Getting Into Robotics, Electronics Was Never This Easy

I have the privilege of organizing the sessions every month at the Melbourne Raspberry Pi Makers Group (MRPMG) which we have been running for the last 6+ years with the support of our dedicated group of volunteer elves. You can learn more about the Melbourne Raspberry Pi Makers Group (MRPMG) at the following website – I put my hand up and offered to run a session at the last MRPMG meetup which was conducted at the Docklands Library Makerspace. I ended up giving a presentation themed around getting kids of all ages into robotics, electronics. This post covers off some of the background around that presentation.

Learning from Coderdojo Altona North : In addition to running the Melbourne Raspberry Pi Makers Group (MRPMG), I also have the privilege to run weekly sessions at CoderDojo Altona North, a codeclub for kids here in the west of Melbourne (Australia). CoderDojo Altona North is a volunteer codeclub, has been running for the last 6+ years and is free for families/kids to attend. As a STEM educator running weekly sessions for kids/families at the club one of the biggest challenges has been finding an easy enough approach to get our young kids started with robotics without burning a hole in our (both parents, myself) pocket.

Just so that we are clear what i mean by young kids, our kids at CoderDojo Altona North are between 7 – 17. Most kids who join the club are between 7-10. Over the years we have developed a robust STEM learning roadmap for our kids, which introduces our really young STEM kids to the basics through platforms like Scratch, BBC micro:bit, MakeCode, etc. After the child has spent a couple of years with us they have built a strong foundation picking up essential skills like – logical thinking, computational thinking, problem solving, learning from failure, iterating quickly, etc. in addition to actually building a really solid foundation of the various block based programming techniques in use. These kids have worked through the basics over the first couple of years and have built the foundation to take on more complex electronics and robotics challenges. So you would think what’s the big deal getting these kids started with robotics, if they have the relevant background, experience, understanding and willingness to take on new challenges?

The biggest challenge is finding a suitable learning platform where the learning curve isn’t too steep, utilizes a hardware platform that is not too expensive and leverages software that isn’t proprietary or commercial in nature. Finding a solution that addresses all of those dimensions has usually been really hard, if not impossible. For advanced used this is not such a major issue.

OTTO DIY Biped Robot to the Rescue – The Otto DIY Biped robot is a project that has been popularized by Camilloa Parra and his team at Camillo and his team have been developing easy to assemble kits for the OTTO DIY robot, including the software required to program these robots. You can head over to the OTTO DIY Robot website to learn more about the work Camillo Parra is doing, including where you might be able to pickup on of the Otto DIY Biped robot kits. The Otto DIY Biped robot has evolved into a large ecosystem over the years, now offers around a half a dozen different variations to the basics Otto DIY Biped robot, so there’s always another technical challenge you can sink your teeth into. Camillo and his team at have managed to develop an easy to use block based programming interface for the Otto DIY Biped robot based on the Google Blockly project, while also supporting use of the Arduino IDE for more advanced users.

The Otto DIY Biped robot project has matured over the years, the ecosystem has grown tremendously with a number of different variants available for purchase through the website, still remaining quite affordable from a commercial standpoint. As a volunteer STEM educator who very little (to none) funding to run our weekly classes, it’s hard to justify investing large sums in purchase of commercial STEM platforms. The OTTO DIY Biped robot opensources most of the robot’s designs under the Creative Commons (CC) opensource license. Also, most of the commercial STEM learning platforms we’ve seen over the years come along with their own custom programming app, based on a custom hardware platform and utilize their own custom block based programming interfaces. All of this makes it very hard if not impossible to standardize learning, around an affordable platform for the longer term.

This is where Otto DIY Biped robot based on the Arduino platform and offering the use of either blockly or the Arduino IDE for programming comes to the rescue. The Otto DIY Biped platform as it currently stands allows you to offer kids of ages an introduction to robotics, electronics using affordable off the shelf components, based on am open platform, using powerful well known programming languages.

What’s in the presentation – Unfortunately the presentation wasn’t recorded, so there’s no video available for me to share with you. However what i can give you is a link to the slides that i used for the presentation. Here’s a summary of what i cover off within the presentation –

  1. There’s so many options, what’s best for me
  2. What is the OTTO Biped robot
  3. Why get started with the OTTO Biped robot
  4. How do I program the OTTO Biped robot
  5. What learning challenges does it offer
  6. Lessons learned at CoderDojo Altona North
  7. What resources are available to help me get started

The presentation is relatively short, with a number of key learning resources provided on the last slide. Have a read through the deck and circle back if you have any questions. Always happy to answer them and point you in the right direction. Access the presentation through the following link – “Getting Into Robotics, Electronics was never this easy”.

Where next – I am the first one to admit that there is no one size that fits everyone, and that is precisely the reason why the Otto DIY Biped ecosystem is such a great place to start. There’s something for everyone, at different levels of complexities, with different price points. So if you are looking for a open, affordable platform to get kids of all ages started with robotics, electronics you should definitely consider having a look at the Otto DIY Biped educational robotics platform. You can head over to the OTTO DIY Robot website to learn more about the work Camillo Parra is doing, including where you might be able to pickup on of the Otto DIY Biped robot kits. Head over the for free learning material on the Otto DIY Biped robot.

Feel free to reach out to me over email at trevor at hack2 dot live.

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