Educational platforms for building robots are gaining momentum in schools, universities and at home. This is a new way to get positive results in robotics and share information between teachers and students through specialized online platforms. Nowadays open-source platforms are available for beginner students and for seasoned robotics engineers as well. The aim of these platforms is to provide a variety of tools to create all kinds of devices and even robots, to familiarize young students with concepts and principles.
These platforms could work as educational or complementary tools used at home or in academic environments to test, innovate and shape ideas. Using these tools is an opportunity for anyone to learn about working with embedded devices, mechanical and electrical systems, and even programming artificial intelligence into their creations. Most of the platforms we are focusing on today, come with modular structures which allow addition of new hardware and parts, offering various degrees of versatility.
01. Fischer Technik
Fischer Technik is a German base company with a long list of educational tools used in robotics. From junior user to high level user these platforms could be used as compact modules and are available in different versions. Version includes Jumbo Starter kit for junior members to an assembly line training model kit used in industry.
02. AL5D Robotic Arm Kit with RIOS
AL5D Robotic Arm is a perfect tool to start learning about how it works and how a robotic arm can be programmed. It could be used to program repeatable movements for a fast and accurate arm. The kit includes an optional wrist with 4 DOF and a maximum median reach of 10.25 inch, a functional gripper with a lift capacity of 360 grams (13 oz), an aluminum frame, and several different software control options.
03. ELEV-8 Quadcopter Kit
ELEV-8 is designed for those who want to work with robotic flying machines and also to program or add/modify custom parts. The quadcopter is a stable platform for indoor or outdoor use which doesn’t use wings, the control works by varying the speed of each motor. The package kit contain a modular frame, hardware parts, motors, speed controller, propellers and the control board for flight stabilization.
Controlling propellers and not legs is a new way to fly through robotic projects with a proper view from the sky.
04. BOE-Bot Robot Kit
BOE-Bot is a wheeled mobile platform with PBASIC 2.5 source code support. This is a perfect tool for those who want to do the first step in robot programming starting with basic movement and proceeding to sensor-based projects. Also the platform could be customized for different projects. It has an aluminum chassis and a lot of mounting holes for additional parts.
BOE-Bot has integrated a BASIC Stamp microcontroller which is ideal for applications that don’t require high speed capacity. The kit includes wires, resistors, capacitors, photoresistors, bumpers, infrared sensors, and whisker touch-sensor kit.
05. Thymio II
Thymio II is based on the first platform generation Thymio which is one of the most used wheeled platforms in education. This new version has new and improved functionality including a wide sensors range, new respond feature, and a programming environment based on Aseba which is known as a professional and user-friendly tool.
From accelerometers, temperature sensors and to 39 LED sensitive to the interaction, Thymio II is a complete platform which could be used from entry to high level programmers for learning or to make experiments.
Designed by Carnegie Mellon University’s Tekkotsu Lab to be used for advanced users, Calliope is a Tekkotsu-based robot with an Asus Eee PC 1000-series netbook attached on a iRobot Create 4400 robot. It is a Linux based robot with an USB-serial port for connection. The platform is open-source and is available for researches to create new and advanced wheeled mobile robots.
ATOMS is designed to be used by kids to develop building skills from a magic wand to a monster. It could be used as a programming platform and in the same time to build custom robots. It has a modular platform with intuitive building blocks, similar to LEGO. It could be connected with an iPhone, iPod touch or iPad for control. The platform has integrated a motor, light sensor, sound module, knob module, battery brick, splitter, IR “laser”, IR target, LED, Flip Flop, accelerometer, exploding brick, and iPhone control brick. It will take only five minutes from unboxing and until the first application.
EDDIE is a star among wheeled mobile platforms due to its compatibility with Microsoft Robotics Developer Studio. It’s a platform designed for high-level programmers which try to experiment and innovate more and more robotics applications. It’s a powerful robotic platform with a large sensor range integrated and with 3D vision including Kinect technology. The control could work via wireless technology and any user could modify the open-source command interface. Eddie can be transformed into a real intelligent robot by adding a series of accessories including sensors, modules, or components.
