We just launched Cubelets Console, a new way for you to play and learn with Cubelets. It’s awesome. Power up a few Cubelets and click the link on MacOS, Windows, or ChromeOS. There’s nothing to download and install! If you’ve been playing with Cubelets for a while, you’ll be very aware that we’ve had a little ecosystem of different apps for different kinds of interaction. One for programming in C on a laptop, another one for Blockly, and the mobile-only app which does other things like Remote Control and Personality Swap. Now, Cubelets Console brings a ton of new functionality and interaction possibilities to laptops and desktops, at home or, when we get back to it, at school. Console replaces the Blockly and C programming apps and lets you do both at the same time. It also lets you Personality Swap your Cubelets to change their behavior with pre-written programs. Most exciting for me, though, is the new Data Logger interface. Connect a Sense Cubelet or three and watch their block values change over time. Add an Inverse and watch the complementary graphs. See if your kid can make a sawtooth waveform with a distance sensor. Track temperature or light data and export it to a CSV or a Google Sheet. Experiment! I’m at home this afternoon and I noticed that although the sun is streaming in a couple of south-facing windows, our little cactus was in the shade between the windows, a temporary dark spot as the sun tracks across the sky. I thought maybe I’d build a little self-driving car for the cactus. You know, like Uber for plants! Cacti like to be in the sun, so I figured I’d start with a Drive Cubelet as the base and a couple of light sensors so that the robot knows where to go. But before I put a plant on top of anything, I knew I’d want to ease the back-and-forth motion of the robot so that it didn’t come to a jarring stop when it found light and bounce the plant right off. I thought it’d be elegant for the robot to slow its velocity along something like a sine wave. Sin() is a bit heavy for a microcontroller, so I found a web site that generated lookup values for a sine wave and tried pasting a few of those data values into a Blockly program (sine-down.cubelet) that sine-waves down from 127 (half speed) every few seconds. Then I found the magic of Console. I switched quickly back over to Data Logger to verify that my code was working and saw these little approximated sine waves. Then I flashed the code into a Drive Cubelet and saw this: Looking good. Next I attached a couple of light sensors and tried programming the Drive Cubelet as sort of a lopsided state machine. If a light sensor has light, then drive toward it for a half second, slow down, and begin again. It worked! The little platform is successfully moving the cactus to the brightest sunshine. It’d be fun to add a couple of distance sensors to make sure that the plant car doesn’t bump into anything or fall down the stairs, and maybe some down-low glow, but I’m pretty happy with this for now. Where were we, anyway? Right, Console! Console is a huge upgrade to the high-ceiling Cubelets experience. I was just doing distributed robot programming using multiple languages and leveraging inter-robot messaging schemes. And it’s for kids! It’s super cool to be able to sketch out a program in Blockly and then pop into C to understand the exact code that got created. There are lots of ways to look at the same algorithm, and lots of ways to understand things. Give Console a try and let us know what you build.
Category: Cool Stuff
We’re giving away free stuff! Allow me to explain. We’re getting close to making the one millionth Cubelet. Something about that number, that order of magnitude, has really given us pause and encouraged us to focus on the total life cycle of a Cubelet including where they end up in the end. Cubelets are made of plastics and metals and magnets and circuit boards, and they shouldn’t end up in the landfill. Especially a million of them. We do a lot of Cubelets re-use, like repairing broken Cubelets and using them in our demonstration kits, and now we’re trying to get really good at recycling Cubelets. We’ve got a great set of tools for disassembling Cubelets. Much of the material, like plastic, is efficient to recycle, while some, like circuit boards, we’re storing for a while until we figure out the best approach to dealing with it. There’s a Cubelet type out there, the old Bluetooth Cubelet, that is probably not bringing joy to a lot of people. It was hard to use and dropped connections a lot, so we replaced it with the totally awesome Bluetooth Hat in 2018. The Bluetooth hat uses BLE so it pairs and re-pairs automatically, and it’s lightweight so doesn’t cause power brown-outs and disconnections, whether you’re on Mac, Android, Linux, iOS, or Windows. We thought it’d be a great idea to give a new Bluetooth hat to people who have old Bluetooth Cubelets. We’ll be able to properly recycle the old Cubelet, and someone who supported us early on could get a free upgrade that makes Cubelets feel new again. There’s some amazing new Cubelets software coming soon, and you’re going to want a Hat to be able to play… We’re calling this the Bluetooth Trade-up Program. We’ve allocated 100 new Bluetooth Hats; we’ll ship one to you if you’re among the first hundred people to claim yours here and then send us your old Bluetooth Cubelet. One per customer, USA only. Have at it!
