Archive for the ‘Educational gadgets’ Category

Our Review of the Jimu Robot Tankbot from UBTECH

tankbotIn case you are wondering, this is a sequel review to our review of the Buzzbot and Muttbot. This is the same robot building kit from Jimu Robot from UBTECH, and you can read my review of that at the link, as well as my comparison to Lego.

The Tankbot is one of those robot kits where I am surprised that all the pieces that are in the kit are used, with only a few exceptions. Generally, the Lego collections allow for more than one creation. In the case of the Tankbot, what you see is the main thing that you can build, but you can build a lot with it.

Okay, I suppose that I should stop making Lego comparisons. Perhaps I can just get this other comparison out of the way and say that the Tankbot resembles a certain robot who was the star of a Pixar film. I mean, look at the colors of orange and black! I’ll spell it out for you: Tankbot is WALL-E.

The Tankbot is not able to crush garbage into little cubes, but he does have some cool tank treads. He can also reach out and grab things. My son and I tried it out and we found that he was quite adept at grabbing soda cans.

Like the Buzzbot/Muttbot, it comes with six servos, which are the small motors used to power certain things. In this case, it can operate both treads individually, which allows the Tankbot to turn on a dime with the remote control.

I have already talked about how the Jimu Robots use an Apple or Android device for Bluetooth wireless control in my last review, but there is something else that the Buzzbot/Muttbot doesn’t have. This has an infrared sensor that allows the Tankbot to pick up, detect, and maneuver objects around it. It is possible to program this, but I have to admit that I didn’t spend a lot of time doing this. My son seemed to take it on and was getting used to it in minutes.

Yes, this is one of those STEM toys that will educate kids as well as entertaining them. It is a toy that I will recommend, just like I will recommend the other models. You can get it for about $149.95.

As a holiday bonus, I have an unboxing video here with me and my son! This one addresses the Buzzbot/Muttbot, as well as the Tankbot.

Posted by on December 13th, 2016 No Comments

Our Review of the Jimu Robot BuzzBot and MuttBot Kit from UBTECH

Jimu Website Product Detail A NEWAs someone who has written a book about Lego Technic and Lego Mindstorms, I was very pleased to review the Jimu Robot Buzzbot and MuttBot Kit from UBTECH. There is going to be a lot of comparison made to Lego, but please keep in mind that the Jimu Robot kits are definitely their own thing. It’s like those people who think that Star Trek and Babylon 5 are the same, when they are very, very different.

Yeah, this is going to get really geeky, but in a very Maker way. I mentioned in my review on the Circuit Scribe how there is a great emphasis on STEM learning with building kits designed for young hands. I would say that UBTECH’s Jimu Robot kits would fall under that category.

The kit itself has the picture of what you see here, and I had a chance to make the MuttBot. On inspecting the pieces, I found that some of them looked like Lego Technic. I noticed a lot of beams with holes in them designed for connector pegs, and I understand if you might not know what I am talking about. Just so you know, the Jimu Robot parts are not compatible with anything Lego. I tried to fit them together, and the holes are smaller than that of Lego.

The box opened to reveal lots of interesting boxes in pastel colors marked with peculiar labels. The blue “Main Control Box” was set up with what I believe is the brain and heart of this, a small gray box with many ports. The “Recharging Power Adapter” was a plug-in that charged the gray box. Then I noticed the “Robotic Servo Motors” which had these motors on them that could spin, when properly powered.

The box of “Fasteners” really intrigued me as it contained wires as well as a small gray box with an on/off switch. The rest were these connector peg things that were very small and could easily get lost.

Then there were the other boxes that were full of non-technical parts. The “Character Parts” was so named because it will give the creation character. I think that is the best way to describe it. Now, the last box of “Connectors” had these parts that had these interesting slots on them for sliding parts into place, and this is what is difficult to describe.

Generally, most Lego kits come with detailed instruction booklets on how to build models. The Lego Mindstorms sets have to be downloaded as programs for your computer, but I didn’t see any option of viewing the instructions on my PC. I was able to download the app on my mobile device, and the Jimu robots app is good for Android and iOS.

I kind of wish that the instructions were available on my PC, so I could see them better. However, it was handy to have them on my touchscreen, where I could pinch to zoom and rotate the individual steps in three dimensions.

imag1657I got my son to help me, and things seemed to be going pretty smooth. We did have some problems with the connector wires, which looked like they would break easily if we unplugged them. I had to contact UBTECH to make certain that it was okay to yank them out. Needless to say, it was all right.

I also realized that we had to align the servos correctly, and they are marked to spin properly. You have to check it out for yourselves, and I like how it is marked. I also like how the servos are small motors that are smaller than what is on Lego Technic or Mindstorms.

We also had trouble on the instructions because some of the parts didn’t match exactly on the instructions. It did not affect the model or its functionality.

It took about two hours worth of work, but we had the MuttBot assembled. From there, I thought it was going to be frustrating getting it working, but it actually turned out to be quite simple. The application helped pair with my smartphone, and I was able to make the MuttBot walk and do all sorts of pre-programmed tricks.

