This is the first part of my review on the mBot robot kit, designed and manufactured by Makeblock. It is an educational kit which comes with interesting sensors and motors so we can produce several robots with the same parts. Interesting, isn't it?
First I have to say that it can be mounted in 15-30 minutes, even without experience on robotics. It took me just 15 minutes to assamble all the parts. It has not batteries in the kit but if you have any 5V USB battery around like myself (for you smartphone for example) you can use it as this kit comes with a USB cable. You can also test it right connecting it to you computer via USB.
As you mount the kit you see it's very solid, from the frame which is metal solid with convenient holes for mounting sensors and actuators, to the wheels and motors which look designed to last. Each board has its status LED, so it's very easy to debugg your program and follow any mistake. There is even a small buzzer that you can use to generate a tone in any moment of the program, which also helps when debuging ;-)
All the kit is very well designed to mount and start using the robot. As you will see below, Makeblock has in its site the software to program the robot, using the "scratch" environment, which brings the modules to program very easy this robot: it's a "drag and drop" programing tool very easy to handle. In the same site you have the Arduino drivers so your computer can be connected to the robot very fast without needing the Arduino IDE. All this software is ready for Windows and Mac, but it doesn't look like it's for Linux...
Once you have assambled the robot, the steps to program it are very easy:
- Download and install the mBlock (programming environment software) and the Arduino driver. It is self-guided and very easy.
- Once inside the environment it's necessary to upgrade the firmware of the robot.
- Then you can start programming. I started already testing the robot with some very basic functions and I published it in my Github repository here.
It's very interesting and useful to check how your program runs in real in the robot (debug in real target), as you can check it at any time while the robot is connected to the computer. More in the second review.
You can connect the robot to the computer via:
- USB (serial port)
- Bluetooth (it is used also to connect the robot with the smartphone)
- and 2.4 GHz (bluetooth and 2.4 GHz small board at the very top of the robot with a blue status LED)
- "Network", which I don't know how it works... yet.
In any case, it's not very difficult to connect the computer to the robot, and when the connection is ready, a green indicator is shown in the computer's programming tool.
There is also an app for Android and for iOS that I still have to test, it will be in the second part.
There is plenty documentation already in Internet for this kit, which is good, but some details regarding the sensors or debugging problems are not documented, so I'll do it in following reviews, also to improve our own DiY designs ;-)
Update 6 August 2015: I have published my review on assembly and first test of this robot kit, video included. Don't miss it here!
Update 27 August 2015: don't miss the 3rd part of the review programming the mBot.