Cheap STEM Education Robot Project
The Runt Rover Range from Servo City are the perfect kits for STEM education, outreach clubs, and hands-on robotics demonstrations. In this blog we will give an example of a cheap way these kits could be used in schools and clubs.
These kits spark creativity and imagination. They are fun, affordable, durable and snap together quickly! They can also easily be expanded with the continually growing Actobotics line from ServoCity. The robotics chassis kits adapt just as well to use in a classroom environment as in a research lab by expert robotics engineers.
More about the kits
The Runt Rovers™ are educational robots with press-fit wheels and motors that come pre-wired so you can assemble the kits more easily. The chassis plates clip together quite simply, and they have special mounts for your electronic components. These inexpensive robotics chassis are ideal for workshops teaching robotics or STEM. You can transform the chassis by adding new parts, and attach the electronic modules of your choice to make them more responsive, more intelligent, more autonomous...
One STEM teacher using a Runt Rover said “I must say I was impressed with how sturdy it seemed to be. For a snap-together plastic kit, there’s not a lot of flex, and no wobble. Not that it would really need to, but I imagine it could take some punishment!”.
In schools it is important for resources to be re-usable year-on-year, the teacher then continued to say “I was sure I would destroy it trying to take it apart to reassemble. It popped free, I attached the gear motors, and popped the top back on. The thing is still amazingly rigid. I can't imagine it being better for the price.”
The Runt Rovers are a great educational opportunity, for budding roboticists of any age.
The Runt Rovers are compatible with a variety of micro-controllers; such as Raspberry Pi, Arduino, the SparkFun Redboard, and PICAXE. This makes them perfect for beginning lite programming and educational applications
The kits are mostly snap-together, only requiring a Phillips Head Screwdriver for assembly. However, Peewee kit is the smallest of the bunch weighing in at just under half a pound! There are no tools required to assemble this kit, it is entirely snap-together!
Runt Rovers™ are real educational robots, ideal not only for primary school pupils discovering programming, but also adults curious to try their hand at robotics at home.
Once you have assembled the robot, you will need to consider a micro controller. PICAXE make great microcontrollers, were originally designed as an educational system for schools, and are cheap and easy to use. They have different versions of their free software which allows beginners to use block programming, whilst your advanced students can jump straight into text programming. You may be more familiar teaching with programs from other microcontrollers, but if you’ve never programmed before and are on a budget this could be a great option.
The PICAXE microcontrollers are typically programmed from a windows app using a USB to serial adaptor cable.
Next, your kit will need to be autonomous: the robots will need to sense the world around them.
For this you could use some SR04 ultrasonic sensors. These are fairly accurate and easy to work with, whilst being VERY cheap. Mounting brackets are available, however for budget projects, we’ve also seen customers glue the sensors to craft sticks (lollipop sticks). They then attach heavy duty locking strips to the bottom, these are like velcro, but stronger.
Why not use your creation to build an obstacle course and have competitions to see which team’s bot can complete it in the quickest time, using avoidance commands.
After this you could change the code from avoid to engage and turn it into a sumo bot. have the teams build a body from cardboard and battle away!
Links to project parts: