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!

ArcBotics’ Sparki is an affordable, easy to use, and fun intro to programming, electronics, and robotics.  It is an open-source, Arduino robot designed for students late-elementary age and above that comes pre-assembled and packed with 12+ sensors and features like remote control and drawing.

It has two programming environments: SparkiDuino, based off Arduino; and Minibloq, a drag-and-drop program like Scratch. Sparki’s lessons are free and frequently expanded. Great for families, STEM/robotics/programming educators, and DIY enthusiasts looking for a feature-packed platform.

Sparki is being used in classrooms and homes in more than 50 countries.  It has been featured on Fast Company, Boston Globe, MAKE, Kickstarter Staff Pick, and more.

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Call to educators:  We offer special educator discounts!  Please contact us at [email protected] with how many Sparkis you would like to purchase and some information that  allows us to verify your status as an educator so we can send you a discount code.

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

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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:

  • Detect distance to walls and objects with 1x Ultrasonic distance sensor
  • Detect pick-ups, falls and climb hills with 1x 3-Axis accelerometer
  • Sense magnetic fields and detect compass heading with 1x 3-Axis magnetometer
  • Follow light and darkness with 3x Light-sensing phototransistors
  • Do mazes, follow lines, and sumo with 5x Line-following and edge detection sensors
  • Create maze and line lessons easily with 1x A2-sized maze poster and 1x A2-sized line following poster with easy to advanced tracks**
  • Display data and graphics with 1x 128×64 Graphic LCD
  • Generate any color with 1x RGB LED
  • Create musical tones and beeping with 1x Buzzer
  • Message other Sparkis with 1x IR transmitter
  • Control via remote control with 1x IR receiver
  • Control Sparki with lots of buttons with 1x IR remote control
  • Talk to an Arduino/Raspberry Pi with 1x TTL serial port for expansion
  • Talk with phones and computers with 1x Bluetooth Serial Module Port
  • Move precisely with measured movement down to millimeters/ sub-degrees with 2x Geared stepper motors
  • Programs easily with 1x USB cable
  • Powered by 4xAA batteries (rechargeable or alkaline, batteries not included)
  • Draw and write precisely with 1x Marker holder and 1x Sparki-fitted black marker**:

  • and textured ABS plastic construction, durable and suitable for drawing:

 


The Lessons and Programming

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 have developed tutorials for Sparki, all available for free (CC Attribution licensed) and frequently expanded.

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

Sparki’s code is available in SparkiDuino, based off Arduino (C/C++); and Minibloq, drag-and-drop graphical programming similar to Scratch.  All our code and accompanying lessons are free, open-source, and frequently expanded.

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  younger children may prefer to start learning programming graphically through a software like Scratch, and ultimately will 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.

Sample of SparkiDuino:

Available for: win_32pxWindows XP, Visa, Win7 and Win8, osx_32xMac OSX

Sample of Minibloq:

Available for: win_32pxWindows XP, Visa, Win7 and Win8

 

More Pictures

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More Information

Guide to getting started with Sparki

Sparki’s Kickstarter page

Sparki in the press

 

**Sparkis manufactured and sold through the ArcBotics store after October 2014 included the posters and pen.