I got a chance to see a number of Solarbotics robots in action at Maker Faire Austin. They all were pretty cool, but the one the kids all loved was Herbie the Mousebot. He’s fast, he’s fun, and extremely life-like.
Herbie is a light following mouse and he’s very sensitive to any light source, especially daylight, or a bright flashlight in a darkened room. At MFA the kids would steer him around in a few circles before he’d see the bright glass door and make a beeline for the sunlight. He elicited more giggles and laughter than any other kit I saw. I plan to get some of the smaller BEAM style bots just to play with, but I think Herbie will remain the favorite here for a while.
I took some time over the Thanksgiving weekend to try to teach Travis how to solder and assemble the kit. I ended up doing most of the assembly, but he helped a little and asked a lot of questions. The necessary soldering skills are pretty basic with all connections being through-hole. No tricky surface mount stuff here. The instructions include a short tutorial on what’s a good and bad solder joint and how to achieve good results.
Herbie’s body is made entirely out of the same circuit boards that drive his instincts. We had a bit of difficulty aligning the circuit boards to form the body of the mouse. We managed to get one panel forward too far and the battery connector didn’t fit so well. To solve the problem we had to dig out some solder wick and unsolder it and start over. When you are taping the PCBs together for soldering, pay close attention to alignment.
Fortunately the components of this kit are pretty heat tolerant and the PCB is solid, making this a good kit for a beginner. We didn’t have any problems with traces lifting off the board, or components damaged by too much heat.
Total time to assemble Herbie was about 2 hours. I figure the second one (just ordered) will go together a lot faster unless I let Travis do more. We want to test out the follow the leader feature. I’ll see about posting some video when we get both of them running.
I think this kit is about right for Geeklets 12 and older. Younger ones can help and certainly learn, but they will struggle with some of the part placement and small details that make the difference between success and failure. This is a cool kit, reasonably easy to assemble, and GeekDad approved.