Review of the CrumbleBot Robot

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Description: The CrumbleBot is a robot that can easily be coded using a graphical programming language similar to Scratch. It is a great introduction to robots as it uses the Crumble as its controller, which becomes the core of an integrated chassis of the whole robot itself. This makes it easy to construct without too much prior experience in either Coding or Robotics. There are line detectors, a push button, a switch and light sensors, along with inbuilt sparkles (lights that you can code to light up when certain actions are performed (ie. when turning left/right)

Price:

CrumbleBot Robot with Crumble & USB Cable £44.34 (including VAT) and free shipping – see http://4tronix.co.uk/store/index.php?rt=product/product&path=82&product_id=493

Additional Information:

Download instructions at http://4tronix.co.uk/blog/?p=1004

Download Coding app at http://redfernelectronics.co.uk/crumble/

*Please note: on a MAC if you get a warning box that says “Crumble can’t be opened because it is from an unidentified developer”  when you try to install Crumble – then go to System Preferences and then Security & Privacy – the general tab and it should say at the bottom “ Crumble was blocked from opening because it is not from an identified developer” Select “Open anyway”)

Experience:

I got the CrumbleBot from a CamJam event, not as a complete kit but as separate parts. My mum and I cleared a couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon. It actually took some time to find instructions and the Crumble programme online – I think if you get the complete set – the links are clearly labeled on the box. Our second difficulty was that we didn’t have any crocodile clips so Mum had to order some from Ebay. A few day later, we started again and followed the instructions.  We used the Crumble software, very similar to Scratch, to get the robot moving. This exercise was straight forward (see clip below). Basically you construct the code using the blocks, save the file and then plug in the CrumbleBot using the Micro USB to USB connector– into your laptop. Press run and then detach lead. Then you just press the black switch on the CrumbleBot to the ‘on’ position, to execute your commands.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/8jwhgn2wvwY“>

I found the Line detector exercise tricky – it detected the lines of the floorboards rather than our black lines ( but this has also happened with other robot kits). I’ll need to work on it a bit more. However, the light detector using Light Dependent Resisters was excellent, worked first time and was really fun (see video & photo of code).

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https://www.youtube.com/embed/-YfhE_b8nDY“>

Pros:

  • The assembly instructions are clear and enjoyable to follow.
  • You get a great integrated robot chassis and Crumble control board with some great features such as line detector and light dependent resisters – with the opportunity to add extra features.
  • You can take off the Crumble to use for loads of other cool coding and simple electronics projects – including adding sparkles and a large array of components.

Cons:

  • It can be difficult to locate all the instructions and software downloads
  • You have to connect to laptop to upload programme to CrumbleBot which takes time when you are fine tuning the code but you do get used to it after a while
  • The switch is a bit tricky to access but new design has better position and is more robust.

Conclusion:

All in all it’s a great kit that gets you up and running with Robotics without needing any prior experience and the software is easy to use. There are cheaper ways to build a robot on the market but the ease of use and great design makes it really good value for money.

SLRJam Review of Robot Hack

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What an amazing week! Thanks to everyone who have read my blog as this week we reached 377 visitors from 50 countries and my Pi Wars review was featured on the official Raspberry Pi Blog! Link here. Thanks to Liz Upton, who writes the RPi blog, and for the awesome books you sent to me. I’ve started on  The Sparkfun Guide to Processing by Derek Runberg.

A short video of some of the robots we made:

On Saturday we had our second SLR Jam at Bellingham Gateway community centre! It was awesome. We had over 20 kids, eight of us with  Autism or Tourette’s Syndrome.  We did Sonic Pi  and live coding with Derek Shaw(@techsysuk), Soldering with my Dad and Joel Newman, Minecraft  -Me and Mark Welton(@mpwelton),  building circuits with Play Dough  – thank you Nico’s dad,  Hour of Code and Video Game making with Scratch  with our very own ‘Code Club’ Marc   Grossman'(@ukgrossman).

 

IMG_0587Our main attraction was the robots – overseen by Thomas and his dad Frank along with Andy Meyers(@Southendtech) & Jim Darby(@HackerJimbo). The Robot hack was something new, where  everyone worked in small groups, starting with the CamJam EduKit #3 Robot and a batch of worksheets – building up to the point where each group could control their robot untethered using the Kano wireless keyboards. Mum gave my Robot, which I’d started Earlier in the week, to Thomas so he and his dad could take it further – they got to the line detector stage successfully. They also copied the code to others who needed extra support. They were fantastic – I have to admit, cos I was working on the Minecraft session, I do feel I missed out a bit on the Robots but that’s what taking responsibility is about. Mum said I can finish off my CamJam Robot later in the week. I’d better get cracking cos PiBorg are going to send me a mega robot kit soon!

