About this project
Missed the Kickstarter? You can order via our store, or get more information on Sparki on our website here
New: Drag-and-Drop Block Programming!
We're partnering with MiniBloq to bring Drag-and-Drop programming to Sparki! Easy robot programming, bringing the age range down to elementary, and opens robotics to whole new group of future roboticists
New Reward: Sparki Educator
Multiple discounted Sparkis, special classroom materials like printed maze and line-following posters, and dedicated 1-on-1 instructor training.
Android App - Control and monitor Sparki via its Bluetooth Serial Module
Wireless Data Radio - Lets Sparki communicate with its siblings up to 100ft+ wirelessly: this would be awesome for swarm robotics!
Ever wanted to learn robotics, programming or electronics?
Thought robots were hard or complicated?
Just didn't know where to get started?
Sparki is an affordable, easy to use, and fun intro to programming, electronics, and robotics for all ages (11+). It is simple enough for beginners, while being feature-packed enough to be a must-have for pro-users. Sparki is your chance to have your very own robot, completely open source and available to do your bidding.
Sparki is ArcBotics’ answer to robotics in education. After our first successful Kickstarter for Hexy the Hexapod, a low-cost open-source Arduino robot designed to be an intro to advanced robotics, we were approached by many who asked, do you have anything for beginners? When we looked around, we saw that other educational robots were very expensive, difficult to use, lacked features, or had closed designs. However, we know that the interest in programming and robotics from people of all ages is enormous. So we thought, why not design an adorable new robot that lets people of all ages enjoy robotics, while offering them a wide range of possibilities, and - most of all - is fun?
Sparki works out of the box with its remote control. To write your own programs, just plug it in via USB, install the custom-enhanced Arduino software and try any of the dozens of example programs. We have programs for every sensor and actuator on Sparki:
- 1x Ultrasonic distance sensor (get distance from Sparki to walls/objects)
- 1x 3-Axis Accelerometer (pick-up detection, fall detection, hill climbing)
- 3x Light-sensing phototransistors (light following, darkness seeking)
- 5x Line-following and edge detection sensors (mazes, line follow, sumo)
- 1x IR bounce for gripper (detect things in the gripper)
- 1x 128x64 Graphic LCD
- 1x RGB LED (RGB = generate any color!)
- 1x Buzzer (beeping, booping, and musical tones!)
- 1x IR Transmitter (like your TV remote control)
- 1x IR Receiver (like your TV)
- 1x IR Remote control (lots of buttons to control Sparki with)
- 1x TTL Serial port for expansion (talk to an Arduino/Raspberry Pi)
- 1x Port for Bluetooth Serial Module (not in all rewards)
- Powered by 4xAA batteries (rechargeable or alkaline)
- 2x Geared stepper motors (precise, measured movement down to millimeters/ sub-degrees)
- Marker holder for drawing:
- And textured ABS plastic shell for your choice of decoration:
Based on pilot-class testing of Sparki with middle school aged children, as well as extensive experience teaching Arduino classes to kids and adults alike, we’re developing complete tutorials and individual/classroom lesson plans for Sparki, all available for free (CC Attribution licensed).
Here are some of the things you'll learn how to do:
- Edge avoidance
- Line following
- Maze solving
- Wall avoidance
- Room navigation
- Object retrieval
- Follow/hide from light sources
- Shape drawing
- Computer input (make a keyboard/mouse using sensors)
- Games with other Sparkis
And more advanced concepts:
- PID Loops
- Pathfinding algorithms
- Signal Filtering
So give a Sparki a home today!
Our goal at ArcBotics is to make robotics accessible and fun to everyone. We believe a robot for education to be a powerful idea with the potential to spread interest in programming, electronics, and other STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields to anyone. We have designed Sparki with parents, educators, and kids in mind, as well as DIY/robotic enthusiasts. We hope to 'spark' a revolution in educational robotics, lowering the barrier to entry and igniting a wave of hands-on learning.
Joseph Schlesinger, Co-founder, CEO: Joseph leads the product development and manufacturing side of ArcBotics. He has been a serial entrepreneur and robotics lover since a young age. Joseph is the founder of the MakeIt Labs hackerspace, design member in the winner of Popular Mechanic’s East vs West Hackerspace Challenge, and founder of ArcBotics. He has also worked as a firmware engineer at APC and a systems engineer at the advanced government think-tank MITRE. Joseph has a degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
Connie Hu, Co-founder, COO: Connie leads the business side and education programs of ArcBotics. Connie was a strategy consultant with The Bridgespan Group, the leading US nonprofit strategy consulting group. At Bridgespan, she advised some of the top education programs and museums in the country on business planning and strategic outreach. Connie graduated with honors from Dartmouth, where she was President of SEEDS, the first student social enterprise and nonprofit consulting organization.
The Nerd Zone
Okay, you're an engineer/programmer/technorati. You want to know the details. Don't be afraid to ask for more:
Bootloader: Custom Serial/HID Hybrid arduino bootloader
Data Radio: NRF24L01+
Bluetooth: HC-06 (testing the HC-07) TTL Serial Bluetooth (RFCOMM)
LCD: ST7565-based SPI interface
Risks and challenges
Like with all Kickstarters, there is a possibility that shipping will be delayed. The most important thing is, we learned a lot from our first Kickstarter, Hexy the Hexapod Robot, for which we've successfully completed shipping. We tried our best to avoid delays but still experienced them, largely because of setbacks in manufacturing centered around in-house manufacturing. Though we had our laser cutters running almost 24/7, we found there was little we could do. Therefore this time around, we have made significant changes to ensure everything will run smoothly:
1.) Partnered with trusted manufacturing partners whom we've already worked well with, and avoiding the ones we didn't. We learned a lot about sourcing in massive volumes, manufacturing at-scale and are prepared to make this robot by the tons (literally).
2.) Left manufacturing and fulfillment to the professionals. We did a lot of manufacturing and all the fulfillment in-house last time. While it gave us a lot of flexibility to tweak designs at the last minute, it also caused a lot of headaches. This time we've partnered with factories we have used before to do the complete manufacturing/fulfillment side of the project: test incoming parts, manufacture new parts, assembly and packaging.
3.) Built in several extra months into the estimated delivery date for manufacturing.
Like with many hardware projects, there is a possibility that the product may break during usage. To avoid that, we have:
1.) Enhanced the construction materials so our robot is extremely durable. Sparki is built out of ABS, the same material used in Legos. Sparki’s motors are designed for industrial applications under extreme conditions. We have also done extensive stress and durability testing. We have run this robot for hundreds of hours without failure, extensively drop tested it, and best of all, let small children play with it.
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