"FlowPaw opens young minds to become digitally literate and be the designers of the future - Make your own Internet Of Things"
What is FlowPaw?
FlowPaw is an electronics board that plugs into a PC via USB. It has all the things you need to build your own gadgets and gizmos: buttons, LEDs, sensors and electronic inputs. You can also plug remote controlled (RC) servo motors directly onto the board to create robots or other mechanical devices.
FlowPaw is expandable using extensions called Click Boards. There are 4 claws on the Paw and each can take a different click board.Currently we support 10 Click boards and we will be adding 10 more by the end of the campaign.
How do I program it?
We’ve partnered FlowPaw with FlowStone STEM a new version of our award winning graphical programming software, FlowStone. It’s super intuitive; by simply connecting building blocks together you literally draw out a program. Best of all, everything works in real time so you can modify your creation as it’s running!
With FlowStone you can create easy to manage, modular programs as quickly as you can think them up. By mixing graphical and text based programming children can learn how to code at their own pace without being dropped in at the deep end.
Why are we doing this?
When we were kids computers were just starting to appear in the home. We remember the excitement of having this almost magical box that you could do anything you wanted with.
Today computers and electronic gizmos are everywhere. Kids use them all the time but almost always as consumers. Instead of making their own creations, they just use ones that are already there.
We want to open up the same world of possibilities that we had when we were younger by giving kids the chance to make computers do what they want. With your help we can inspire the next generation of coders, programmers and gizmo makers!
What can I Make?
How about a burglar alarm to detect whether your sister or brother is sneaking into your bedroom?
Or a music synthesiser that you control with your hand…
Want to play your favourite Spotify tunes from the comfort of the sofa? No problem…
Perhaps a games controller? (With FlowStone you can even make the game too!)
Or how about your own remote controlled robot? How cool would that be?!
But these are just a few ideas. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination….
What’s inside the box?
We’ve designed a beautiful package to deliver FlowPaw to you that's small enough to fit through a standard letterbox. Inside you’ll find the FlowPaw board itself, a neat retractable USB cable, four awesome click boards comprising an 8x8 LED display, accelerometer (think Wii), proximity sensor and a buzzer (mono synthesizer).
There’s also a handy quick start guide and a CD for installing the FlowStone STEM software, which comes with a host of examples to get you started.
Who’s it for?
Initially we had school children and students in mind but really anyone with dreams of creating their own gizmos or who wants to learn programming can use it.
What do I need to use it?
FlowPaw will work with any computer with a USB port. Our graphical programming software, FlowStone STEM is designed for Windows® PCs. However, you can run this on a Mac if you have Parallels Desktop/Bootcamp or some other virtual machine software running Windows®.
You can also program the board from a Raspberry Pi using Python. This can be done wirelessly too!
Why we need your help
We want to get FlowPaw into as many people’s hands (paws) as possible. To do that it needs to be affordable.
To get the best price possible we need to place a large order with our manufacturers. We’re almost there. We've sent a bunch of FlowPaws out to schools, colleges, students, friends and family. The feedback has been great - they love it!
So we're all ready to push the 'go' button and really need your help to make this a reality.
How does FlowPaw help children learn coding?
Having something physical to program is so much more interesting than just seeing something happening on a screen. With just a few components a child can easily wire up a button to play a sound or turn an LED on. It’s simple stuff but it’s incredibly rewarding.
We’ve watched children’s reactions to this and they just love it. By making programming fun a child is instantly engaged in what they are doing and they’ll push on to learn more.
Our FlowStone software is incredibly visual and immediate in its nature. You don’t need to learn about source files or compilers before you can get started. Just drag a few components to your schematic and you’re up and running. What’s more, everything you do runs in real time. No building and testing - it all happens instantly.
Because there are no barriers in the way, children can concentrate more on their project and less on wrestling with the technology.
Finally, the software is modular. Functionality can be hidden away in modules that children can start to learn about when they are ready - they don’t need to deal with this up front.
When they are ready to try some text based coding they can do it in little snippets using our amazing Ruby component. This integrates seamlessly with the rest of the graphical programming in FlowStone so projects can have any proportion of code from zero to completely coded.
Can I use my Pi?
