[Edu-sig] Inexpensive robot teaching platforms

Vern Ceder vceder at gmail.com
Fri Jun 24 07:16:13 CEST 2011

Hi Blake,

On Thu, Jun 23, 2011 at 10:40 PM, Blake Elias <blakeelias at gmail.com> wrote:

> My high school competes in the FIRST Robotics Competition.  Every year
> we have to teach new members basic robotics and programming concepts,
> to get them excited and prepared for the heat of competition.  Those
> who have the patience stay with it and have a great time, but we
> always lose a bunch of people partly because the lessons are not very
> interesting or useful.  I believe the solution is to teach with small
> robots, instead of just writing on the board and doing "hello
> world"-type programs.

That was exactly the same conclusion we came to, although at our school the
competition uses Vexx components and is designed by local engineers. And
we've had some success following the approach you suggest.

> Vern, I was very inspired by your PyCon talk on teaching programming
> with the Scribbler.  I know people have had success with it, it looks

I'm glad to hear that, I'm going to give essentially the same talk at ISTE
on Monday (thanks to the Python Software Foundation board for supporting
that trip financially!), and I'll report back if I get any interesting

like a great robot to teach with.  For our budget however, getting a
> bunch of these would be a stretch (I think the scribbler + fluke board
> combo costs $140 -- is this correct?).  You do need the Fluke board
> unless you want to program it in BASIC Stamp or their GUI, right?

You are pretty much right on all counts, except that the Scribbler/Fluke
combo is more like $180. Depending on numbers it still might be worth it to
work in teams of 2-4, although that does have its downside. The scribbler
isn't perfect, but it's pretty darned good for the cost.

Cheers and good luck (and by all means, keep us posted).


> I've seen some cheaper mini-robots but I'm not sure if they're any
> good.  Does anyone have suggestions?
> Thanks,
> Blake Elias
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Vern Ceder
vceder at gmail.com, vceder at dogsinmotion.com
The Quick Python Book, 2nd Ed - http://bit.ly/bRsWDW
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