A prototype is a preliminary model of something. Projects that offer physical products need to show backers documentation of a working prototype. This gallery features photos, videos, and other visual documentation that will give backers a sense of what’s been accomplished so far and what’s left to do. Though the development process can vary for each project, these are the stages we typically see:
Proof of Concept
Explorations that test ideas and functionality.
Demonstrates the functionality of the final product, but looks different.
Looks like the final product, but is not functional.
Appearance and function match the final product, but is made with different manufacturing methods.
Appearance, function, and manufacturing methods match the final product.
Kids & robots go together like Penn & Teller or Tom & Jerry - there’s a magic mix of fun & mayhem - no child should go without the chance to create & learn.
Our smartphone society talks about affordability but in reality, most robot kits are out of reach of the many. Any kit that could pay for a weeks groceries for a family of four is not affordable.
How about a simple, robust, fully programmable, expandable, open source robot design that costs under £10 / $12 / €11?
What could be done with that? At that price level, parents can take a chance on trying it out. Schools can equip a whole classroom for the same price as one high end kit.
Sure, it’s not all brushed aluminium. Do the kids care? Nope. Do they learn just as much? Sure! And there’s pocket money accessories that they can buy to expand on their kit to do more.
Our local school were using ‘affordable’ robots - but not one student had one at home, which at £60 / $73 / €66, was asking a bit much. No parent wants to buy a kit they don’t understand and see it stuck in the drawer from day one.
So in the summer of 2015 Nick started prototyping and went out to Maker Faires and schools to show them what could be built on a budget. Nick created some supporting components and started on a website.
Which is where we are today. You can go to http://chickbot.club right now, download the parts lists, plans and code, order the components on eBay and make your own robot for the target price. We support Arduino, Raspberry Pi and the BBC micro:bit.
For convenience & peace of mind, people have been asking us for complete kits. Which opened up some possibilities. Some want to buy a complete ‘retail’ kit. Clubs & schools want to buy a bulk pack of everything and do some light soldering. Some just want the driver board PCB’s and get the parts themselves.
To get the stock in and, pardon the pun, kickstart the project, here we are. We’d like to spread the word so we can make the full kits as affordable as possible. And then we’d like to expand on the capabilities - a Blocky programming tool, a phone & tablet app and some high end facilities for the Raspberry Pi version - Robotics Operating System support & OpenCV vision. Note, these are not part of the rewards, these are future plans.
The reward packs start out with the basic robot kits and build on each other providing more and more activities. All the accessories have supporting documentation on the website.
Depending on the reward, you chose which programmable thingy-ma-bob you want your kit to use:
BBC micro:bit - a simple controller released by the BBC April 2016. Take up is mostly in the UK but you can order them from anywhere in the world from a variety of UK based online retails. The micro:bit costs around £13. We think it's a great way for 5 - 13 year olds to get started &/or if you don't have much programming experience yourself.
Arduino - the go-to microcontroller platform of choice for Makers the world over. It's got plenty of input-output connections and is easy to manage. Mostly it is programmed in a text based language called C - we've added a layer to this to make it obvious what commands you are asking it to do. This is our recommendation for those learning Computer Science or Technology/Engineering aged 13 to 16 who are new to physical computing.
Raspberry Pi - the amazing full blown computer with the added bonus of plenty of input-output connections. You can use all sorts of programming languages and hook your ChickBot up to the internet in double quick time. Because it is a full computer, it's not so keen on having its power pulled out from under it, so we recommend some experience of caring for your Pi for younger users before setting out with this option.
You'll see that the Raspberry Pi isn't available for pre-Christmas rewards. We are on our second beta of the PCB design & layout. We have chosen not to make our board a HAT as it wouldn't share the common components we use that help keep the costs down.
Studying CS or engineering 16+
For those studying Computer Science or an engineering topic aged 16 - 19, get an Arduino kit to start out, get a Raspberry Pi and the Pi driver board for the best of both worlds.
All programming resources are free to download from the internet and you don't need to be online to use them.
