Review: Bee-bot

Bee-Bot

Robot Basics: What is it?

A simple robot that teaches coding and sequences for children as young as 3

  • What’s in the Box?  the Bee-bot and a charging cord.We also ordered the sequential cards.
  • How Much?   the website says $89.95 according to the website. The cards were another $24.95
  • Age Range?  Ages 3 and up
  • How Did We Acquire it?  Grant funds through ILEAD-USA
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Review: Cubelets

Cubelets, Programs, Reviews

Robot Basics:

  • What is it?

Cubelets are a modular robotics teaching tool and toy from the aptly named Modular Robotics. Color coded, cube shaped pieces attach to one another with magnets, enabling the user to quickly and easily build a variety of robots.

Cubelets KT06

  • What’s in the Box?

The KT06 kit contains 2 rechargeable batteries, several “recipe” cards, a battery charging setup, and the following 6 cubes:

2 action cubes: drive and light

2 sensing cubes: brightness and distance

2 thinking cubes: power and passive

  • How Much?

This kit retails for $159.95

  • Age Range?

Cubelets are recommended for ages 4 and up. I had success engaging kids as young as four and as old as 8th grade, though the length of engagement varies.

  • How Did We Acquire it?

We purchased it at full price with funds from our ILEAD USA grant. (Per their website, Modular Robotics does not offer discounts to educators or other groups.)

Ideas for Use

This set of Cubelets is a great tool for teaching the basic concepts of robotics to individuals or small groups. Specifically, this tool helps explain that a robot is a device that senses something and then responds to it in a pre-programmed way. It also demonstrates the specificity required in robotics: placement and orientation of the cubes matters, and the creation will act differently based on the arrangement of the pieces.

Time Involved

Charge up the batteries for a few hours and you’re good to go. There’s no additional prep time needed.

One-time or Recurring Program

While younger kids could have fun with Cubelets a number of times, the kit we purchased is limited in scope, so I wouldn’t count on engaging the same group with the same six cubes more that a few times. There’s little opportunity to build on the concepts presented without investing in more cubes.

That said, the cubes are extremely durable and nicely sized for small hands. In this way, they could be a standard introductory activity for any program that aims to build on these concepts. Also, they are just plain fun! Because they go together so quickly with such obvious visual results, they engage users young and old from the get-go. I took them to entice folks to visit the library’s table at the middle school registration night, and I had everyone from preschool aged siblings to “been there, done that” incoming 8th graders, to curious parents stopping by to make a Fraidy-Bot that runs away from you, or the inverse: a robot that follows your hand. There is a really appealing immediate gratification factor with Cubelets.

Extension Activities

This is a great tool to use as part of the explanatory process of a more complex robotics unit. There is a lot of potential for extension with the Cubelets themselves, but there are costs associated with them.

For an additional $14.95 we could purchase a brick adaptor, which would allow the Cubelets to be used with LEGO. For an additional $48.95 we could purchase a Bluetooth 2.0 cube, which would allow the Cubelets to interface with iOs or Android devices. For a lot more money, you could buy individual cubes that do all kinds of things, or an educator pack of multiple cubes to use in a larger group.

Skills You Need

None, really.

Other Tools You Need

A flathead screwdriver. I hear that newer versions of Cubelets include a redesigned battery compartment lid. In the version that I used, the screw holding the lid on was maddeningly shaped, small and shallow. I ended up needing to use a paint scraper because none of the screwdrivers in our amply stocked home toolchest were working and I feared stripping the screw.

Good Stuff

This is excellent for beginners or librarians who are leery of delving into robotics because it seems intimidating. There is nothing intimidating about Cubelets (now that they’ve fixed a poorly designed battery compartment) because nothing is permanent, nothing is fragile, everything you do is going to result in some action you can talk about, and the immediate gratification of the tool is really fun.

Frustrations

See above for my main frustration: the stupid battery compartment (which, as I said, has been remedied in newer releases).

Ultimately though, my frustration comes in the price. It’s a fairly pricy device with fairly limited implementation. Six cubes , which includes just one power cube, means that it’s really only a usable device for demonstration purposes or very small groups — I would say no more than two young kids or three older ones who can sit on their hands and be a little more patient while waiting their turn.  Additional cubes can be purchased, but it’s a pretty hefty investment for a teaching device in a library setting.

Ending Thoughts/Observations

I’m glad I had a chance to use the Cubelets. I think the kids and teens who got to play with them really enjoyed them too. The price, as I said, is high for a tool that you might hope to use on an ongoing basis. However, it’s a pretty reasonable investment if you work in a setting while you might want to repeatedly introduce basic robotics concepts to a wide age range. My teen program doesn’t really work this way — I have a smallish club type group. For these kids, Cubelets was really a one shot program. If you have the funds, it’s a wonderfully simple way to explore. If you have a medium to large group and limited funds, it’s not my top pick.

Overall Rating:

Results may vary

Review: LEGO WeDo

LEGO WeDo, Programs, Reviews

Robot Basics:

  • What is it?  Lego Wedo uses Lego bricks, electronic elements, and computer programming to teach simple robotics
  • What’s in the Box?  as noted on the Lego Education website: the set contains more than 150 elements, including a motor, motion and tilt sensors, and the LEGO USB Hub. 
  • How Much?  $129.95
  • Age Range?  ages 7  and up   It’s more than building a lego, it’s also programming the robot
  • How Did We Acquire it?  ILEAD USA grant

    Ideas for Use

One of the options for the Wedo is to buy software and program guides ($89.95US). These give ideas on various projects and programming.

Time Involved

As long as it takes to put Legos together and programming the robot.

One-time or Recurring Program

Recurring.  Because it Lego, the skies the limit with things that can be made. The software provides a chance to learn how the different motors and sensors.

Extension Activities

The program guide includes information about the various projects and includes a tutorial on motors and sensors. I wish I had looked at it.

Skills You Need

Lego mad skills are important.  Understanding the sensors and how they work in relation to the lego structure you’re building.

Other Tools You Need

  • Good Stuff  I personally don’t have mad Lego skills, but the kids I worked with did.  No problems there.
  • Frustrations — There are a few:
  • You need a computer for every structure.  We only had one and had to take turns.  The kicking foot could try and make a goal, but the goalie couldn’t defend himself at the same time.  We’ll need more computers to make this work.  Lego Wedo seems to work with Chromebook… I used a MacPro.
    • Before I had my program, I made two different robots. I knew how to program those two robots rather successfully.  But during the test kitchen, we had problems with the robots the testers made. The alligator didn’t snap.  The monkey played the drum though, so that was great.
  • Ending Thoughts/Observations This is good stuff.  I would get the software, if only to for the person handling the program.  Understanding how the various elements work will help working with kids.  Having computers for each person is almost a must. With computers for each robot, the sky really is the limit. Limited by imagination.
  • Overall Rating:  If you are already doing a Lego program in your library, you should be looking at Wedo.