Tiny robot for EdTech.

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This is a Tiny programmable Robot with BLE, distance sensor, microphone, buzzer and a led. My goals for it are many:

1. EdTech: I was inspired by watching kids interact at an ADHD camp around a common toy. I would like this robot to facilitate interaction and teach social skills.

2. Arduino: A simplified interface so more people could try robotics and see what it is about.

3. Robot hobbyist, and aspiring robot hobbyist: The cpu is an ARM Cortex-M4F Bluetooth robot platform. I will make it open and documented, so you can level-up (think Goku in Dragon Ball-Z) and become a super powered engineer. Lots of iOS and Android possible as well.

4. Multiple robot Games: sumo fights, capture the flag, and board games.

5. Language of your choice: Some people just prefer this. I want to add support for microPython, Javascript, C++ and other languages.

I was inspired watching kids at an ADHD camp interact around a toy of fighting spinning tops. Older kids were involved and engaged with the younger ones. They chatted freely about the tops and the games. I realized I could do the same, maybe better with something more sophisticated and focused, perhaps involving ideas from education and ADHD research. I finally had a chance to use my engineering skills to help kids. From this, Skoobot was born.

Skoobot is a fun, tiny little robot. It has a microphone, and a powerful enough processor to handle the math needed for audio, like spoken word recognition. With the buzzer, and the robot’s movement, this creates enough feedback to interact with children in a meaningful way. Once the children are drawn in by the cuteness and novelty, they are directed towards a cooperative game, using spoken commands, with each child taking a turn. The game could be to solve a maze, or to help the robots communicate with a beep-based language. The cooperative game will be optimized for fun and social learning. But first, I need to prove out the basic hardware and software of the robot, and the manufacturability. This is partly because the EdTech business is long term. Coming in to the field and leaving right after is not an option because Educators need to know I will be there tomorrow.

To this end, I decided to roll out Skoobot in phases. The first is the the software hacker phase, where I build a community and get as much help as possible proofing the robot and building the software. The next phase is the Arduino phase, were the software is made less complex, where more people can try out Skoobot and have fun with it. These first two phases  should create a stream of revenue. This gives me the runway I need to build the dream of making Skoobot a true Edtech product.

The delivered hardware is a robot and a companion board for programming. The companion board has these features:

1.  It charges the robot's battery

2. It enables programming with the Arduino IDE, or C and other languages.

  • 1 × Nordic Semiconductor nRF52832 Microcontroller, ARM Cortex-M4F, 32-bit, 64Mhz, 512k Flash, 68k SRAM, QFN48
  • 1 × Segger Studio It is free with full features for Nordic Semi parts, woo hoo!
  • 1 × Segger J-Link Great for learning and programming ARM microcontrollers especially the Edu version. Adafruit makes the cheapest ARM programmer though.
  • 1 × Sparkfun USB to UART Part of development (not part of deliverable) Good for getting UART (serial printf's) out of your design. Also, interfaces to Arduino IDE for programming with Arduino.
  • 1 × VL6180X distance sensor Kind of a cool part, does time of flight laser for 0-5cm distance measure. It also has a ambient light sensor.

View all 8 components

  • Selling Skoobots at Makerfaire

    Bill Weiler05/20/2018 at 04:50 1 comment

    I sold 2 with 6 left and 1 more day, Sunday, to go. I grew my email list, gave out tons of business cards, and got great feedback on markets and applications. People like it, then barf at the home-built prototype retail price. I'll likely have some to sell after the faire, but I have to lower the price. But then this sucks for the people who paid the full price. Not sure how I will fix this if I do it.

  • Home Robot Factory

    Bill Weiler05/15/2018 at 03:07 0 comments

    Made 5 programmers/chargers, 5 Skoobot mainboards, and 5 Skoobot daugtherboards. The Skoobot boards are double sided 4-layer.  I am getting more experience and learning a lot. I had tomb stoning and a twisted component on the mainboard, but the daugtherboards all came out clean, no solder jumpers, twisted components or tomb stones.  It is kind of hard work. I have 2 days now to assemble the 5 robots and rework others before Makerfaire.

  • 3 Robots for Makerfaire photo - 5 days to go

    Bill Weiler05/12/2018 at 08:12 0 comments

  • Soldering troubles

    Bill Weiler05/12/2018 at 08:11 0 comments

    I have 4 robots finished. 2 go reasonably straight, 2 do not. One motor glitches in each, lots of glitches in the 2 that curve around. It seems soldering with low temp solder at 200C makes a good motor. Motors soldered at 350C can't be fixed, only replaced. Doesn't take too long but is tedious.