My son also discovered that he could program the Servos so he could do all kinds of tricks. What is strange is when we programmed a servo to move, we could see it happen virtually on my mobile device.

I can see that there is a lot that we can do with these Jimu Robots, and I haven’t really discovered everything as yet. However, since this kit allows some kind of exploration, I will want to learn more.

Anyway, I am going to be reviewing another UBTECH robot kit next week, but I can’t get into that right now. I highly recommend getting a BuzzBot and MuttBot kit for yourself, at the Jimu robot site here.

Posted by on December 7th, 2016 No Comments

BlueBee Pals Leo the Lion, a Talking Educational Learning Tool

bluebee-petsIt seems like I am filled to the brim with reviewing educational toys, and this one is the Bluebee Pals. Before I get to the review, I would like to thank whoever sent it to me, because it came to my door without any warning. So here is our review of Leo the Lion.

I suppose that the best way that I can describe our Leo the Lion is just compare him to Teddy Ruxpin. Yeah, you probably saw that one coming, as this is how my wife described it when I showed it to her. If you are not familiar with Teddy Ruxpin, it was a Teddy Bear with a tape recorder on his back. When you put in specially made tapes, his lips would move with the dialogue.

Leo The Lion, as well as other animals in the Bluebee Pals collection, has the same basic ability. However, it is made for the age of smartphones and tablets, and it will sync via Bluetooth to any Apple or Android device. Not only will it read a story to your youngster, but he or she can see it acted out on the screen.

Some might find that a little weird, but people have been saying that since the days of … Teddy Ruxpin. Of course, no machine can take place of a parent, and if you need a reminder, the parent doesn’t say things like “remind to charge”. Yeah, you do need to charge this thing with the included USB Micro-charger cable.

You can get Leo the Lion on the Bluebee Pals site for $64.99. You can also find his friends Hudson the Puppy, Riley the Zebra, Parker the Monkey, and Sammy the Bear for the same price.

Posted by on December 7th, 2016 No Comments

Circuit Scribe Maker Kit Review

circuit-scribe-1One of the things that I enjoy about being a tech reviewer is that I often get to try out the most unique of products. The Circuit Scribe Maker Kit is definitely one of those items that is difficult to describe, but it could change a generation.

The closest thing that I could come up with is one of those circuit/science kits. I remember that my sister had this thing that had all kinds of projects, and you would wire things to other things, and yeah, I’m just not doing a good job of this.

Perhaps this is a better intro: the Circuit Scribe is made for Makers. Yes, I actually think this is the first time that I talked about Maker culture on this website, and it usually gets grouped with words like STEM and ways of learning about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics by doing and building.

circuit-scribe-2You can build a lot with this Maker Kit. The purpose the Maker Kit from Circuit Scribe is to teach kids (and adults) about building circuits. What is interesting is how you build them, it’s not like there is a green board or something. Instead, all you need is some paper and these modules.

Oh yes, you will also need a pen. This pen has some kind of ink that allows it to conduct electricity. There are about eleven modules and a 9 volt battery, and you can use the pen’s ink to connect them together.

You can learn a lot about LED lights, Switches, Transistors, and Resistance. If you don’t know what those are, and how those apply to electronics, this Maker Kit is for you. Yes, you can make a lot with this, and it is quite versatile with a buzzer, blinker, and all sorts of things.

If you want to learn as you build, head on over to the Circuit Scribe site and lay down about $79.99 on the Maker Kit. You should also check out what is available on the Circuit Scribe site and learn a lot more.

Posted by on December 7th, 2016 No Comments

Review of the Ozobot Bit

OzobotThe first time that I saw Ozobot, it was at CES. There was a table with these little things the size of little bugs oozing around on the table. All I could think about was how cute it was. The Ozobot movies through two micro-motors for some serious maneuverability.

As it is, the Ozobot Bit is one of those STEM toys. For those that don’t know, STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, and there are a lot of toys out there that I reviewed before like the LEGO Mindstorms and Makeblock Mbot.

The Ozobot Bit is one of those toys that you can code, because everyone knows that kids like to code. Okay, I might sound a little sarcastic there, but kids that are raised doing coding are definitely more ready for adulthood programming. In the case of Ozobot, it uses Google’s Blockly to create OzoBlockly which is a very simplified visual programming language similar to others like Scratch, Hopscotch, App Inventor, Tynker, and Tickle Apps.

So, you might think that you have to program this using some kind of cable or Bluetooth to program this. That is not the case, as you can load commands into the robot with flashing lights. You can teach it to follow paths along the table that you can make with magic marker, and it will follow whatever colors that you program it with.

What is interesting is that the Ozobot communicates back with blinking lights as well. It is possible to download free apps as well as build some custom maps, and play some games with people.

Okay, there is really no way that I can describe how much that you can do with this, so if you are interested in it, you can find out more about it here. The Ozobot 2.0 is available for about $59.95 on Amazon.

