off with the pre-printed barcodes that Edison can drive over in order to give it simple commands. After that, you can move on to EdBlocks (a graphical programming language based on Scratch Jr.), EdScratch then EdPy (Edison's own Python editor).
The Sphero SPRK+ is a fun educational robot that's popular in schools around the world. Slightly larger than a tennis ball, it requires no building and, once charged, is ready to go. To charge the SPRK+ robot, just sit it on top of the inductive charger and, when it's finished, you'll get 2 hours of fun.
As a toy, the SPRK+ is lots of fun and you'll really enjoy the Sphero Play app which allows you to control the robot in a variety of fun ways. The Sphero Edu app is where you can code the SPRK+ and you'll be surprised at just how quickly you can get it whizzing round your classroom or at home, with a top speed of 2 metres per second. For more advanced users, you can analyse the data from the robot's onboard sensors.
The SPRK+ is waterproof, as shown in the video where it's seen swimming in circles round a sink. Although it's pre-built, you can have plenty of fun designing and building your own Sphero Chariot and you'll find plenty of models online that can be 3D printed as well.
Coming up - look out for my upcoming videos featuring the Sphero BOLT. It's the same size as the SPRK+ but includes additional sensors and an 8x8 colour LED matrix.
Marty is a great little robot that can do something which other robots in this price range can't - WALK!
The first thing I did after unboxing Marty was to build him - something I found as enjoyable as coding and seeing him dancing around. If that's not your thing then you can buy Marty fully assembled. The build was straight forward thanks to the clear instructions which were included in the box. Although I didn't need them, there are also videos available online for each stage of the build.
I loved programming Marty and found, when using him with the STEM club in school, that the pupils did too. Getting pupils to engage with robotics, whether it starts with programming some fancy dance moves or just changing the stickers on Marty's face, can open up a world of possibilities and can lead them to developing their coding skills - something that will be increasingly important in this digital world.
Marty is lots of fun and you'll find plenty of support on Robotical's website https://robotical.io/
I'd like to thank Robotical for supplying me with a Marty in order to produce the videos. Since they were made, Robotical have released Marty V2 which was 'redesigned from the ground-up to be easier to use, stronger, and with great new features including bluetooth, sound & voice, and exciting add-ons'.
Hopefully, I'll get my hands on one soon - fingers crossed!
About the series...
Here's where you'll find information on the robots I have used which help you learn to code - from Scratch Jr. to the Arduino IDE and beyond, it's all here. Some robots work straight out of the box and some have to be built - developing your engineering skills as well!