Multiplo was developed by teachers for teachers. I came across it via their kickstarter crowdfunding campaign and liked what I saw. The philosophy is simple enough, produce an integrated, but flexible model for a wide range classroom robotics projects which is accessible to a wide range of students through a visual programming environment.
It’s open source. To me, that’s a great plus, as it means that you can make additional custom parts if/when the need arises. To find copies of the documentation, construction guides and a helpful forum, you can visit the multiplo website.
The kit I ordered uses a custom, modified Arduino, with a power management module added to enable the motors to run from the same board with little extra power. In theory, you could use the mechanical parts with your own electronic components and an Arduino.
The kit also comes with Minibloq – a visual programming tool, similar in philosophy to Scratch, but with more of a learning curve. My robotics club started with the octagonal robot design, adapting it to support a papier mache shell; and wrote the code to create a photophobic penguin.
The robot waddled about, moving away from lit areas, seeking somewhere dark to hide. Putting it in the school library, it moved into the computer lab, where we had switched the lights off, and sought refuge in the shadows under the table there…
I shall post video and photos later…
So, my Makeblock kit arrived, I collected it from my local post office on the day after my birthday. I downloaded the list of parts and the Arduino libraries from the Makeblock website and tested it. The next day, I built a simple robot in under half an hour.
So, what is Makeblock?
It’s an open source hardware platform for robotics. It also has a custom shield for easily adding sensors, motors and other devices to it. In theory, it should also integrate with Lego. I’ll let you know how that works out later.
I obtained mine through Makeblock’s kickstarter project. There are a few European suppliers who will stock different sets, or, in theory, you could download the plans and make your own.
The hardware is aluminium (that’s aluminum for our American readers), with a cleverly thought out system of holes and grooves to hold things securely in place.
The kit I received also includes two motors and an IR sensor with a remote control (you can see where this is going). In addition to that, there were also an Arduino and a custom shield with colour-coded sockets for different devices to be connected via RJ11 cables.
The libraries come with sample code, so it’s easy enough to adapt them to make your own custom sketches. Plugging the Arduino with its custom shield in to S4A to make a Scratch-based tethered robot would require significant additional work – . However, as a basis for construction projects using your own kit, it has potential.