We’ve been seen some really interesting STEM (Science, Engineering, Technology, Engineering, Math) products being brought to the market through kickstarter these last few months. We thought it was time we looked at some of these STEM (Science, Engineering, Technology, Engineering, Math) learning products and see how appealing would these be for parents/kids who are interested in STEM (Science, Engineering, Technology, Engineering, Math) learning or even the hacker/enthusiast who is keen in diving into STEM or robotics in a much bigger way through coding, making, creating and extending the capabilities of the original product. While it’s impossible to talk about every market segment that exists out there, broadly speaking we have seen two different types of jobs folks are wanting to do with their STEM learning purchases.
Parent and child – When looking at a STEM (Science, Engineering, Technology, Engineering, Math) learning product from a parent and child’s perspective you are looking for a product which offers some of the following capability –
- Ease of use
- Excellent documentation
- Good product support
- Ability to engage the child, challenge them and keep the child busy for a significant period of time
- Help build foundational STEM (Science, Engineering, Technology, Engineering, Math) skills
- Development interface that is block based with a possible learning path leading to development using an IDE (Integrated Development Environment)
- Ability to be used in a class setting with multiple kids working on different aspects of the challenge
- Provide value for money
From a hacker’s point of view here’s some of the things I would be considering……..
Hacker and enthusiast –
- Good documentation
- Strong product support
- Ability to extend or build on existing STEM (Science, Engineering, Technology, Engineering, Math) skills
- Development interface based on a known or easy to use IDE (Integrated Development Environment)
- Ability to extend the product by adding additional capability or integrating the product with other products out there to create larger complex projects
- An open platform that allows the product to be easily extended and integrated with other 3rd party products or solutions to create larger complex projects
- Community around the product to be able to reach out for support, ideas, discussions, etc.
- Provide value for money
So both the parent/child and the hacker/enthusiast are looking at the same product from two different perspectives trying to get two different types of jobs done. With that at the back of our mind let’s have a look at a few different products being brought to the market through Kickstarter.
It should be noted that these are Kickstarter projects that are still in the process of being manufactured and haven’t hit the shelves yes. So there is always a degree of risk if you decide to back such projects.
Zümi (Zumi): Driving into The World of AI – Zümi is designed to be a friendly & approachable robot that makes the exciting world of artificial intelligence and self-driving cars accessible to everyone. Zümi happens to be an educational self-driving car kit designed to teach kids and hackers/enthusiasts concepts of artificial intelligence and self-driving car technology in a fun and engaging way. The vendor promoses step-by-step tutorials, which will allow the user to learn how to train the robot on navigating through a miniature map including navigating around objects on the track using vision. The robot is based on Tensor flow and OpenCV which are commonly used for pattern matching, object detection projects.
Here’s some of the features that will be built into the robot –
Zümi seems to tick both the boxes in terms of jobs to be done from a parent/child and hacker/enthusiast standpoint. Robolink the designers of Zümi suggest that the robot will come with tools to program using both block based programming options (for kids starting out with their STEM learning) and the more complex text based programming options for hackers/enthusiasts keen on building upon their existing STEM skills keen to dive into the world of AI.
Have a look at the Zümi technical specifications above and you’ll realize that the robot is based on the Raspberry Pi Zero board. It does come along with a camera, Gyrometer, Accelerometer, Buzzer, OLED display and 6 IR sensors. However my concern is with the main Raspberry Pi Zero board. Having used the Raspberry Pi extensively i would be concerned about how powerful the board is to perform OpenCV and Tensorflow image processing and pattern matching. Am sure Robolink is trying to hit a price point with the product and it’s possible they might be considering a more powerful version of the product at a later stage….but who knows.
Check out the project on KickStarter – Zümi (Zumi): Driving into The World of AI
Sphero RVR – The go anywhere, do anything programmable robot – The Sphero RVR is being positioned as a robot that you can ……Drive, program, and customize out of the box. Make, build, and expand with 3rd party hardware. The guys at Sphero are at it again. Sphero has been in the business of making robots for the last 8+ years. Their robots are the more mainstream ones made for those who want to get a taste of STEM and get an introduction to robotics. Sphero robots have been very popular with libraries and schools who have been keen to get kids introduces to STEM. The serious hackers have mostly stayed away from these robots but that might change with the introduction of the Sphero RVR.
Here’s how Sphero introduces their RVR, ” RVR is more than just a fun, programmable robot – it’s also highly customizable. We’ve added some incredible features that open up a world of possibilities for hackers, educators, students, technical hobbyists and anyone else ready to take it to the next level. With our universal expansion port and onboard power, you can attach and run third-party hardware like a Raspberry Pi, BBC micro:bit, or Arduino.”
The Sphero RVR is a robot that comes pre-assembled allowing you to focus on coding and making amazing projects with it. The Sphero RVR is probably to going to appeal to those audiences who are keen to learn more about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) and dive deeper into robotics but don’t really want to go about building their robot from scratch using one of the off the shelf Arduino, Raspberry or BBC micro:bit based robotics kits. Off the shelf robotics platforms based on the Arduino, Raspberry Pi or the BBC micro:bit are generally known to offer greater flexibility, bigger learning opportunity since you are able to hack the hardware and software to create what you want but all of that comes at a higher cost i.e. skills required to dive into robotics and the time required to get your robotics project up and running.
It will be interesting to see which part of the market Sphero RVR ends up capturing and what the hacker community has to say about it. Personally am keen to see the integration the Sphero RVR is going to offer with Arduino, Raspberry Pi and the BBC micro:bit.
Hopefully you have enjoyed the post. If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for future tutorials drop us a note at – learning at hack2 dot live.
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