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2014: The Year of Code

posted Mar 15, 2014, 6:52 AM by David Hellam

As well as participating in CSedweek's hour of code, we used the launch of the UK's Year of Code to look at how we could write e-books and tell stories using Scratch.

Arduino Day 2014

posted Mar 15, 2014, 6:50 AM by David Hellam

29 March 2014 marks the 10th Anniversary of the Arduino.

We're planning to celebrate it by running a workshop for high school students on making alternative pointing devices.

Digital Storytellers - a Scratch Day event

posted Mar 15, 2014, 6:48 AM by David Hellam

We're now starting work on developing the Digital Storytellers website to support our 2014 contribution to Scratch Day.

We're planning to aim the day at our younger learners, but teachers from around Europe who want to see what we do with Scratch and physical computing are more than welcome.

European Robotics Week 2013

posted Jun 19, 2013, 1:03 AM by David Hellam

European Robotics Week will take place from November 23 - 1 December 2013.

For our contribution, we plan to re-run Scratch in Control: a teacher-training event for educators across Europe on Saturday 30 November.

More details will be available from the Scratch in Control website in the autumn.

Scratch in Control: the website

posted Jun 19, 2013, 12:55 AM by David Hellam

In case you missed it, here's a link to Scratch in Control

More Fun With Kickstarter

posted Jun 19, 2013, 12:53 AM by David Hellam

A few more crowdfunding projects we thought were worthy of serious consideration:
  • The Pi-Lite: we think this would be great for a regularly updated display board.
  • MotorPiTX: for robotics projects that need a Pi instead of an Arduino
  • Colour OLED Breakout Board: I'm thinking of an interactive Advent calendar...
  • Brick Pi: Scratch, Lego robotics and a Raspberry Pi - an interesting combination...

Our Christmas Projects...

posted Jan 24, 2013, 2:57 AM by David Hellam

In case you missed them, here are our Christmas robotics projects:

Christmas with the Robo-Sharks

Affordable Robotics

posted Nov 12, 2012, 12:35 AM by David Hellam

The AFRON $10 robot design competition isn't just about sourcing cheap components. It's about making design decisions related to your priorities when making a robot.

The winners are worth looking at - not just to see what they designed, but take a look at the shortlisted contestants' websites where they review the choices they made when working on their projects.

If you're sold on Massimo Benzi's philosophy, highlighted in Getting started with Arduino, you will love the enterprising nature of some of the projects, particularly Dr Tom Tilley's Suckerbot, made from an upcycled joystick.

Smartmaker and the $9 Arduino project

posted Nov 2, 2012, 7:39 AM by David Hellam   [ updated Mar 15, 2014, 7:12 AM ]

We like Arduino - it's powerful, flexible and cheap.

We also like Kickstarter and Indiegogo.

So, when a project appears that claims to make the creation of a wider range of Arduino-compatible robotics projects even more affordable and manageable, we just had to take a look. The heart of the open system suite of extensible resources is a tiny Arduino-compatible board which can be plugged into a range of other units to give additional functions, while retaining the same features that you would expect from an Arduino. We think an interesting project would be possible with the ADK board.

We started by trying out the Smartmaker starter kit. The core is small, and clicks firmly into place with the other components. In our tests, it has performed exactly like a regular Arduino. Fortunately, we haven't had to use more than 2 analog pins. In addition to the delayed Smartmaker ADK kit which arrived in January 2014, we ordered some low-cost Arduino Leonardo clones produced by Borderless Electronics.

The 10 Leonardos arrived - delayed by customs - and have performed well in our tests. We have mainly used them in conjunction with a range of analogue inputs from sensors and other components including:
  • Ultrasonic Range-Finders
  • IR LEDs and PhotoTransistors
  • Light-Dependent Resistors
  • Slide Potentiometers
With each of these, we have programmed the Leonardos to emulate different keystrokes, depending on the value registered on the analogue input pins. We will post details of some of these on the Scratch in Control blog when we get round to it.

Picture credit - image stolen from Smartmaker's Kickstarter page.

Kickstarter and Indiegogo

posted Nov 2, 2012, 2:19 AM by David Hellam   [ updated Nov 21, 2012, 1:00 PM ]

Kickstarter is an innovative website where people post projects they would like to be funded.

We found four robotics projects at Kickstarter that looked so great that they deserved wider support

  • Makey-Makey - make anything into a user interface
  • Multiplo - open source Arduino-compatible robotics assembly kit
  • Smartduino - affordable small scale extensible Arduino-compatible components
  • WiPi - wireless bridge for Raspberry Pi and Arduino

We also noticed a couple of very innovative pitches by school robotics teams looking for sponsors!

Indiegogo helps its users around the world to raise funds for a wider range of large and small projects.

There's a school in Guatemala with a very innovative reward for people who sponsor their new computer lab.

We like the RoboBrrds - but, although they are Arduino compatible, we plan to base our robot pet designs on our own Arduino boards this spring.

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