Recommendation for simple project

slakslak Posts: 3
edited 2017-05-21 - 05:08:49 in General Discussion
Hi All,

As a technologically ignorant biologist, with intimidation and fascination, I am seeking readers' help in choosing a kit based project, perhaps a robot that's simple enough to get my high school kid interested and hopefully get him engaged with similar projects during summer.

Any help is highly appreciated!



  • ceptimusceptimus Posts: 109
    edited 2017-05-21 - 08:53:21
    Lego Mindstorms might be a good way into robot building and design. You can use the included control unit to start with and gradually add more electronics of your own until you're not using the Mindstorms controller at all - but the Lego hardware for building chassis, drives, motors, and sensors remains useful, especially for prototyping, even for experts.

  • MikeDYurMikeDYur Posts: 2,176
    edited 2017-05-21 - 15:41:09
    You can't do better than:

    A robot starting with this board and book, is the most educational and comprehensive place to start:

    But then there is Blockly. You can have a robot up and running in no time. And not have to get into the particular's of how it’s done.

  • I'd recommend getting the ActivityBot kit

    It is on sale until May 31. It uses the Propeller multi core processor and is
    relatively easy to build, and can be programmed in a number of different languages. It comes with a number of parts and sensors that are used with the tutorials to get a basic knowledge of circuits, robots, and programming.

    Start with Blockly (graphical programming language and tutorials) to get it quickly running. As he gets a little experience and if he develops interest, transition to C or one of the other propeller languages.

    Add a Sony tv remote (or a universal remote) and he can make a remote controlled robot.
  • ercoerco Posts: 19,695
    Welcome to the forums, slak! Just curious, how did you find us?

    There are so many educational robot kits out there, and lots of noise, everyone's the best. Parallax isn't the biggest, but we think one of the best. It has a proven track record and a long-standing commitment to education. Per twm47099, you can't go wrong with an Activity bot. A quick build and you're off. Otherwise, an S3 comes fully assembled with many built-in demo programs, and is also contains a Propeller. Blockly is the new Google-based GUI for both, and Ken Gracey (Parallax President) posts new Blockly projects weekly, everything from GPS to flamethrowers. He's got state teaching credentials and a burning passion to help everyone, students and teachers.

    Yes, really. Come on in, the water's fine. I wouldn't be surprised if Ken chimes in here himself. He's really accessible and a super nice guy.
  • We teach with ActivityBots. It works great for 7 year olds. And honestly, it's a strong enough platform that I'm still learning.
  • Hi All,

    THANK YOU for the warm welcome and great suggestions!

    I knew to come here because of my octogenarian dad who is on the other side of the globe, a physicist, a self-learnt genius and a die-hard micro controller guy, who runs a tech school for teenagers with hands on lab. His only request would be to get him books published by Parallax and I faithfully lug them to him during my annual visits The twinkle in dad's eye is priceless- Yep, sappy story.

    My wish is to get my own teenager get interested in the creative process, pluck him off useless (apologies!) video games and perhaps some day take him to his grandpa's school.

    I am intimidated to a lesser degree- now that I know where to find help.

    Warm Regards- S

    PS: I see training for educators

    a) I am tempted, though I am not in education.

    b) how come there are not any for HS kids?

  • Having tried to go down that road with my own daughter, at least for me, it was pretty much a winless situation. Unless the teenager is interested in tinkering with tech stuff, it is very difficult to get their attention from the Vid game to trying to blink an LED. However, you could take another approach, which is bank of the kids interest in video games and challenge them to create their own game using something like an Activity Bot. This could be something like getting it to navigate an obstacle or seek another bot or device.

    There used to a Hydra Game Dev system that utilized the Propeller but that is not sold any longer. However one could create a hand-held version of Space Invaders or such using a Propeller based board; a FLiP might be the right size for this. I've done this with other boards and have it on my need to do list for the Prop.

    I'm not sure where you are located, but you might want to see if there are any Robotics clubs either at the High School or college level. The other area to look is Mechatronics or some sort of Engineering Mentor Program.

    Good luck.
  • I'm here and I'm your advocate, slak! I live, breath, eat, design, program and experience microcontrollers in education on a daily and nightly basis.

    What's your budget for this attempt? Is it under $100 or $200?

    If I can encourage you to spring for an ActivityBot you'll be providing a solid exposure to programming, electronics, robotics (some call it physical computing) and logical thinking. If it doesn't work out I'll happily refund you and add the hardware to my collection used for teacher Professional Development.

    This particular product has both Blockly and C tutorials on The approach we use builds two bridges: (1) programming in a textual language, starting with a graphical one because it's quite a bit easier; and (2) taking the first programming skills from screen-based systems to something that moves, so you can "see" your code run.

    As for robotics, we're a quiet leader. We've produced well over a milion of the metal robot chassis you see on the Boe-Bot, ActivityBot and Arduino Shield-Bot. I think this is second only to Lego.

    If you want to talk about the options, just call me on the Educator Hotline at 916-625-6801. I'll be available Monday morning at 7 am Pacific.

    Ken Gracey
  • Thank you JonM and Ken Gracey.

    Got the activitybot kit. Gave it to kid and he started to tweak. It's 2.15 am Monday east coast
    Hopefully we will make something by sunrise
  • ercoerco Posts: 19,695
    Ha... sounds like he's hooked already!

    A great first challenge is to join our figure 8 club. No rules, just post a Youtube video of your robot doing a simple figure 8, any size. Usually just a left 360 circle then a right 360 circle or VV. We have a rich history:
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