If you have a Raspberry Pi you can code in Python or use Scratch if that's your thing. You can even code in FlowStone on the PC and send data to your Raspberry Pi & FlowPaw via WiFi.
The FlowPaw will connect to just about anything with a USB port :)
Who are you guys?
DSP Robotics (OutSim Ltd.) is a small UK based software company and now a hardware start-up.
We started creating graphical programming software back in 2002 for fun. The idea was to create a general visual programming environment for the creation of music.
We then saw an opportunity in the maker market with electronics and robotics, so we set about adding components that allowed the software to easily connect to external devices and FlowStone was born.
For the past year and a half we’ve been talking with educators and groups like the National STEM Centre and Project Lead The Way about how FlowStone could help in education to get kids engaged with computers and electronics like we were at their age.
We started by developing a STEM version of FlowStone specifically for education, and soon realized that we needed some hardware to give it teeth - ("Software is eating the world, and hardware gives it teeth!")
This is how FlowPaw has emerged - a unique combination of hardware and software that works seamlessly.
FlowPaw - how it all began
FlowPaw started out as a single claw board:
Then 1 became 3 and we had phFingers:
Then the Hand (H&):
Then the Bear Paw:
To the first prototype, called FlowPaw:
We had 25 of these Rev 1.00 boards made and sent them out with a selection of Claws to educators and key people worldwide. Following the feedback we made a couple of small changes and the final Rev 1.01 boards were made.
For our design we chose an STM32F407 chip, previously we have been using a PIC32 chip and switching to STM was definitely a good move. The STM32 F4 is not only very powerful but a joy to program and very versatile.
How real is this, does it work?
We’ve been developing the FlowPaw board and integrating it with FlowStone STEM for the last 9 months. The hardware has been tested extensively both in house, by ourselves, and externally by a select group of educators. We are now have the new 2nd generation (Rev 1.01) boards tested and working perfectly and are ready to move into full production.
For manufacturing we have partnered with MikroElektronika, an ISO9001 listed company with a wealth of experience in electronics manufacture. The Click Boards have been sold by MikroElektronika for many years now so they are already a tried and tested product.
These guys are brilliant. You can literally give them a paper napkin with your idea sketched on it and they'll send you back a market-ready finished and packaged product in a matter of months. They have state of the art production facilities and their attention to detail is second to none.
If you're curious to learn what sort of equipment FlowPaw is made on, you can see it on MikroElektronika's contract manufacturing page at http://www.mikroe.com/contract-manufacturing
We hope that this will convince you that we can deliver what we're promising and produce a rock solid, tightly integrated platform that works beautifully.
Where can I find out more?
Please check out our blog at www.flowpaw.com where you can read about our journey from concept to where we are now.
You can find more information on our FlowStone software at www.dsprobotics.com
You can even download a trial a copy of FlowStone. If you like it and you share in our vision then please make a pledge and help us get children engaged in computing once again!
Our KickStarter Sponsors:
A big thank you to Conrad our new Gold Sponsors for supporting this project!
"Conrad has been associated with electronics education & design for many decades in Europe and is excited to partner with a creative-innovator like DSP Robotics & The FlowPaw. A dedicated STEM focused learning & experimenter platform like FlowPaw simplifies the hardware & software aspects of code development, designing basic hardware prototypes and adds the benefit of advanced professional design using FlowStone. We are pleased to help support the continued success of the FlowPaw+FlowStone in helping to stimulate & facilitate interest in electronic engineering for school children, young engineers, and professional inventors and Makers alike." - - - Dr. Alexander Poeschl, Head of Corporate Development Conrad Electronic
Massive thanks too to Rapid Electronics our Silver Sponsors!
Our pledges and time scales
We've put together some great rewards for you. If we get fully funded we aim to deliver every kit in time for Christmas.
Risks and challenges
There will always be risks and challenges in business, particularly if you’re a small outfit. However, we’ve done our utmost to minimise the risks to you as backers. Our software has been tried and tested so we know it will work perfectly. We have a world class manufacturer on board who has a proven track history of delivering quality products on time.
We’ve taken on the vast majority of risk ourselves by working so hard to get to this stage. The finish line is in sight and we just need your help to go those extra few yards so if you like what you see please back us!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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