Different kits, different motors ...
For the Arduino or Raspberry Pi base kit we use stepper motors - slower but more accurate, allowing a wider range of out-of-the-box activities. The Raspberry Pi kit does not include a Pi. The Arduino version includes an Arduino Nano. These kits can be upgraded to using the more spritely Little Yellow Motors.
For the BBC micro:bit base kit which is a much simpler microcontroller with fewer output pins, we only offer the Little Yellow Motors. Kit does not include a micro:bit.
Common components & upgrades
Many of the parts are common to each kit - the main variation is the different motors, but each controller does have its own specific driver board. Even then, there is a lot of overlap between the parts for the driver boards.
This way you can start out with one kit and update / upgrade as you go without having to throw it all away and start again. Break anything and replacement parts are easily obtained from many online retailers.
Each kit comes complete to build the robots as shown, but does not include the 4 x AA batteries to power them. They all work fine on rechargeable batteries. You will need a pair of scissors to trim the cable ties.
The Robot sensor kit
Pair of line following sensors - for all line following activities or as proximity sensors.
Ultrasonic distance sensor - a standard range measuring accessory
Infra-red remote & receiver - allows you to control your ChickBot or give it a sequence of movements to perform.
Pair of light sensors - search out the brightest or darkest part of the room or follow a flashlight.
The Little Yellow Motors expansion kit
Two yellow motors + driver chip - a different motor set for the Arduino or Pi kits - more speed, less control.
The Arduino & Pi driver boards have two sockets. They come with the stepper motor driver chip ULN2803 already inserted. To swap over to using Little Yellow Motors, remove the ULN2803 and put the L293D in to it's socket. You can't run both at once.
The Programming activities kit
LED "Knight Rider" strip - use it to make simple games or display level information.
Road junction with pedestrian crossing - one of the classic programming tasks - write code to control traffic lights, we've added a crossing to expand on the fun.
7 Segment display - more than just numbers, simple games are possible, status indicator and more
Water/touch sensor - can be used for plant monitoring or as a touch switch.
Water pump - working along side the water sensor, you can automatically water your plants, or your younger brother.
Temperature sensor - a precision analog temp. sensor with a range from -50 to +125°C
Potentiometer (volume) control - an analog input to set settings or levels
Our fundraising goal
Given the design price for ChickBot, this is not going to make anyone rich anytime ever. So we need to build up production levels without disrupting the work that pays the bills. Hence the modest Kickstarter goal. If we sail straight through the goal, we'll add another batch of rewards with appropriate shipping dates.
Many many friends, family & colleagues have said we should go commerical on this project. This would entirely defeat the whole point which is to make a complete functional robot cost accessible to individuals & schools. To turn this into a business, the kit would have to cost around £25 / $28 / €27 plus sales tax. And we'd then end up with yet another me too robot on the market. Which would sell modest amounts and not make anyone rich. And loads of kids wouldn't have access to a their own maker platform to develop their STEM skills with real experience. No karma in that, just total lose lose lose for everyone.
In the medium term we are hoping that Makerspaces, schools & budding entrepreneurs put together kits for sale as a side job for those that don't want to DIY. For schools, they could buy in the parts for 100 kits, keep half, sell half and, because they've used volunteer labour for production, come away with a few pennies left over.
Short term, we've a huge backlog of projects, anyone that wants to dive in and help write tutorials would be a friend for life!
Risks and challenges
Our only real challenge is getting the parts in from overseas to meet the delivery schedules we’ve given you. We’ve been ordering parts for ChickBot for over a year now, so we are pretty confident we’ve put some slack in to the timescales, but we may get taken by surprise.
The electronics company that will build the driver boards doesn’t normally get too busy this time of year, but there is a small chance that there may be delays in production.
All the parts needed to make 10 robots apart from the laser cut wood chassis. Requires some simple soldering of the driver board. Choice of Arduino, Raspberry Pi or BBC micro:bit kits. Sorry, no mixtures.