A Modern EdTech Robot

So you are a Secondary School Computing teacher and you want to teach some coding with real world relevance, so how about robotics? After all, our robot overlords are due to take over the world any day soon, so we may as well know what makes them tick, tock, crawl, grab and spin.

Where to start?

Dash and Dot and the BeeBots are a little too simple for Secondary school age. Poking around online leads you to the homebrew kings: Arduino, Raspberry Pi and maybe something built on a MicroBit.

The Arduino and the Raspberry Pi based bots are easily going to cost £100 by the time you have added motor shields (needed to connect the chunky powered motors to the delicate current of the processor board), motors, a chassis and something to power it all. If you want to take pictures or stream video - adding a camera takes you up nearer £150.

Although people will tell you you can do anything with a Pi or an Arduino, they are quite light weight processors. Almost everything you need to use to make your bot do something costs extra. The Microbit is cheap and cheerful, but really isn't up to the job of powering a modern robot.

The Modern EdTech Robot

Where can we find a modern robot? One that can not only move, but also see, think, communicate and is usable by anyone. It would also be cool to expand it to cross-curriculum learning, 3D design and construction.

The wonderfully friendly people of Canada are also producing wonderfully friendly educational robots: EZ-Robot, has a range of kits that reflect the modern trends in robotics. They have a robot controller built in and use the controlling computer to all the heavy lifting. This opens the gates to all manner of cool things.

The brainchild of Canadian roboticist DJ Sures, the EZ-Robots are based on the EZ-B - a custom robotics controller powerful enough to handle just about any task you could throw it.

EZ-B Key Features

  • 24 channels of digital I/O - enough capacity to fully animate a humanoid robot with 73 servos all told.
  • 8 channels of analog I/O - add all kinds of distance, temperature, gyroscopic sensors.
  • 3 I2C ports - add a range of low speed serial devices like displays and lighting arrays.
  • Real-time camera port - one of the most important features!

The real beauty of the EZ-B platform is that it was designed to be the heart of anything from the tiny 20cm long adventure-bot to a full sized replica of Robbie the Robot from Lost in Space.

Adventure Bot

Because of the way it works as a controller for a robot with software running on a control system it has the power to handle all the complicated I/O; while the application using the robot can run on a more powerful system.

Streaming video from the onboard camera can be sent through the internet - even to Microsoft’s Cognitive Service to add AI recognition!

The EZ-B is connected by WiFi, so in theory you can control the robot from anywhere in the world with an internet connection.

EdTech Comparison

Adventure Bot Arduino Bot (mBot) Pi Bot (GoPiGo)
Base Price £150 £86 £190
Analogue Ports 8 4 1
Digital Ports 24 2 1
HS Serial Ports 3 0 1
I2C Ports 3 1 1
Video Ports 1 0 0
Rechargeable Battery Included Extra Extra
Camera Included Additional £30 Additional £30
AI Yes N/A N/A
Connectivity WiFi Bluetooth WiFi
Programming On A browser
A browser
Program In EZ-Script
App designer
UWP/Visual Studio
Visual Basic
Arduino IDE
3D Printable Components Yes No No
Construction Clip Together Nuts and bolts Nuts and bolts