TinkerBots kit is better than anything was designed until now for a new generation of kids that will be prepared to become superior engineers, a preparation that start by playing with robotic toys. I could go further and say that the Kinematics blocks is a toy for both kids and adults, it could be an alternative to Lego Mindstorms or an additional system to this if you already use any of the Mindstorms series.
The modular system allows the users to be creative and build a wide range of robotic toys, and at the same time encourage anyone to learn about electronics and programming. Based on the plug and play method of building, the Berlin started company focused on simplicity to design the kit and the result is a modular system with no wiring and programmable only is the user want.
The kinematic blocks can be connected without cables and built interactive robots with ability to mimic the movement of a snake, a dog, a car, etc.
The kit is engineered with an intuitive construction system and in the blocks were integrated sensors, actuators, and many more components for communication or for autonomous control. With so many mixed fields such as mechanics, electronics and programming, the Kinematic Blocks are a powerful tool for entertainment and as a teaching tool.
There are many reasons to use this modular kit, but one of them caught my attention in a special way. The Kinematics kit is compatible with Lego bricks and you’re free to add Lego bricks using an adaptor block.
Using regular Lego brick you can build TinkerBots robots able to twist and snap, as well as robots that use wheels and motors.
Each robot is based on a red cube that is the power block. The red cube is also equipped with a battery, an Arduino compatible microcontroller, a set of sensors such as a gyroscope and accelerometer, and for connectivity is embedded a Bluetooth 4.0 module.
And because with these features the red block can’t do all, the modular system allows you to integrate a wide range of sensors in the robot for a long list of applications such as light detection or distance measurement.
How to control the TinkerBots
There are three ways to control the TinkerBots:
- Record and Play;
- Remote Control;
- Program and Play;
Record and play is the simplest and easiest way to control these robots. All you have to do is to repeat the movement by manual actions that are recorded in the memory of the robot. Using the record mode of the ‘brain’ block, the robot is able to repeat the movements when you hit play.
Remote control is the second method to control these robots, and include the use of a smartphone or a tablet able to run the Tinkerbots app that is connected via Bluetooth technology to the robot.
The third method of controlling is to use the C programming skills on the Arduino-compatible microcontroller, but only for advanced robots where will be available additional robot parts such as an infrared sensor.
Red block technical specifications
The red block host sensors, battery, the microcontroller, a speaker, LED, control buttons, and the Bluetooth module to communicate with the application for control and for firmware update. The battery is recharged via USB charger. The same USB port is used for programming.
- Battery: 2 cell lithium polymer battery (7.2V, 800mAh);
- App control and firmware update: Bluetooth 4.0;
- Feedback: speaker, LED;
- Control: buttons;
- Sensors: build in 3 axis accelerometer & gyroscope;
Additional Kits and Components
The kit can be improved with additional modules and passive components to offer extended design possibilities for kinematics applications. All these additional kits are grouped in different themes including here topics such as renewable energies, bionics, or sensor technology. To give you an idea about these special components, the additional kits include solar panels, grabbing tools, steering wheels, tooth belts or different sensor modules.
The TinkerBots kit is a limitless resource to build a wide range of applications including construct models based on bionics, and up to autonomous vehicles. The Lego compatibility is another turning point for the kinematic kit that can be improved with new functionalities and a lot of Lego components.
As examples, I can include the robot dog, the ant, the snake, the excavator, or the industrial arm.
Hopefully available in December 2014, the TinkerBots kit is priced at $159 for the basic version, while the richest version can have a wonderful price of up to $400.