Everyone got their robots running untethered and we all celebrated the fact that so many young participants got an amazing and successful experience in Robotics.  Thank you to Tourette’s Action for paying for the Robot Kits, Pi Hut for delivering them so quickly and to Ryanteck for giving us the chargers to power the Raspberry Pis.

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One of the other main things was  the soldering workshop where there was a choice of 3 different kits; a multi coloured light kit, a christmas tree kit and a santa kit. My Dad, Chris, and Joel   did the soldering. Thanks to Pimoroni for loaning us the soldering equipment, PocketMoneyTronics for giving us the Christmas Tree kits, Ragworm for the Santa and Flashing light kits and Rapidonline for working out the right components for battery holders and then sending them to us for free.

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All in all it was a smaller, more community-focussed South London Raspberry Jam that focussed on  the ‘making’ side rather than just coding. Judging by the requests for another Jam and very happy young participants and their parents – at the end of the day – I can safely say it was a brilliant Jam and Robot Hack. Thank you to everyone who gave advice and encouragement, like Mike (@recantha) , Les (@Biglesp) and Phil (@Gadgetoid).

One last word. It’s a sad farewell to our SLRJam Code club that we ran for six weeks after our first Raspberry Jam.  A big thank you to Catford Library staff (Nick & crew) for setting up every week and putting up with our loud laughter and chatting – and to Marc for introducing us to Hour of Code and Video game making in Scratch.  We had some really great times and although we having a break – we’re be back in Spring where we can continue our adventures with robotics!!!

 

Next Sunday – I’m going to start my Product Reviews – honestly!

 

 

PI Wars Review

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What an amazing weekend! Very early Saturday morning me and my mum headed for Cambridge to witness the wonders of Pi Wars – run by CamJam organisers Mike and Tim. After getting  a goodie bag and our Judge & Jam Maker stickers we went to explore the amazing robots that were competing  against each other.  There were around 30 competitors. I managed to interview five of them: Darth Cthulhu, The bomb squad, Optimus Pi, Triangular and Revenge of the Pyrobot  along with young robot fanatic  Crazy Squeak’s own robot that he brought along to test out on the challenges.  Crazy Squeak – it was really great to meet you at Pi Wars and look forward to reading your blogs too – https://crazysqueak.wordpress.com

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Link 1: Southend Raspberry Jam team

Link 2: The Bomb Squad – Yasmin Bey

Link 3: Optimus Pi – Leo White

Link 4: Triangula – Tom Oinn

Link 5: Revenge of PyroBot – Brian Corteil

Link 6: Crazy Squeak – young robot inventor

*Apologies for poor sound – as my recording equipment is very limited

There were seven different challenges: Obstacle course, Skittles, Pi Noon – the Robot vs Robot  duel, Straight-line speed test, Three-point turn, Line follower course and  Proximity alert.

It was a great privilege to judge  the Three Point Turn challenge with my mum and JarJarGeek. He is an amazing blogger and we had a lot of fun working together as a team – see his video of the event at http://youtu.be/tSuZecIVBPI   It was really interesting as the robots  have to do this challenge autonomously: some used sensors but others used measurements or adjusted the number of wheel rotations/angles etc.

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I aslo met two other very cool bloggers called Mat – Raspberry Pi IV Beginners  https://www.youtube.com/user/RaspberryPiBeginners and Raspberry Pi Guy  –  also Matt – http://www.theraspberrypiguy.com  They gave me some great advice and their recording equipment made me realise that if I want to get serious, as a blogger, poor mum will have to help me raise some funds!

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Link 7: Eben Upton talks about Raspberry Pi, PiZero & Pi Wars

One of the real highlights was interviewing Raspberry Pi’s founder and  CEO (Trading) Eben Upton who said that the Raspberry Pi is all about helping young people to explore coding. He also talked about the £4 Pi Zero and enjoying Pi Wars –  see video link above. In fact there were so many cool people around. I even got to speak to the other CEO of Raspberry Pi, Philip Colligan, who said that he’d really enjoyed reading my blog and that it was ‘amazing’. Wow – that has made me very happy and it does help me to keep going – even when it gets so busy with other stuff!

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My favourite robot was the Revenge of PyroBot- it was so cool – with creator, Brain, putting his old robot on top of it. He said it had got trashed last year and this year he’s out for revenge – bigger and better than ever. It was true – he won  about 6 prizes.

