Sparki – The Easy Robot for Everyone

Ever wanted to learn robotics, programming or electronics?
Thought robots were hard or complicated?
Just didn’t know where to get started?

Not anymore!

Sparki is an affordable, easy to use, and fun intro to programming, electronics, and robotics. It is geared towards kids elementary-age and above, educators looking for an easy intro to robotics, parents eager to find something affordable but educational and fun, DIY enthusiasts, and more. It is simple enough for beginners, while being feature-packed enough to be a must-have for pro-users. Sparki is your chance to have your very own robot, completely open source and available to do your bidding. Sparki has already been sold in 51 countries.  It has been featured on Fast Company, Boston Globe, MAKE, Kickstarter Staff Pick, Ars Technica and more.  Watch our video demoing Sparki.

Call to educators:  If you are interested in using Sparki in your classroom, please contact us at [email protected]  We welcome you to join our community as a case study classroom.  Educators globally ranging from the US, Norway, Malaysia, Mexico and more have already signed on as ArcBotics case study classrooms.  We always welcome feedback on our curriculum and robot design and would love to work with you.

The Story

Sparki is ArcBotics’ answer to robotics in education. After our first successful Kickstarter for Hexy the Hexapod, a low-cost open-source Arduino robot designed to be an intro to advanced robotics, we were approached by many who asked, do you have anything for beginners? When we looked around, we saw that other educational robots were very expensive, difficult to use, lacked features, or had closed designs. However, we know that the interest in programming and robotics from people of all ages is enormous. So we thought, why not design an adorable new robot that lets people of all ages enjoy robotics, while offering them a wide range of possibilities, and – most of all – is fun?

The Robot

Sparki works out of the box with its remote control. To write your own programs, just plug it in via USB, install the custom-enhanced Arduino software and try any of the dozens of example programs. We have programs for every sensor and actuator on Sparki:

  • 1x Ultrasonic distance sensor (get distance from Sparki to walls/objects)
  • 1x 3-Axis Accelerometer (pick-up detection, fall detection, hill climbing)
  • 1x 3-Axis Magnetometer (sense the magnetic field around Sparki, coordinate with accelerometer to detect compass heading)
  • 3x Light-sensing phototransistors (light following, darkness seeking)
  • 5x Line-following and edge detection sensors (mazes, line follow, sumo)
  • 1x 128×64 Graphic LCD
  • 1x RGB LED (RGB = generate any color!)
  • 1x Buzzer (beeping, booping, and musical tones!)
  • 1x IR Transmitter (like your TV remote control)
  • 1x IR Receiver (like your TV)
  • 1x IR Remote control (lots of buttons to control Sparki with)
  • 1x TTL Serial port for expansion (talk to an Arduino/Raspberry Pi)
  • 1x Port for Bluetooth Serial Module (not in all rewards)
  • Powered by 4xAA batteries (rechargeable or alkaline)
  • 2x Geared stepper motors (precise, measured movement down to millimeters/ sub-degrees)
  • Marker holder for drawing:

Sparki Draw

  • And textured ABS plastic shell for your choice of decoration:

Sparki Colored


Education

Based on pilot-class testing of Sparki with late elementary to middle school aged children, as well as extensive experience teaching Arduino classes to kids and adults alike, we’re developing key tutorials and individual/classroom lesson plans for Sparki, all available for free (CC Attribution licensed).

Sparki Pilot Class

Here are some of the things you’ll learn how to do:

  • Edge avoidance
  • Line following
  • Maze solving
  • Wall avoidance
  • Room navigation
  • Object retrieval
  • Follow/hide from light sources
  • Shape drawing
  • Computer input (make a keyboard/mouse using sensors)
  • Games with other Sparkis

And more advanced concepts:

  • PID Loops
  • Pathfinding algorithms
  • Signal Filtering
  • Heuristics


The Programming

Sparki’s code will be available in both Arduino code (C/C++) and Minibloq drag-and-drop graphical programming, similar to Scratch.  All code will be made for free to users and open-source.

We offer both kinds of programming, because we believe the combination of both allow students to get started at the level they are comfortable.  Many parents and educators have told us that while younger children may prefer to start learning programming graphically through a software Scratch, but ultimately need to graduate to regular text-based programming.  This is why our drag-and-drop programming shows the underlying code alongside each drag-and-drop figure to allow for an easy transition when your learner is ready to take the leap to text-based programming.

Below is a sample of our Arduino text-based programming:

Currently available for:

win_32px

Windows XP, Visa, Win7 and Win8

osx_32xMac OSX

Sparki Arduino sample code

Here is a sample of our Minibloq drag-and-drop programming:

win_32pxWindows XP, Visa, Win7 and Win8

Minibloq picture

Click here to learn more about the Minibloq software.
The Arduino code will be available at the December launch. We are working on launching the drag-and-drop programming at the same time, but the launch date may come a little later (e.g., early 2014).

More Information

Guide to getting started with Sparki

Sparki’s Kickstarter page

Sparki in the press