Years ago, I wrote some books about LEGO Mindstorms robotics. During my research and investigation of third party sensors and other components, I stumbled upon Dexter Industries and was quite impressed with the quality of their products. I even had a chance to test out some of their prototype sensors before they were released to the public. Suffice to say, I knew they would be a company to watch, and they haven’t slowed down on their mission to offer products both for the hobbyists and educators. I’m a fan, and continue to be impressed by everything they do… including their most recent Kickstarter.
You’re probably familiar with subscription kits that range from crafty-type projects to food/candies to geek-centric products. The idea is simple — you pay a fee (typically monthly, quarterly or yearly) and once a month a box arrives in your mailbox with good stuff inside. They’re often filled with a few surprises which can often be hit or miss.
Do you have a child who is interested in robotics? Or maybe it’s you… maybe you’d like to learn how robots work, gain some programming experience, and learn more about what goes on when it comes to planning and building and programming a robot. If that’s the case, Dexter Industries’ new Kickstarter may very well be what you’re looking for…
First, you’ll receive a box with the components needed to build the GoPiGo2 robot seen below.
You’ll get instructions for building it and programming it to do some really cool stuff. For 30 days, give or take, you’ll have a chance to learn all the ins and outs of your new robot before a new box arrives. Inside that new box you’ll find a new electronics components — typically a sensor that can add new functionality to the GoPiGo2. In addition to the sensor, you’ll get a number of missions to help push you to learn both the assembly and programming of the new component as well as combining the new component with the existing components. The idea is simple — over the course of 12 months, the robot will increase in complexity and functionality, and you (or a child… or both) will slowly but surely learn to push your GoPiGo2 to its limits.
Note: This is a Raspberry Pi robot… not Arduino. This means that in addition to learning to build and program a robot, you’ll also gain the functionality of this little microcomputer. Additional programming languages can be learned, as well as using the Pi to control other electronics that you might find interesting but that aren’t part of the monthly subscription service’s supply of components.
The programming language the owner of the GoPIGo2 will be learning is Scratch, but other programming languages are supported. Scratch is well-documented, so students shouldn’t have any trouble finding additional educational material if they wish to really push their robot’s abilities. With eleven additional boxes set to arrive, there’s going to be plenty to learn… and plenty of time to gain proficiency between the arrival of new components.
The Kickstarter has just started ($209 for a limited number of backers) but the best part is that the expected delivery date for the first box (robot parts and initial missions) is December 2015, just in time for the holidays. There are a number of backer levels besides the basic 12-month subscription service, just in case you’re on a budget — the basic GoPiGo2 can be had for just $90.00 if you’re just wanting to build the robot and see what it offers and maybe test out Dexter Industries initial missions.
I can tell you this: it’s difficult to find a complete robot kit with 10+ add-ons (sensors, etc) and supporting documentation for around the $200.00 mark. Most popular robot kits these days (such as LEGO Windstorms and VEX systems) are in the $250+ range but come with a limited number of components in the box. Ultimately you’ll need to investigate what you need from a robot kit and your price range… as well as your time limit. Waiting twelve months for all the components might be a bit too long for some students, but I think the built-in 30 days of experimenting and learning to incorporate one new component at a time definitely has its advantages.
You can find all the details on the GoPIGo2 Kickstarter page here. The Kickstarter ends on Oct 11, 2015.