09. 4WD Mecanum wheel mobile robot kit
This 4WD robotic open-source kit could be used to develop service or industrial robots for both entry and high level. The body is from aluminium alloy and is rotation capable in any direction due to its special wheels. To change the direction is necessary to varying the speed and rotation of wheels. There are a lot of parts including 4 ultrasonic sensors, and Arduino 238 controller, Arduino IO expansion, or a 12V Ni-Mh Battery.
As name says, MULTIPLO is an open-source robotic kit used to build and program a lot of robots. For programming the platform is C/C++ compatible and all parts can be combined to create the desired robot. For adding new parts the company encourages to create parts with a 3D printer or using laser technology to cut them from a specific material.
11. LEGO Mindstorms
LEGO uses its expertise in developing toys to produce robotic kits used by beginners and advanced users. LEGO Mindstorms is a robotic kit platform designed to be used by young students in classrooms together with a teacher. Education is a modular platform where could be added new robotic parts including sensors or grippers.
12. PhantomX AX Hexapod
Is not so easy to control two robotic legs, but this might be the easiest task compared with PhantomX AX which has six legs. Each leg has 3 DOF and comes with already six different walking styles. The platform is Arduino compatible and fully customizable by adding arms, grippers, cameras, pan/tilt heads, etc. All 18 DYNAMIXEL type servos could be controlled step by step to put in motion all the six legs. The software is open-source and allows any user to write lines of code to generate as many cases in which the platform can be used. The hexapod comes with a program called NUKE (Nearly Universal Kinematics Engine) which is used to change the configuration into a hexapod, quadropod, or bipedal robot.
JACO is a 6 DOF robotic arm designed to be used for service or industrial robotics research. Reaching a new generation, the arm is lightweight using carbon fiber structure. It weights 5 kg and could pick-up a weight up to 1.5 kg. The griper has three flexible fingers and each of these is individually controlled. Using a GUI based application the arm could be controlled in three different modes: translate, rotate, and grip. For programmers there are available APIs to modify parameters and integrate the robot in applications.
iCub is not just an open source cognitive humanoid robotic platform for research, it is one of the most advanced humanoid robots able to recognize and handle objects. This is the result of 20 worldwide laboratories which work together to create one of the most advanced human-like robot. Using only metal and plastic the researches created the one meter high intelligent machine using its limbs and senses to understand the environment. Is not a child, but thinks like a child and interacts with objects just as such.
Using teflon-coated tubes iCub has flexible arms, legs, and fingers. Each finger could be controlled independently and has attached touch sensors which work as a human hand skin. New algorithms could be written in C++ language which is the base programming language.
15. NimbRo OP
NimboRo OP is a humanoid open-source platform designed by University of Bonn to be used in soccer games. It has a light-weight carbon composite and aluminum structure and measures 95 cm height. Its flexibility is ensured by 20 actuators which are divided for his arm, legs, and neck. The software is based on the same software used by DARwIn-OP, both are Linux based. The platform is used for advanced research in humanoid robots.
DARwIn-OP is another open-source humanoid platform with dynamic motion ability and a long list of sensors integrated. The platform could be used for deep researches for human like robots, and to create a more friendly environment the structure can be adjusted with components. The flexibility is ensured by 20 actuator modules with 6 DOF for each leg, 3 DOF for each arm, and 2 DOF for neck.
17. Paging Raven II
Paging Raven II is a special open-source robot developed by UC Santa Cruz in collaboration with University of Washington and used for surgery. Based on the same idea as daVinci Surgical System which is widely used for surgeries and not portable, Raven II is a Linux-based robot which could be used for collaborative experiments. For control an online telesurgery interface is used where the user controls two robot arms and a camera.