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Sphero Mini - fun-sized Sphero

The Sphero Mini has been recently launched and at the time of writing seems to be popular, delivery times vary depending on the colour you select. There are some very good reasons for it to be popular.

It's a ping-pong sized ball, much smaller than the normal Sphero's and approximately half the price. Though slightly less featured, what it has got, is good. 

In the box, you get the sphero-mini, a charging cable, as well as packet of mini-skittles and cones. There is no charging station for this one, you charge it taking the outer shell off (it splits into two pieces) and the socket is on the ball inside. Actually, it is quite interesting to see the insides (I know the Spheros SPRK+ have a transparent shell to show the innards) and handle the ball inside, trying to see what it does. The ball is a little slower than the other Spheros, but this is not a problem in my opinion.

There is an app for playing the games, and this is fun to play with; providing control via the …
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LittleBits Star Wars Droid and Swift Playgrounds

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So confession time, I am not the target audience for this kit, but I have enjoyed playing with it. The tutorials take you through building and dismantling the kit, doing a range of different activities and in most cases controlling it remotely from an iPad. You can even record your voice and have it played back from the Droid, in my opinion, the wide of sounds is one of the things that lift this from being just a nice kit -  I will get onto the other one soon. Though good fun, I was left with a question can it be programmed?

This was my first time using a LittleBits kit I didn't know what the options were available for programming it, a quic…

Robots, fruit and computer coding

Taken from: by University of Northampton Press Team

A select group of sixth-form pupils has spent the summer working on a series of research projects at the University of Northampton. Four pupils from Northampton and Kettering schools undertook projects involving robotics, coding and urban orchards after each were awarded a Nuffield Research Placement – a scheme which offers sixth formers the chance to work on university research projects. David Obreja, from Northampton School for Boys, spent his time at the University researching the amount of fruit-bearing plants and trees in areas of Northampton, and mapping them on a computer. He said: “We need more fruit-bearing plants and trees in the town to provide food for wildlife, encourage biodiversity and improve the aesthetics of urban areas. I hope my research might encourage residents to plant more species, which would also…

Robot control by a neuron.

This year the Computing team has been fortunate enough to host three Nuffield Research Placement students ( all working with Dr Scott Turner.

Michael Welsh Michael has been working on using a micro:bit based bitbot from 4tronix to produce a potential teaching tool; an example of artificial neurons used control a robot. The aim is for this tool to be used with 3rd-year Undergraduates, as part of a module on Artificial Intelligence.

Michael's solution was to use the computer to run and train a single neuron; then for the robot to send values from the line sensors back to the program running on a Computer and receive control signals. 

Sounds easy? No really, in the end, the software running on the computer had to also send and receive the data through a microbit (via USB) and then use radio to communicate with the bit:bot robot. All the various developed parts of the solution were implemented in Python by Michael.

Example of the code.

import seri…

Crumbly Toilet Roll Junkbot

Guest Blogger Nathaniel Roberts, Nuffield Research Placement Student working at the University of Northampton. Nuffield Research Placement scheme provides students in their first year of a post16 course to work with STEM professionals

Toilet Roll Junkbot Nathaniel Roberts

Cut a slit in a toilet roll. Cut another toilet roll in half, then arrange the pieces in a T. Feed the bottom of the T into the slit, and tape together.

Cut two lines into the edge, and do the same on the opposite side of the circle. Copy this for the other side of the tube. These geared motors from the Camjam EduKit 3 should fit into those gaps.

Stick a battery pack to the back, and use crocodile clips to wire it all up to a crumble. The battery pack can connect to the + and - on either side at the top of the crumble, and the motors connect to the + and - of their respective sides of the crumble.

Using a Micro USB to USB cable, the crumble can be plugged into a…

Minecraft controlled Raspberry Pi Robot Arm

Guest Blogger Hiren Mistry, Nuffield Research Placement Student working at the University of Northampton. Nuffield Research Placement scheme provides students in their first year of a post16 course to work with STEM professionals

How to use Minecraft to move a USB Robot Arm on a Raspberry Pi By Hiren Mistry Currently, I am taking part in a Nuffield Foundation Research Placement at the University of Northampton, researching how to control a CBIS Robot Arm using a Raspberry Pi. This part of the project aims to learn more about using Python in Minecraft and how I can control the Robot Arm using Minecraft. When the player hits a specific block, the Robot Arm will move in a specific way. Minecraft is an adventure game where players are put in a randomly-generated world and can create their own structures and contraptions out of textured cubes. Here are the main commands used in Python for Minecraft Pi: Command Explanation from mcpi.mi…