Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Wearable Jewellery You Can Code - JewelBots Review


JewelBots is a wearable friendship bracelet which you can code to send secret messages to your friends and do other cool things. Jewelbots is specifically targeted at girls, but the design will be appealing to boys too.

We've received 2 Jewelbots to play around with at home. In this post, we'll give you our first impressions review of the device. We'll definitely be exploring them in more detail, so come back soon for our projects with Jewelbots.

Disclaimer: Jewelbot sent us 2 wearable devices to try at home. Our views and opinions are always our own.


Unboxing

One Jewelbot pack comes with a programmable device, USB charging cable, two canvas straps (orange & grey) and one charm. It comes in plastic shrinkwrap packaging, which is virtually impossible to open. Not a job for the kids! You'll definitely not be able to use the packaging as storage so we recommend getting a small box to keep everything together.


At Tech Age Kids, we promote good storage habits for your tech. It can be very frustrating if you want to start using a piece of tech and you can't find all the bits. Hopefully, with the Jewelbot, you'll be wearing it or it will be charging.

The bracelets that come in the pack are really good quality canvas straps that can be adjusted to fit a wide range of wrist sizes. As far as wearables go, I think it is a great size for kids and doesn't feel overly bulky on their arms.



The charm is a pale blue colour made with flexible plastic and really easy to fit onto the device. Jewelbot is hoping to make more straps and charms available to collect and swap. In the meantime, you could 3D print their Robot Charm, which got the top vote during their Kickstarter campaign.

Jewelbot is available to purchase online.

Friendship Bracelet and Girls Coding


Jewelbots is a modern twist on the age-old practice of friendship bracelet. The idea is that kids can collect and swap straps and charms, as well as code secret messages and connect with friends in a digital way.

Jewelbot was founded by Sara Chipps and Brooke Moreland, both women in the tech industry and passionate to get more girls into STEM fields. Chipps also co-founded Girl Develop It!, a national non-profit that has taught over 17,000 women how to build software.

Although Jewelbot is specifically designed with girls in mind, I'm really pleased to see they didn't choose typical "girly" colours. The bright orange and grey straps will be appealing to both boys and girls.

Getting Started

Before you can do anything you need to charge the Jewelbot. You'll need to remove the charm to access the port for the USB charger on the device. It takes about 2-3 hours to charge fully. The light will turn green when it is fully charged. A red light indicates it is charging. The battery should last for up to 10 hours if constantly on or used.

My 6-year-old and I wore them all day, sending messages to each other and they didn't run out of battery. Charge them overnight, so Jewelbot is ready to use the next day.



Next, update the Jewelbot firmware. As non-techie type, I was a bit nervous to do this, but the instructions are really good and I had no trouble updating the firmware. I used a Windows 10 PC and had to download the Arduino IDE application. You'll find everything you need in the Jewelbot support pages.

The device is Bluetooth enabled but doesn't connect to wireless connections or have GPS. Therefore Jewelbots can't be used to keep track of your kids whereabouts or be used as a pedometer. There's not currently an operational app created for the Jewelbots.

Out of the Box Experience: Pair with a Friend


Jewelbots come with an out of the box experience by pairing two devices and sending secret messages to each other. My kids absolutely loved this feature (*cough* they are boys, aged 6 & 8)

I worked through the Jewelbot pairing tutorial with my 8-year-old. There are videos and simple instructions to work you through the process. It worked! You have to use the Arduino IDE application, which is a little complicated for him to use independently.

If you have more devices you can pair with up to 4 friendship groups (choice of 4 colours) but Jewelbots can only pair 2 at a time. That means 3 friends can be connected to send messages. You also need to be within 2 feet of each other to pair the Jewelbots.

Once paired your Jewelbots will detect a paired device within 30 - 50 feet (10 - 15 metres). When you move out of range your device will "turn off". When a friend moves into range, your Jewelbot will light up with their friendship colour.

Message a Friend


Now you are ready to send a message. This is done by sending short and long button presses from one device which is received as short and long vibrations by the paired Jewelbots in a particular friendship colour.

So how do you send the message?