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We are having a Robot hack next week at our South London Raspberry Jam, so coming to Pi Wars was really inspiring and we got lots of encouragement from the community, at the event. Thank you to RyanTeck, Pimoroni, Ragworm, and  RapidOnline  for helping us out. I am also grateful to PiBorg, Ryan Teck (SnowPi) and Mearm for agreeing to send me products to review on this blog.

So this week, we have a CamJam Robot kit that I’m going to be building and mum’s going to ask the IT department at work to do a 3D print of the chassis – see Daniel Ball’s  thingiverse.com  website.  We’ll use it as an example for the young coders at our event to build, code and compete in our very own mini Pi Wars.

Last thing! I want to read something awesome over christmas – can you recommend an iconic or essential piece of writing for a new coder and future designer/builder of robots and the gadgets (Internet of Things) – bearing in mind I’ve just turned 10?  It can be anything – article, fiction, non-fiction or comic. Leave your suggestion in the comments, please?

Apologies for missed blogs but next Sunday tune in for a review our  South London Raspberry Jam and see how we do with our own mini Pi Wars.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Week 3 of Code Club, 3D Printing & Winning Award at Hackcess

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What a great week I’ve had this week.  Once again I missed Week 3 of our code club because this time I had to visit Croydon Minster as I’ve been invited to apply to be a Boy Chorister. It was really very interesting and I’d like to join but mum’s worried because it is a big, big commitment; two evenings and a Sunday.  Anyway, the code club went very well – mum introduced a challenge. Everyone had to complete three different activities. I hear that it was really fun.

We have also printed out our 3D Raspberry Pi Touchscreen display case – wow it’s turned out really nice.  See Adafruit website. We just have to get screws, Lipo battery and 5V – 3V converter and it’ll be finished.

Whilst I had my Piano music exam, on Saturday morning – mum was having fun meeting people at  Hackcess event – a Hackerthon to make gadgets for people in wheelchairs and other disabled people that will make their lives easier.

We developed an idea for a Wearable self-monitoring button that  enables young people to track and monitor difficulties at school linked to a webpage so they can identify patterns/changes. After pitching our idea, mum got to form a team of really talented hackers which included of an awesome graphic designer – Javier,  a really dynamic coder – Milo and a talented and rising web developer – Jake (all young people). I was the tester and gave feedback on how the product would be used. Guess what – at the end of the weekend, we won one of the four Awards.

We met so many amazing people including George, Nathan and Gurvinder from Whizz_Kidz, the team from   Autodesk Fusion 360, Ultimaker CREAT, Hacksmiths and the brilliant FabLab London.  There were so many great  people there with amazing ideas.CUXwt-dXIAEivxI

I met a young 3D maker called Dillion – he showed me how to print a model of my name using TinkerCAD and mum learnt about Fusion 360. It was amazing to design and create stuff using  software and the 3D printers. You’ve got to try them out.  I’m looking forward to collaborating with Dillion in the future. He’s formed FabKidsLondon – @FabKidsLondon IMG_0407

I’d like to make a special mention to David Whale who helped me with some soldering at  Convert Garden Jam and I really like the 3D cardboard Minecraft models – thank you for being some kind and helping me. Thanks to Dragon Hall – Wendy and to Frank – for inviting us.IMG_0425

Oh by the way – I managed to get top score for hamgoodies.co.uk  – Simon Says game. Thanks Ham Goodies -looking forward to reviewing the kit. At the minute me and mum are designing a  Simon Says kit for our code club members to build – the housing will be designed in Fusion 360 and made by a 3D printer.

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See you all next Sunday – if not before with some Product reviews.

 

 

 

Week Two of SLRJam Code Club, 3D Printing & Visit to Pi Top HQ in Hackney to film Vlog

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It’s been another really busy week – on Tuesday we had our second session  of Code Club at Catford Library but I had to miss it  because I had to play cello at the school’s Strings concert. Mum ran it with our ‘know everything’ guy and it went really smoothly. I managed to drop in at the end  and got to do a tiny bit of Code club stuff. It’s a really nice group.

