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mBot Wi-Fi® version - Beginner
What is mBot?
mBot is an all-in-one solution for kids to enjoy the hands-on experience about programming, electronics, and robotics. Working with mBlock inspired by Scratch 2.0, controlled by Bluetooth, this easy-to-assemble mBot provides infinite possibilities for your kid to learn STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics).
Contracted But Not Simple
Contains 38 assembly parts that can be assembled in 10 minutes and color-labeled RJ25 ports for convenient wiring, making sure more time can be spent on programming and creativity.
Drag-and-drop graphical programming software mBlock developed based on Scratch 2.0 provides a quick way for kids to learn programming, control the robot, and realize multiple functions from the robot.
Features of mBlock
Fun, and Fun
mBot is all about fun and creativity. It comes with various basic pre-assembled options, including obstacle-avoidance car, line-following vehicle, remote control car, and can be used in multiple games like balloon bursting game, soccer playing, sumo, and etc.
The mechanical body of the mBot is compatible with Makeblock platform and most of Lego parts, while the electronic parts of it is developed based on the Arduino open source ecosystem. This makes sure that the mBot has infinite extensibility, using any mechanical parts and electronic modules you need to turn it into your "dream robot".
Unique Curriculum System
To help teachers, parents, or kids get started easier and faster, you will also find that we provide online manuals and two online courses that will be updated regularly. These online tutorials are developed and maintained by teachers, especially scratch teachers, at home and abroad. Know more here.
|Software and Programming||mBlock(graphical) based on Scratch 2.0 - Mac®, Windows®|
|Inputs||Light sensor, button, infrared receiver, ultrasonic, sensor, line follower|
|Outputs||Buzzer, RGB LED, Infrared emitting, two motor, ports|
|Microcontroller||Based on Arduino Uno|
|Power||3.7VDC lithium battery(charger on board) or four 1.5V AA batteries (available separately)|
|Wireless Communication||2.4GHz wireless serial|
|Dimensions||17 x 13 x 9 cm assembled|
- User's Manual (Jun 10, 2015)
Wi-Fi® is a registered trademark of Wi-Fi Alliance.
Apple® and Mac® are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries.
Microsoft® and Windows® are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and/or other countries.
PROS: Is Arduino compatible and they provide "mBlocks" (based on MIT's Scratch visual programming system). Has lots of expansion capabilities (but see Cons).
CONS: Many of the expansion modules are "expensive" compared to what they cost for a regular Arduino.
Unfortunately, the fun stopped there.
With batteries installed in both the robot and the included remote (seriously, how hard is it to include a coin cell in a kit?), the robot showed no signs of movement no matter what buttons we pressed. I found a few references on Makeblock's forum to a firmware issue, but it is surprisingly difficult to even figure out what the latest version of their software is, let alone where to download and install it. There are a few video tutorials, but they show an older version of the software (on Windows I have only Macs), and include advice like "go install this extension" without telling you how to actually do that.
Mind you, I have a BS in Computer Science and I've been getting paid to write software since 1998. Despite those advantages, I can't figure out how to get this alleged "robot" to do a damn thing. If Monoprice won't take it back, the most educational value my daughter and I are going to get out of this will come from removing the batteries and placing the entire thing in our "science microwave".
PROS: - Assembly instructions are relatively clear
- Applying a sledgehammer to it will probably be quite entertaining
CONS: - Cannot get it to do anything more than light up two LEDs
- Support is either outdated or completely missing
PROS: Easy to build, easy to use, fun for kids..
Works with Arduino programming environment
Free Scratch-based graphical environment (drag and drop) with embedded Arduino programming environment
Lots of sensors (IR, IR emitter/receiver, ultrasonic, light level sensor, multicolor LEDs, line follower, piezo buzzer, momentary contact button)
Two motors with wheels and tires
Comes with either Bluetooth or WiFi (either can be added later)
Built-in charging circuit for LiPo batteries
CONS: Getting use to the quirks in the Scratch environment (mBlock) takes a bit of time
Does not work with Linux OS (can use with Windows or OS X in virtual machine)
Support can be spotty (use the forums, lots of smart folks there to help)
WiFi vs. Bluetooth
The core device has swappable radio modules. They plug into the same header on the main board. In addition to the Wi-Fi radio for the robot, the Wi-Fi version comes with a USB dongle that you can plug into your computer. That additional dongle why the Wi-Fi version is typically $5 more than the Bluetooth version. I haven't used the Wi-Fi version and don't know why you'd need a dongle but evidently, it makes it easier to simultaneously talk to the robot and/or your "regular" Wi-Fi network at the same time.
I was not impressed. Maybe they appeal to certain ages but I have elementary school age kids and have seen lots of curriculum and materials that were average to great. These are definitely below average in may opinion. Part of it is the many "not written by a native English speaker" issues but more importantly, I don't think they are logically laid out.
Can use Scratch, which my kids were already familiar with from other STEM type robot projects, so that was good. I have the Bluetooth device (not available at Monoprice but can be bought many other places) and it was a little non-obvious as to how to select the appropriate radio (Wi-Fi vs. Bluetooth but don't choose Bluetooth, choose /dev/.....) but other than that, the programming software was reasonably well behaved.
The remote control works well (for and IR device) and is fairly intuitive.
Running it from an iOS device either as a virtual joystick or as a "tilt and twist" your phone to steer the robot works well.
Programming using Scratch was pretty good. Since Scratch supports so many devices, you sometimes run into features that may not work with your device so that's kind of expected. The basic functions of making to mBot move, respond to sensors, beep, change/flash the lights etc. all worked fine.
As compared with many of the other STEM type robots on the market today, I think this is a great value. It's very well made. It costs less than many of the others. It's "stronger" in terms of pushing/moving than many of them. I haven't played with any of the add-ons available. The only real drawback is it could use better documentation.
PROS: Good value compared with other options
Uses fairly standard programming tools
CONS: Except for assembly instructions (which were fine), poorly written documentation and support materials.
PROS: Easy to assemble
Scratch is easy for little kids
Many built in sensors and devices (light sensor, ultrasonic, line tracer, motors, IR remote, etc.)
Low price beginner bot
CONS: Outdated documentation for how to connect mbot with Scratch
After, we had lots of fun the rest of the day playing with it and even using the mblock program to upload some programs to try out. Try the programs at GitHub/sensestone: https://github.com/senestone/A_Gentle_Introduction_To_Robotics_With_mBlock_and_mBot
PROS: East to get going
CONS: Documentation is a bit lacking
PROS: Reasonably priced starter kit. Works as description shows.
CONS: Upgrade options are very limited.