SimplyTronics commits to improving technology education conditions in schools by developing technology while keeping costs down. For this reason we decided to design and manufacture our own ST EDU (SimplyTronics Educational) board. This board will be compatible with existing Arduino and robotics kit tutorials. We will be able to release the board by itself or with the parts forming a complete robot kit.
We have several years of experience designing and manufacturing Arduino-compatible hardware and sensors. Below you can see an early prototype (green board on the left) for the BOE Shield (right) we designed in collaboration with Parallax, under the request of RobotC developers. The BOE Shield has been in the market for a couple of years and is a very successful product.
The ST EDU board integrates in a single board the Open Source Arduino UNO, the BOE Shield we designed for Parallax, plus some extra features, like the on-board power management to recharge Li-Ion batteries. Below you can see a picture of the Arduino + BOE Shield combo (left) and a prototype of the ST EDU integrating everything in a single board (right). The ST EDU board shown in this picture is a prototype and you can see some extra parts soldered on the board or jumper wires correcting some connections.
After the BOE Shield design was finished, we had plenty of ideas for designing a board that simplified things for teachers deploying the hardware in their classrooms. We came up with the idea of making a single board that took care of the prototyping area, the microcontroller itself and the rechargeable batteries with full, on-board power management (the batteries don't need to be removed from the board to be recharged). The cost of such setup would be about $140 if buying individual boards and connecting them together but we could make a board that could be sold for $45 if we integrated the three systems into one single board.
The ST EDU board could be used by itself as an Arduino compatible platform with a prototyping area. Arduino-compatible shields can be stacked on top of it, just as if it was an Arduino UNO compatible microcontroller. This ST EDU board can also be used on top of a robotics platform. Below you can see our latest design (after taking care of modifications found in the prototypes - no more jumper wires or extra parts needed).
And the board used on top of a Boe-Bot or Shield-Bot robot chassis:
ST EDU is compatible with any documentation that supports the BOE Shield from Parallax, so you can use ST EDU to follow educational material posted on learn.parallax.com. Our robotics kit will be compatible with all the posted online curriculum (equivalent to ~360 pages if printed as a book). This material was already developed and exists today. You can follow the link to check it online.
Or if you prefer the RobotC environment you can use ST EDU with curriculum developed for the Shield-BOE by RobotC. ST EDU boards and robotics kits are fully compatible with any BOE Shield project you can find in their website:
If you already own a robotics kit (like Boe-Bot or Shield-Bot) you could just buy the ST EDU and place it on top of the robot. We also offer the board with all the parts to assemble the robot and perform the activities available online. The picture below shows the parts you will receive in the full kit including a USB cable (not shown in the picture).
The board design is finished and we are ready to move into production. We are already generating documentation online. Below you can find the link to the product documentation and a sample of how we show board dimensions in the documentation:
ST EDU documentation page, which you can find in this link:
Educators Testing the ST EDU
We have taught multiple Educator's Courses over the years, using different platforms. In the pictures below, you can see a class we taught in December 15, 2014, where 20 teachers from the Inland Northwest got try the robotics kits based on the ST EDU.
Lakeside High School, located in Nine Mile Falls, WA, organizes a robotics competition that is free for participants to attend. They also provide some free kits to schools attending this robotics competition and free training for local teachers. March 14, 2015 will be the first time that schools will be participating in this robotics competition using the ST EDU based robots.
To ensure the success of this competition, SimplyTronics will be donating 50 full robotics kits to Lakeside High School. The robots will be loaned for free to schools that would like to participate in this free robotics competition.
Why a Kickstarter?
The board design is completed, manufacturing and logistics are in place and schools are ready to use this material, so why do a Kickstarter campaign now?
SimplyTronics usually operates in the background, providing contract manufacturing and logistics services to other companies, lacking direct interaction with customers.
That's why we need help in this project. Since the board is being branded as SimplyTronics, we need to reach out to individual students, educators and hobbyists with this platform, to make sure we can find a home for most of the boards made in the first production batch.
Risks and challenges
Designing a complex project that integrates multiple existing technologies is always challenging. But with experience gained in previous projects, plus the prototypes that have been designed, assembled, and tested by collaborators, we are confident that the design will meet expectations.
Since ST EDU design is based on Arduino UNO, we will release design files as Open Source Hardware under the same license as Arduino UNO. The challenge here is that we use DipTrace for all of our designs (instead of EAGLE, which is more commonly used with Arduino related designs). We will probably have to release the schematic in PDF format so more people could open the file and also as DipTrace file.
Manufacturing and shipping is what we do, so we don't expect any problems with fulfilling the rewards once the project is funded.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)