By Dave DeWitt, Editor
Robotics With a Mechatronics Benefit
The Hummingbird robotics kit encourages students to design all types of mechanisms. Without realizing, students are learning the fundamentals of mechatronics. Planning, Sensing, Thinking, and Acting are the basic functions for the majority of automated assembly equipment on the shop floors of most modern manufacturing plants.
Award Winning Business
BirdBrain Technologies recently won the FedEx Champion of Global Entrepreneurship Award. In their recent newsletter BirdBrain Tehnologies Founder Tom Lauwers commented on wining the award;
“This award means a lot to us at BirdBrain, as it’s a recognition that a business can be socially- oriented & mission-driven and still be sustainable. We’re proud to be growing because of our commitment to our values, not in spite of them.”
Start with an Idea – Implement with a Robotic Device
Using positioning servos, rotary cam attachments and student designed linkages (below) students operate and test an automated drawing device.
The Hummingbird performs all of the electronic I/O “Hand Shaking” in a closed compartment on the backside of the circuit board. By freeing the students from the electronic complexities of interfacing input and output devices the HummingbirdBit is very “kid friendly” for a wide variety of age groups.
Classroom Friendly Packaging
For the Premium Kit; The input sensors include: Light Sensor, Dial Sensor, Distance Sensor and a Sound Sensor. The output devices include: Single and Tri-Color LEDs, Angular Position Servos and Full Rotation Servos. The kit also includes various wheels, adapters, cables, tools and a battery pack. The original Hummingbirds were controlled with an Arduino micro-controller and are still available in the BirdBrain Technologies online Store. The newest HummingbirdBit is controlled with the BBC micro:Bit which may be purchased as an add on item when ordering your kit or from other on-line outlets. Since a standard micro:Bit is plugged into the HummingbirdBit it can be removed and used for lots of other BBC micro:Bit related projects.
Making the Connections
Connecting the input and output devices is as simple as inserting the twisted, tinned and color coded lead wires into the well marked and color coded spring gripper connectors. Some of the output devices utilize push on connector plugs whose sockets are mechanically keyed to only accept the correct plug. No soldering or screw terminals are required.
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Coding the Solution
The HummingbirdBit can be programmed with a variety of coding platforms from simple block coding to more complex scripting languages. Students can program and connect up with the HummingbirdBit using most computers and mobile devices. Birdbrain provides a very simple graphical “User Interface Selection Tree Portal” which I have found to be super easy to navigate in getting started.
My personal favorite is to download and set up the Bluebird Connector and then program in SNAP (similar to Scratch) and connect remotely in real time to the HummingbirdBit with a separately purchased USB Bluetooth Dongle. SNAP programs (projects) can be saved in your SNAP Cloud account. If your school does not have or allow student internet use there is a native version of SNAP built into the Bluebird Connector application so you can run and save projects locally without any connection to the WWW.
BirdBrain Technologies is all about education and caters to students working independently or in small work groups. The 4 piece classroom kit works out well for 8 – 12 students.
Visit the HummingbirdBit:
About the Author: Dave DeWitt is a retired manufacturing business owner who now volunteers in middle schools, high schools and teen centers with STEM related educational programs. He also is the editor of ManufacturingStories®