beanz Magazine

Getting Started with mBot Robotics

Makeblock

The mBot robotics kit is an excellent comparatively low-cost way to begin working with robots.

The term “low floor high ceiling” is sometimes used to describe activities that require minimal background knowledge to begin exploring, but lead to deep and challenging ideas.

This category of products tends to be a hard find in robotics. On one end of the spectrum we have simple robots that are easily controlled by a remote, and on the other end are price-prohibitive, extremely complex robots designed and controlled by experts. For many children and families, perhaps the million dollar question is what can we do to gradually progress from pushing buttons on premade robotic devices, to designing, building, wiring, and programming increasingly complex robots of our own?

As it turns out, there are quite a few options for those looking to get into robotics. Once high school rolls around there are national robotics teams, and before that there are robotics summer camps and afterschool programs galore. But for the motivated child with a bit of family support, the mBot is a fun and relatively economical way to get started right at home.

The basic mBot can be purchased for around $60, a price that buys approximately 30 metal pieces and electronic modules, and an assembly guide to make sure you can put together them correctly. The level of difficulty is right around what one expects when buying a lego set for an 8-12 year old, with the novelty of including real nuts and bolts, plus a few pieces that look like complicated parts from the insides of a computer. As such, the mBot begins as an exercise in mechanics, which is indeed a key component of robotics.

projects-mbot-box-contents
mBot Components Included in Box

Before starting, prepare your own AA batteries (or a 3.7V lithium battery), as well as a set of hex wrenches of various sizes. A button cell battery (CR2025) for the remote control must be purchased separately as well.

 

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