Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Hummingbird Robotics Kit

Hummingbird Robotics Kit

Spring 2014 Toys
Ages: 10 & Up
Price: $199.99

The Hummingbird Robotics Kit is a technical set containing a controller board and numerous robotics components: motors, servos, LEDs, and sensors. Coupled with household materials and art supplies, they can be used to construct a range of projects limited only by the imagination of the designer.

The box contains no manuals as such, but points to the developers' website for guides to get started, links to video and print tutorials, and guidance on choosing and using a programming language. No programming skills are needed before beginning; the developers created a baseline CMU CREATE Lab Visual Programmer that is easy for non-programmers to use to get started. This is also a great way for children ages 8 and above to start thinking about the logic and flow of a computer program, and convenient for more experienced programmers to use to test the connectivity of the equipment. A wide range of languages can be used, however. Slightly older children may have fun developing within the Scratch language, which connects to a programming and creativity community online—widely popular with preteens and young teens. Those who are interested in serious design can use Python or Java, among several other choices. In testing, we had success with all of the languages named above.

The developers are keen to emphasize the creative side of this. Even a student with no interest in computers and robotics can make a robot to model a character in a story—for example, a crocodile snapping at Captain Hook—or a flower opening its petals to the sunlight. On the other hand, this kit is by no means limited to craft projects; as it uses off-the shelf parts, one could potentially integrate much larger circuitry or even other electronics kits (they have a tutorial with MaKey MaKey) into the system, using the Hummingbird controller as an easy interface. This kit has the possibility to be used in high school and college electronics laboratories. Though not as trivial to use as other conceptually similar robotics systems, the cost is dramatically less, particularly for additional components; the creative development possibility is greater; and the flexibility and power are unmatched.

Emily Crawford   ©2014 Parents' Choice
Emily holds a BSE in electrical engineering and computer science from Duke University and a Master's in computer engineering from Georgia Tech. She is a homeschooling parent and lives with her husband, three children, five cats, and thousands of LEGOs in Blacksburg, Virginia.

Look for this product at:
BirdBrain Technologies

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