What is Bluetooth robotics for kids?
- Robots can be controlled wirelessly using a Bluetooth connection. It might sound complex,
but this is a fun and educational activity suitable even for beginner coders
- All that’s required is a robotics kit, a device, and a Bluetooth connection (either built-in to
the device or enabled with a dongle)
- Several Bluetooth robotics kits are available, such as the educational LEGO WeDo 2.0
What do the Mars Rover, C-3PO, the Roomba and the Furby have in common? They are all powered
by robotics. Robotics is one of the most fascinating, diverse and important spheres of coding,
present everywhere from the household to the hospital and even in outer space. But robotics isn’t
just reserved for the professionals: it is the perfect activity for kids of all ages.
Why should kids learn robotics?
1. Robotics is a hands-on activity which teaches kids through real-world experimentation,
creating and playing.
2. Kids acquire problem solving and logical thinking skills, exercise their creativity, enhance
their knowledge of STEM subjects, and get an introduction to coding.
3. Robotics is linked to many pressing real-world issues, and learning it can open up many
future doors for them.
Coding robots with Bluetooth
Robots may seem like complex creatures, but in fact they can be controlled even from a cheap
smartphone. This is all achieved through Bluetooth technology. An app on the device is used to
programme the movements of the robot and send these commands to the robot’s Bluetooth
receiver, which communicates with its microcontroller (its brain). With a little bit of coding
knowledge, you’re good to go!
What do you need to create a Bluetooth robot?
To build a Bluetooth robot kids require a robotics kit, device and Bluetooth connection. Some
devices come with a built-in Bluetooth connection, for example smartphones or tablets. Other
devices, such as older desktop computers or laptops, do not. This is not a problem as Bluetooth can
be enabled with a dongle.
The word might sound silly, but a dongle is an incredibly useful bit of computer hardware that
connects to a port on another device to give it additional functionality. A Bluetooth dongle plugs into
the USB port on a computer or laptop, enabling Bluetooth without the need to upgrade to the latest
Bluetooth robots for kids
- Makeblock has a range of Bluetooth robotics kits for kids. The mBot is an entry-level kit: kids
build their robot from scratch, learn about robotic machinery and electronic parts, and get to
grips with the fundamentals of block-based programming. With the Airblock kit, kids connect
magnetic modules to build an aircraft or hovercraft, learn the principles of aerodynamics, and use
the Makeblock app to programme their bot. Makeblock sells a dongle which is compatible with
all of their Bluetooth kits.
Remote control cars
- With the Circuit Cubes Whacky Wheels kit, kids design their vehicle by connecting motor, LED and
battery cubes, building the chassis, and customising their car with downloadable paper
templates. The Whacky Wheels kit is compatible with LEGO and MegaBloks, so kids can modify
their cars to their heart’s content. Adding the Bluetooth block connects their car to the Circuit Cubes app. The app has four controls: Tank, Tinker, Gamepad, and Code. On the Code interface kids can programme their robot car by connecting blocks of code.
- For experienced and ambitious coders who want a challenge, any remote control car can be transformed into a Bluetooth robot using an Arduino microcontroller board, battery and Bluetooth module. After connecting all the hardware, kids can write or download the code, enter it into the Arduino Bluetooth controller app and control their car from an Android smartphone. There are a number of online tutorials to learn how to do this.
LEGO® WeDo 2.0 Kit
- The educational robotics kit LEGO WeDo 2.0 is our preferred Bluetooth robot for kids, and was
specially developed to engage and motivate children’s interest in learning science and
engineering-related subjects. With just one kit kids can experiment with many different creations,
build their robot, and programme it using a visual programming language on the WeDo app. By
dragging command blocks – motion, time, loops, sound and more – into a sequence and running
the programme, they’ll bring their robot to life!
Photo by Sebastian Scholz (Nuki), William Daigneault, Jelleke Vanooteghem on Unsplash