Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Sparki the Programmable Educational Robot

Sparki is a new robot that has just launched a Kickstarter project to get funded. Sparki is an educational robot for teaching kids (and other beginners) about programming, electronics and robotics.

The robot has lots of sensors and outputs. It can move around, draw with a pen, detect motion, make noises, light up LEDs and lots more. It also has a 128x64 Graphic LCD display. There are various robotics kits on the market, LEGO Mindstorms being one of the best known. So what's different about Sparki?

Sparki has an open design. It uses popular Arduino hardware. Arduino is widely used by makers, hobbyists and engineers - Arduino boards were running many of the installations we saw on a recent science museum visit. So it is a useful technology to know about.

Sparki is intended to be an affordable but feature-packed robot to make robotics more accessible. The target age group is 11+, so middle school and up. But if they reach the stretch goal of $300k then there's a drag and drop programming interface in the pipeline which would mean elementary school kids could program the robot too.

You communicate with Sparki via USB or optionally Bluetooth. There's a stretch goal of an Android control app at $100k - that's a pretty important feature so I hope they get there.

The Bluetooth version of Sparki is $119 and is expected to ship in October 2013. You can compare with LEGO Mindstorms EV3 which has a $349 recommended retail price and is due to ship in the second half of 2013.

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