I had a really bad ticky week,  which was really noticed, especially at school – like constant tics. My Year tutors got a bit concerned as they thought it may be linked to me feeling stressed out about something. What was really nice is that they asked me how I was and if there was anything they could help me with and they checked in with my mum. They are awesome teachers (can I get my two House credits now?). Anyway, mum explained that with Tourette’s Syndrome, tics just come and go in their own natural cycle and it not really brought on because of stress.  However stress can influence it and so can tiredness – for me anyway.  But like Nick, from Little Bits, said ” You have to just live with it and come to terms with it”. I really like my school, though. It’s really good to know that they want to make sure I’m feeling ok about my TS and tics.  For more about Tourette’s Syndrome go to www.tourettes-action.org.uk TA Logo

Anyway,  in the week I had to prepare for my ‘Young Techie’s Christmas Wishlist‘ Vlog that I’ve be invited to do for the HotMilk Podcast blog. Thanks so much to Kaye & crew at Techology Will Save Us for sending the DIY Thirsty Plant and DIY Electro Dough kits to  mum and also to Gareth at 4Tronix for sending a CrumbleBot PCB. Thanks for the extra Sparkles – lots more exploring to do.I promise I will be setting  the ‘Reviews’ section up soon.

With the DIY Thirsty Plant – I really enjoyed mixing up the plaster for the sensors – but I stirred it for too long and it started to set. So I had to very quickly stuff it into it’s mould. Then came the wiring  – which was very tricky but I did enjoy the challenge.  I had to wait for the plaster to set so continued the next day. It was great when I finished it until we realised that we didn’t have one single plant in the house and neither me or mum could face rooting around in the back garden in the middle of the night to find something. When we went to film our vlog, later in the week, we had to buy a potted Basil herb plant from the Co-op.

Then, on Friday night I had to rebuild the CrumbleBot and test out the software – which was very straightforward as it’s like Scratch. I had a little play with the Sparkles as well.  Also, we have progress on the 3D printing project that I wanted to try out when me and mum got the new Raspbery Pi Touchscreen Display. I looked up this 3D open source project for producing your own case – see Adafruit website. Does this 3D printing really work?  Anyway the IT team at mum’s college said they would run it through their 3D printer. Mum left work on Friday with it still having four hours to run. so we’ll see on Monday. Also we have to get a special battery & 5v to 3.3v converter – that costs quite a bit.

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Finally the big event of the week. Me & Mum set off on a cold rainy morning with a trolley full of gear, on the Overland train to Hoxton and, surprisingly as it was tipping it down, we had a lovely stroll down Hackney Road. What a cool place!

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We took shelter in this amazing tiny coffee house called the Hackney Coffee Company. The mezzanine was set up like  a cosy little library – even the tiny toilet was elegantly decked out!. Wonder how that would go down back home in Catford? Another customer with her 8 yr old daughter, from Amsterdam, asked us what one place would you take an 8 yr old – if you just had 2 hrs before getting a plane home. We really couldn’t think of a reply – what would you say?

So Jesse, co-founder of Pi Top, picked us up from the cafe and we arrived at their London HQ a few minutes later. I really loved the space – l mean, there was lots of white and space and a pool table!  Then Jesse just gave me a box  and said ‘Now you’ve got to put it together’ it’s like a proper laptop!

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I spent the next 40 minutes (was it longer, I don’t remember) following a manual  and dealing with tricky screws and fittings – thankfully Jesse helped me out. For a nine year old – you definitely need an adult to help out.

It was really awesome when it powered up for the first time and then we went into CEED Universe – a giant multiplayer mining game that gets you to wire up circuits and learn about coding while you play (Gamified Learning).  Actually I had another purpose at Pi Top. Jesse offered to give us some space to film our Young Techie’s Christmas Wishlist‘ vlog.  The lighting was great. We set up the ‘Intro’ bit and did a few takes.IMG_0284

It was hard going but luckily, just when I was getting irritable, Ryan – the other co-founder of Pi Top arrived and, to mum’s annoyance, a game of pool interrupts filming.

IMG_0299After Ryan won, we continued with the filming – hopefully it will be ok but mum’s a little but worried by the sound quality – as it was raining really heavily.  She’s got  the hard job of editing it all together but at least it will only be about three minute. I really didn’t want to leave. Jesse and Ryan are  very cool and thank you so so much for giving me the Pi Top to review and inviting us to your amazing workspace. Good luck with the Pi Top and  your travels around the world. I hope we get to stay connected. Dear blog readers – you have until the end of December to get a  Pi Top at a special Indiegogo price – see pi-top.com . Ryan says it’s has a 13.3” HD LCD screen with a  12 hr battery life.

So watch this space – when my ‘Young Techie’s Christmas Wishlist‘ vlog is ready, we’ll let you know and give you the links. Also the ‘Product Review‘ page is under construction but it’s not easy because people have been really nice to send their products but I also want to feel free to be really honest about stuff – so me and mum are talking about how you do that and get the balance right. We are going to be keeping it real. If there are any experienced product reviewers out there who could give us some advice – either leave a comment or email us at slraspberryjam@gmail.com

I’ll let you know how the 3D print job comes out! See next Sunday evening for my next blog.