It's really easy. Make sure your Jewelbot is on (and you are paired with a friend)

  • Press the button once and you'll see the LEDs cycling. We only saw blue, as this was the colour my kids choose to pair with each other. 
  • Press the button again and you'll see a single LED light up in that colour (ours was blue). 
  • Now press the button in your chosen pattern of short and long button presses to send your message. (don't take too long to start the message as it will go back to start of the messaging mode)
  • Your friend should now receive the message as vibrations on their device.
You can make up to 16 buzzes of either longs or shorts.

We thought it would be cool to sent Morse Code messages. Thankfully someone has already written a programme for that - Morse Code Library. This is not an out of the box feature, so you'll have to get into coding the Jewelbot to send morse code.

Magic Button Code


There is no screen with the Jewelbots, so it's useful to know how the button works to put the device on and off and scroll through modes.

  • Single press = Jewelbot ON (rainbow animation)
  • Another single press = Messaging Mode (cycling friendship colours)
  • Hold button for 2 full seconds = Pairing Mode
  • Hold button for 5 full seconds = Jewelbot OFF (rainbow animation & fade)
  • Hold button for 2 full seconds whilst plugged into computer = Upload Mode
You can also code the Magic Button, see below.

Coding Jewelbot


Jewelbot is a programmable device which allows you to code LEDs, a buzzer and button. It uses the Ardunio IDE application to programme in a C-like language.

Make sure you have followed all the steps in the "Coding" section of Jewelbot How To before you attempt to start coding your Jewelbot. Your firmware needs to be updated first. Also, make sure you select the right board - JWBnRF... board from your Tools -> Boards menu.


There is a sample code available, which you can copy and paste into a new Sketch (programme in Arduino IDE) to test if everything is working. Once uploaded successfully, unplug your Jewelbot and it should show up a green LED in the SE corner.

Now you are ready to start coding your Jewelbot. See the documentation on how to code each of the elements:
After watching Trolls recently, we got an exciting idea of a little project which we will share with you soon. :) Don't forget to sign up to our mailing list to keep in touch.

Age Recommendation


Jewelbot is recommended for ages 8 - 14 and we feel that is about right with a few comments. Firstly younger kids (like my 6-year-old) would love wearing the Jewelbot, but coding it would probably be out of their reach unless Jewelbots come up with a Blockly based coding environment a bit like the Mover Kit from Technology Will Save Us. *wink, wink*

Text based coding can be frustrating for kids, as they are prone to make typos and spelling mistakes. The fact that you need to code Jewelbot in the Arduino IDE environment could be offputting to some, but on the other hand be a challenge for others. We've taken the challenge, and although my 8-year-old can't really code the Jewelbot, we're learning a new skill together.

The upper end of the age range may find it really tiresome to use a simple device to communicate with friends if they have access to a mobile with numerous messaging apps to their disposal.

We think Jewelbots would be great for ages 6 - 11, with a graphical coding platform and reach kids that don't yet have access to mobile phones to message friends.

The coding element, however, makes it an appealing challenge for older kids.

Community, Maker Camps and Magazine


Jewelbot has an active and growing community of young coders. You can share your projects and chat about your experiences on the Jewelbot forum.

They also have a new Jewelbots 'Zine monthly subscription magazine for tweens and teen girls. The content includes project ideas, discussion about technology and STEAM topics and features of inspiring female role models.

If you happen to be in New York you can also join their Maker Camp as a way to introduce 8 - 14 year olds to coding and digital making.

Verdict


At first, I wasn't too sure about the Jewelbots, but the more I look into it, the more excited I get. Coding wise it is a bit of a leap for a beginner, but there is a lot of good tutorials and support to help along the way.

As a wearable, it is a great size and there are enough features to code something fun. Jewelbots will make a perfect fashion accessory for a school disco or evening party with its light up LEDs.

It's best to use with friends, so we'd definitely recommend corroborating with other families to buy more than one device (there are significant discounts available for multiple devices!)

Jewelbot is a great maker device, which encourages kids to explore with tech, create, learn new skills and then have something physical to show for it.

Jewelbot is only at the start of their journey and we look forward to seeing how they develop.

Jewelbot is available to purchase online.




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