Posted by on August 27th, 2015 No Comments

Casio PRIZM fx-CG10 graphing calculator with full-color display

casio fx-cg10I find it hard to believe that I have reviewed very few calculators in my career as a tech reporter. If it were thirty years ago, the most advanced computer technology was the calculator. The last one was the Casio FX-9860GII Graphing Calculator, and this new PRIZM fx-CG10 has one stand-out feature: color.

Think about it. Most calculators that you have ever used are in black-and-white, even the cool graphing ones. Honestly, most people have calculators on our cell phones, but there is now a very cool calculator called the PRIZM fx-CG10 which takes it even greater than our modern-day smartphones.

That’s right, do not be fooled by the fact that it looks like a dumb-phone. I guarantee you that this is the coolest display that you will see, simply because you don’t expect to see something capable of 65,000 colors here.

So not only can it do all the usual math and hook up to the computer via USB, it has a Picture Plot, a feature to enable the user to plot a graph with a picture of something in the background.

All in all, it is kind of cool, and something like this can be a good stocking stuffer for the student on a Christmas list. It is pretty high-priced at $129.00, but it might be worth it. You can get it here.

Posted by on November 13th, 2013 1 Comment

MusicInk allows you to play a piece of paper

What you are seeing in this video is the MusicInk, an it is quite interesting. I highly suggest watching it so you can see something that is difficult to describe.

This is how it works. You can use the MusicInk to paint something, and then connect it to an Arduino Duemilanove board and Sparkfun MPR121 controller. After the MusicInk has dried, you can play it like notes. Seriously, you can play a paper like a piano, smack a certain spot like a drum, and strum a few bars.

In all honesty, I can only see this being used in one place: elementary school music lessons. Should I put MusicInk on my wallpaper?

Source

Posted by on October 14th, 2013 No Comments

Leap Frog presents the LeapReader Reading and Writing System

21301_LF01If you are familiar with Leap Frog, then you probably know it as a company that makes education electronic toys, usually with a green and white color scheme. I recently had a chance to try out the LeapReader, which isn’t really made for my age group, but for those learning to read.

The LeapReader would best be referred to as a smartpen. This isn’t one of those pens that you can write on a board, and then save it to your computer. This would be a pen that allows you to tap on a special book, and it will literally read to you.

There are over 150 plus books, workbooks, and audio books in the LeapReader library, and I would probably recommend it on a long trip. It even has a headphone jack so the adults don’t have to hear it. In addition to the “read to me” feature, the LeapReader also has a nifty feature of making a game of the book. For example, there is this one game that I played where you had to identify countries in Africa by placing the tip of the pen on the individual country. It is actually pretty tough, and I am an adult.

There are also workbooks that allow the young user to learn how to write letters by tracing them on a page. As I mentioned before, playing audiobooks is also possible, and the controls on the pen resemble that of an MP3 Player.

I honestly believe that the LeapReader could be more improved, but this is only because I see the potential of linking a computer with a pen. The pencil is one of the first tools that young people wield, so why not make it electronic, and able to teach.

You can purchase the LeapReader on the Leap Frog site for $49.99.

Posted by on August 19th, 2013 No Comments

VTech InnoTab 3, for kids!

Inno CaseIt seems like we live in an age where parents have tablets, and kids want to play on them more than adults want to work on them. Two weeks ago, Leap Frog unveiled the LeapPad Ultra, and it is a real trend to see tablets targeted for children.

VTech, makers of a lot of educational electronic toys, have unveiled the InnoTab 3. It has a 4.3 inch touchscreen display, 2GB of internal memory, micro SD memory slot, and a terrific camera feature. It has a 2-Megapixel with a 180 degree rotating camera with over 55 photo features and special effects.

In addition to these features, it has an e-book reader, MP3 music player, photo viewer, and video player. It also has a comprehensive app store known as the Learning Lodge. You should be able to get it for about $69.99.

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Posted by on July 9th, 2013 No Comments

Casio FX-9860GII Graphing Calculator

Casio imageIt seems like the best technology is the stuff that I wish I had as a child. I mean, there are great toys that I wished I had like the LeapPad Ultra, not to mention others like the Crayola Light Designer. I honestly wish I had Casio’s FX-9860GII calculator in high school, or even in college.

It isn’t often that I get to review a calculator, but I was pleased when Casio wanted me to review this one, presumably for back to school reasons. I believe that the back to school season doesn’t really begin until next month, but I got in early.

I can honestly say that there is a bit of a learning curve on this calculator, but only if you are an adult. I’m not certain what it says about adults when I have to essentially re-learn Algebra and Calculus just to use a calculator. I think it is hysterical that my son and daughter learn about Linear graphing, and this calculator can do it. So, if you want to know the intersection of x=3 and 2x-4, you can see the two lines on a graph that the answer is (7,10).

This thing is capable of doing a lot more, including connecting to a computer and even connecting unit to unit. I honestly think it would take me a bachelors degree in Mathematics to fully write about this, but this is because I would use it very well for four years of homework and tests. I hope you understand that last comment, because you can quote me on that.

So, if you want to get a heads-up on high school or college, you should go lay down $79.99 here on the Casio site.

Posted by on July 4th, 2013 No Comments