Need inspiration for some fun, STEM projects to do at home? Check out the new YouTube series “Make with me”! Join the Modular Robotics staff as we try out fun, challenging, robot activities that we can do around the house, like building this Hand Washing Timer robot: Of course STEM at Home doesn’t need to be involved projects! Kids can learn a lot about robotics just by building their own Cubelets racing robots. Whether it’s harnessing creativity by building robot seascapes with LEGO or figuring out how to code a Toilet Paper Ration Robot in Blockly, the “Make with me” videos have something for everyone. Check it the whole playlist on YouTube and don’t forget to subscribe so you never miss a new video!
I’m a pretty big fan of the Museum of Modern Art. It comes from my childhood. My Dad is a photographer, and one of his photos, a racing powerboat shot on a strip camera, is in the permanent collection. And my mom, for other reasons, thought MoMA was the bee’s knees and dragged me into the city a couple of times a year to traipse around the exhibits. When I was really little, I preferred the Museum of Natural History, but after a multi-year dinosaur (and Blue Whale) phase, I really started to like the work at MoMA, from the giant Jackson Pollock pieces to the outdoor sculpture garden to the Bell 47D1 helicopter hanging over the lobby. In my mom’s mind, MoMA symbolized the best of art and design, and I absorbed some of that feeling from her. In 2011, Cubelets were included in an exhibit called Talk To Me, about how objects can mediate and moderate communication. It was an amazing feeling to stop by on a trip to New York and see them in the museum. Now Cubelets are for sale at the MoMA store. If you want to give the gift of robot blocks for this holiday season, consider supporting one of the world’s finest cultural organizations while you’re at it and order them from the Museum of Modern Art!
We’re about to ship our one millionth Cubelet! Back when the first little robot left our assembly line in 2012, the thought of selling one thousand Cubelets gave us a thrill. And because of your continued support, we’ve made it all the way to one million! To say thank you to the thousands of educators, parents, and enthusiasts that have made this momentous milestone possible, we’ve included a free gift with every Cubelets purchase this November and December. No coupons or rebates necessary — your gift will be added automatically to your purchase. See the chart below for details:
2019 has been a special year for the Cubelets team. This past September, we added new members to our educational robot family with the addition of Dexter Industries. We’re also closing in on shipping our one millionth Cubelet, and preparing to celebrate that huge milestone for Modular Robotics. And to top it all off, 2019 has been one of the most decorated years in Cubelets’ history! No, we’re not talking about all the cool, artistic robots we’ve seen on Twitter. We’re talking about awards! One of the coolest awards we added to the collection this year was from Fast Company. Our Curiosity Set is an Honoree in the Learning Category of the 2019 Innovation by Design Awards. Fast Company had over 4,300 entries for their Innovation by Design Awards this year, making this honor even bigger! Continue reading
Teacher appreciation week starts on Monday, and we want to make sure you know just how much we appreciate all the hard work you do. So to celebrate you, we’re giving away prizes all week, and one grand prize winner will receive a Cubelets Curiosity Set! All you need to do to get in on the action is tweet a story or photo of how you use (or would like to use) Cubelets with the hashtag #CubeletsChat and tag @ModRobotics. Each new story will be considered one entry, and even if you win one of the daily giveaways, you’re still entered to win the grand prize! The random drawings will happen at 4pm MT, daily, from May 6 – 10, 2019, with the grand prize winner chosen on Friday, May 10 2019. Read more for full contest details. Continue reading
Indeed you can! Do you know what a Turing Machine is? It’s a type of a computer, or, well, it’s a model of a computer. A simplified computer, with a memory tape and a read/write head that moves back and forth along the tape. It’s a funny little type of a computer, but it’s interesting in that with a Turing Machine, you can do any kind of digital computation that we can think of. Maybe not in a super optimized fashion, but… LOOK! Here’s a Turing Machine made with Cubelets and some LEGO bricks: This construction was built by Genaro J. Martínez and students and collaborators at ALIROB (Artificial Life Robotics Lab) in Mexico. I think it’s brilliant. There’s a web site with a few more videos and all of the code has been published there too. You’ll see a ton of neat little programming features in these robots: Rotate Cubelets, for example, can only be controlled by specifying a speed, not a position. Check out how they use a distance Cubelet as a “stop” to recalibrate the little swinging arm after each swing. Most of the Cubelets we make end up in elementary or middle school classrooms. So we spend a lot of time working on making Cubelets accessible, educational, and intriguing: focusing on the low-threshold aspects more than the high-ceiling aspects. It’s nice to be reminded that Cubelets are actually a universal computational material, a medium, capable of supporting some pretty advanced thought experiments.