Multiplo

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 ┬áthe 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…

 

Makeblock and Multiplo: Head to Head

Earlier in the school year, I came across two exciting kickstarter projects.

If you’ve never come across crowdfunding before, it’s well worth browsing through both kickstarter and indiegogo to get a feel for the range of projects and the level of enthusiasm of both the starters and backers. I’ll do a separate post on the topic of crowdfunding later.

Both the projects offered a low-cost, affordable route into Arduino-based robotics development that teachers might want to investigate. What grabbed my attention however, was that both projects were also open source. In other words, if you find you’re short of a part, you can download the plans and quickly fabricate a replacement. No need to worry about license fees or buying a much larger expansion kit. If you need to, you can modify the original file and print/burn your own custom parts; share your ideas over the internet and not worry about an angry solicitor’s letter dropping through your letterbox.

That, to me is far more revolutionary than designing a gun.

The two products were Multiplo and Makeblock. Each one deserves a post in its own right. Both have their fair share of advantages and disadvantages.

I’ll have a set of each out on display for teachers to play with at Scratch in Control on May 18. If you’re looking for a cheaper alternative to Lego as a robotics platform that integrates with Arduino, come along and experiment!