    My explanation that could be totally wrong. Flux removes oxidation from metal (the barrier to metal in solder). Flux binds with oxygen on metal and carries it away. But higher temps increases the oxidation in metal. Flux also coats the site, preventing atmospheric oxygen from binding.

    Its actually crazy complex. Flux is 4 categories of chemicals, activator, vehicle, solvent and additives. Rosin itself, has organic acids for activators and vehicles that carry the bound oxygen away.

    I don't know the metal of the magnet wire, or the metal of the pin of the motor. Different percentages of metals, and their porosity come into play pretty drastically, plus impurities present from where they are mined. With low temp solder, I introduced silver.

    Crazy complicated, with metallurgy and chemistry. It can be understood, but is a deep subject.

  • First Robot for Sale

    Bill Weiler05/08/2018 at 23:29 0 comments

      So new features are:

      1. New shell design
      2. Velcro to hold body on
      3. Battery with PCM (Printed Circuit Module, i.e. undervoltage, short and overcharge shutoff)
      4. Upgraded battery from 50mAh to 60mAh
      5. Much better QA and testing
      6. Companion board works great, automatic switching between UART and Programming modes
      7. Professionally glued wheels by Rob Black, wheel gluer extraordinaire

  • Change of plans

    Bill Weiler05/04/2018 at 06:20 0 comments

    People said they like following the project, so maybe I will keep posting logs. The next contest is robotic module. I don't see how I could be a module. Maybe enable a swarm? Like Skoobot robots are the hardware modules for a swarm system?

  • Contest is over

    Bill Weiler05/03/2018 at 19:12 2 comments

    I don't think it makes sense to post here anymore. If followers still want to follow, here is a Google+ link I will be updating for Skoobot:

  • Open Hardware Contest in Over

    Bill Weiler05/03/2018 at 18:33 0 comments

    I wasn't one of the 20 winners.

  • Kind of interesting

    Bill Weiler05/02/2018 at 23:11 0 comments

    Looking at the labels on the package from Shenzhen, I try to do some detective work. Who handled the package, and where? Who did customs and taxes? There is some funny US company, DFS Super Store, that sent the US part of the delivery. They arrived at Los Angles Airport by Cathay Airlines (never heard of them). There is also a WTC Logistics company. It says 174 pieces, likely the larger container my shipment was part of, before they broke my stuff out.

  • Batteries from Shenzhen showed up

    Bill Weiler05/02/2018 at 23:05 0 comments

View all 53 project logs

  • 1
    For soldering headers flat to a board (not through holes), use solderpaste first. It is much easier than trying to flow in solder wire.

    This technique works well to solder quickly with a soldering iron. It you put down solderpaste on all the pads (leaded parts, like SSOP, TQFP, SOT23, passives), soldering with an iron is just a touch. One trick is press down the component (like the SOT23 part) with tweezers while you touch the pin/pad, otherwise it will move and "freeze" in the wrong spot when the solder cools. 

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TicrThing wrote 03/24/2018 at 11:31 point

Great "little" project! I like the PCB-case. Reminds me of a previous PCB-case prototype of mine (, though yours is much more appealing and actually functional, while mine was just for the looks. :) Keep it up!

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Nicolas Tremblay wrote 03/22/2018 at 16:36 point

Wow, awesome build. Definitely count me in when you're ready to drop this on kickstarter.

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Blecky wrote 03/22/2018 at 04:13 point

Will this get over 9000 likes?

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Bill Weiler wrote 03/22/2018 at 05:00 point

Man, that would be awesome, but I have no idea how that would happen. If it did, please don't expect it to ever happen again :)

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Todd wrote 03/21/2018 at 17:33 point

And this is how the Borg Cube starts!

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Bill Weiler wrote 03/09/2018 at 06:19 point

I am using motors I got off eBay. They are sketchy.

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Bill Weiler wrote 03/09/2018 at 06:18 point

Here is a new video with the robot moving around:

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Matthias Kesenheimer wrote 03/08/2018 at 09:19 point

Nice project! What are the motors you are using?

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Bill Weiler wrote 03/08/2018 at 06:33 point

Here is a video:

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Bill Weiler wrote 03/07/2018 at 08:42 point

I almost had a video and then poof, one of the motors stopped working and it just spun in place. I am building another one and will have a video soon. I really want to make a lot of videos too.

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Mike Szczys wrote 03/07/2018 at 21:37 point

Working on a tiny scale like this makes it so much harder. But that challenge also makes it addictive.

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Mike Szczys wrote 03/05/2018 at 23:13 point

Impressive! I'd love to hear more of the back story on this one. I read through some of your G+ and got a kick out of the fried battery/reassembly woes. Do you have some footage of this little guy zipping around the workbench?

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