Today we would like to review one of the most popular and interesting kits that develops the capacity for logical thinking, programming, electronics, and robotics in your child. This is a charter kit of Makeblock’s line of products and is named mBot! It will allow your child to create a small robot that can be programmed on different operations.

The project had a successful start at Kickstarter by introducing two-wheeler robot on a solid platform made of anodized aluminum and compatible with other meccanoes from Makeblock and LEGO.

mBot electronics β€” mCore board

mBot electronics consists of a basic card mCore that is based on controller Arduino and two sensors – an ultrasound sensor for obstacles and an infrared sensor for lines.

On the card mCore have already been installed:

  1. a light sensor,
  2. two RGB-LEDs,
  3. buzzer (a small dynamic that plays sound),
  4. infrared receiver and transmitter,
  5. a driver of motors,
  6. 4 connectors RJ25 (with color coding) β€” to connect additional sensors.

Assembly of mBot robot

The complete mBot set consists of 45 details. It has everything you need for a seamless robot’s assembly. The instructions are quite detailed and colorful so it is easy to figure it out.

Your child will not have any problem with mBot assembly as the platform’s set up takes only 10 minutes with the instructions!

Video of mBot assembly:

There is an assembled robot in our hands. I would like to remind right away that it is preferable to buy batteries (4 units of AA size) for this robot.

To turn on the robot uses a special switch (located on the side of the controller) that needs to be moved in the relevant positions. As long as the robot was assembled according to the instructions and the batteries were inserted properly, the controller should start to make sound and flash with different colors. Two LEDs on the edges of the controller that light up white indicate that activation and loading of mBot completed successfully.

Now, without even programming the robot, you have an opportunity to see it in action. These are initial functions that mBot has:

  1. In a box, you will find a field with a line printed on a piece of paper.  Speed it out on a flat hard surface. To activate robot to follow a line (in addition to check if the sensors work), find a narrow black button on the one side of the controller and press it several times until the LEDs become blue. Be careful: the robot’s wheels start spinning as soon as the program is loaded! Place the robot on the line and watch how precisely it follows it. Yay! The first mode is checked!
  2. To switch to the next mode it is necessary to press the black button a few times more (until the green light comes on) after that robot will switch to find-a-way-around-obstaclesmode. If we launch it into the direction of a wall the robot will make a 90-degree turn 20 cm before the wall and will continue to the other side until it meets the next obstacle. It works due to an ultrasound sensor of distance that we set up during the assembly.
  3. Now take your smartphone or tablet and install Β«MakeblockΒ» application on it. You can find the application in Appstore for iOS and in Google Play for Android. Switch the robot to the mode when LEDs on the controller are white, then open the application on your tablet or smartphone. A unique feature of the activating process is the absence of any actions of connection settings. You just need to bring your tablet or smartphone close enough to the robot (approximately 5-10 cm) and the connection will set up automatically and the robot will be connected! Now you can use the features of Makeblock to work with the robot. You can manage it via Bluetooth with the help of software-based joystick, paint a path on the screen and make the robot follow it, write your own programs for the robot and many other things.  The functionality of software from Makeblock is so impressive!

Despite the seeming simplicity, the robot has a wide functionality and good potential to make the start of learning simple and available. No doubt your kid will be delighted with such a present! Moreover, a big advantage is that your child will spend his/her time productively trying to write new programs for his/her robot and developing logical thinking. The manufacturer offers absolutely free online courses that will explain all necessary basics for designing programs for mBot in plain language.

Programming the robot mBot

The robot is programming via USB cable or Bluetooth. It is possible to choose software for programming mBot: it can be regular Arduino IDE as well as visual object-oriented programming software mBlock. This is another significant advantage of toys from Makeblock: starting with easier mBlock you child can understand the development of software in a quite relevant platform Arduino IDE in future that is being actively used in Β«Internet of ThingsΒ» concept. It can be a good step towards your child’s career or just a very fascinating hobby!

mBlock β€” it is a tool for graphical programming that was designed based on very popular and simple in use Scratch 2.0.

It is possible to control the robot via Bluetooth from mobile application mBot (that is available for iOS and Android) or with an infrared remote control that is included in the set.

Videos with different modes of mBot:

The programming of robot mBot with the help of mBlock β€” a dancing robot.

mBot: find a way around obstacles and table edges

mBot: how to use 2.4GHz-module and Bluetooth

Makeblock mBot: follow the line mode

Compatibility with LEGO

Compatibility with other meccanoes Makeblock and LEGO and also with a single-board computer Raspberry Pi and regular Arduino that allows to design really unique robot on mBot!

Robot mBot with Raspberry Pi and web-camera:

mBot and entertainment

mBot is designed not only for studying but also for creativity and entertainment. The robot can be used in different games, for example, soccer, sumo, and others. Especially for using these robots in the games two color editions of mBot we made: blue and pink (so that kids can easily differentiate the robots).

All kits from Makeblock follow the principles of STEM-education (STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics).  The work with mBot combines natural science, mathematics, and basics of engineering.

It is a perfect choice for schools and clubs as well as for the home.

Conclusion

To sum up our review of mBot from Makeblock, the next pros can be pointed out:

  1. High-quality materials.
  2. Additional meccano kits can be used for development.
  3. Good functionality.
  4. Good software kit.
  5. Educational tools.
  6. Relatively small price.

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