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Showing posts from 2014

primary school robot design questions

An undergraduate dissertation student is looking for help. James is a computing student looking at robot designs for primary education towards his dissertation and as part of the wider Junkbots project, and the working going on in both the Department of Computing and Immersive Technologies, and School of Education on Physical Computing at the University of Northampton.

The short questionnaire can be found at and is aimed at gathering a variety of responses from both current Teachers, Students of Education and from anyone with knowledge of programming teaching methods in both Key Stage 1 and 2. He is planning to create a product which aims to teach programming methods and practices based on the current and new national curriculum.

If you would like to know more about the Junkbots project contact

Junkbot's Facebook page available

A new Facebook page has been set-up to complement this blog:

Please come along have a look.

If you would like to know more about the Junkbots project contact

About - LEGO Mindstorms Junkbots

About - LEGO Mindstorms Junkbots: "The idea behind the LEGO Mindstorms Junkbots is to bring together the motors of the LEGO and use them to power the robot which is otherwise created from junk. The key aims of the project are;
To give children at a KS2 primary school level an insight into what can be achieved through the use of simple programming.
To provide a fun and engaging activity for children to be creative and design their own robots.
To use the robots and programming software to achieve basic movements of the Junkbots.

The original junkbots project combined the idea of using motors and vibrations to move the bots with limited control however the new project uses the idea of programming to add a further element of control and as such the simplicity of the self contained NXT device was decided upon as a branch of this.

Aiming the project at KS1 and KS2 gives the opportunity to introduce basic programming from a young age and demonstrate just one of the interesting possibil…

Raspberry Pi Junkbot - Home

Raspberry Pi Junkbot - Home: A new website providing more information of the Raspberry Pi Junkbot project (combining Raspberry Pi, Scratch programming and junk). This will be added to as the  project develops.

At the moment it includes

- Introduction

-Discussion about the robot controller card


- Example of the drawing bot.

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Junkbot Raspberry Pi: 3 How to do it

In previous posts I start looked at using ScratchGPIO to control a junkbot  ( and showed a Pi controlled junkbot briefly in action (

In this post I aim to discuss
- Choice of motor controller card
- Provide an example of a drawing junkbot controlled through Scratch and Raspberrry Pi

Choice of interface/Controller card
The card choosen was the 4Tronix PiRoCon card  ( Selected for four reasons
- Price is reasonable (in my opinion).
- Fits straight onto the Pi through the GPIO - no extra cables needed.
- ScratchGPIO has it as an addon so it makes programming it even easier (see
- Others are using it for robot projects.

Use it is quite easy plug the board directly on to the GPIO connector of the Raspberry Pi (4tron…

Junkbot Raspberry Pi: 2 Raspberry Pi Junkbot in action

First video of a junkbot being controlled by a Raspberry Pi.

The bot was developed by Hayden Tetley and Scott Turner. Hayden's time was paid  for through the Nuffield Research Placements  Scheme (

Next post will provide further details on how this was done.

If you would like to know more about the Junkbots project contact

Junkbot Raspberry Pi: 1 ScratchGPIO

A development I have being wanting to develop for a while is the combine the Raspberry Pi with a Junkbot to add some control. 

This the first of postings about these experiments. All the development will be around ScratchGPIO ( so this posting will look into its use.

Why ScratchGPIO?
Short answer - simplicity. It is designed to look and work like Scratch ( but allowing access to board that can drive motors.

Installing ScratchGPIO?
As a suggest use as lastest as possible version of the operating system as you can on your SD card. Initially we had trouble with missing Python files that was resolved when using an updated version of the operating system.

In the LXTerminal
Type in:
sudo wget -O

then type in
sudo bash

You should get to new icons for ScratchGPIO5 and ScratchGPIO5Plus

Now use these instead of the Scratch that came with the operating system.

See for more details: http://cymplecy.wordp…

Junkbot LEGO: videos

In a recent post ( ) we looked at the adding Mindstorm NXT brick and motors to a drinks can to produce a junkbot. Here are some videos showing it in action:

For more information on how this was done go to: or

If you would like to know more about the Junkbots project contact

Mobile Robotics with Scratch: Build an Arduino-based insect-like Walker and program it with Scratch

Taken from: Mobile Robotics with Scratch: Build an Arduino-based insect-like Walker and program it with Scratch:

A version of the insect-like walker made with coat-hanger wire and originally designed by Jerome Demers (see also this instructable) and Gareth Branwyn. It comes in two versions: a standalone, Arduino-only version, powered by a common old-fashioned Arduino sketch, anda remote-controlled version, dynamically programmed using the MIT-developed Scratch visual programming language.

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Junkbot project evolves:1. The idea

Taken from:

A new stage for the Junkbots project ( ) starts this week. Up to this point the junk bot building has largely being about building a moving (or drawing) 'bot' moved by vibration - limited control, but fun.

This week, A Nuffield funded bursary student starts working on investigating whether LEGO NXT or Raspberry Pi based solutions can be incorporated with the bot to add some control of the movement (still by vibration).

Idea One 

Is to add a LEGO NXT brick, plus motors that are made to vibrate, to a junkbot similar to one shown in figure 1. The motor and broken propeller combination being replaced with the NXT brick and LEGO motor. A good potential feature is it a self-contained unit with power and control together, as well as being potentially fairly simple to set-up.

Idea Two

Is to do a similar approach as idea one but keep the motor and broken p…

SunBEAM Seeker Bot | MAKE

SunBEAM Seeker Bot | MAKE: "BEAM robotics is a way of thinking about and building robots with roots in the “behaviorist” or “actionist” robotics movement of the 1980s. Rather than relying on microprocessors, programming, and digital logic, BEAM designs favor discrete components, stimulus-response control systems, and analog logic. From a design perspective, BEAM robotics is about getting the most complex and interesting behaviors using the simplest circuits, actuators, and components. Therein lies the challenge."

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All views are the authors, and may not reflect the views of any organisation the author is connected with in any way.

student employability skills and STEM outreach

A recent paper was presented by John Sinclair and co-authored by Stuart Allen, Linda Davis-Sinclair, Trish Goodchild, Julie Messenger, and Scott Turner at Northampton Learning and Teaching Conference 2014- Northampton 2018: Planning, Designing and Delivering Student Success about STEM outreach and employability. 

Elements of junkbots were one of the science activities forming part of the activities aiming to empower students.

Enhancing student employability skills through partnership working in STEM outreach. from Scott Turner

Enhancing student employability skills through partnership working in STEM outreach

John Sinclair, Stuart Allen, Linda Davis, Trish Goodchild, Julie Messenger, Scott Turner
Contact details:
Abstract: For over a decade, University of Northampton staff and students have delivered successful STEM outreach activities, master classes and co-working opportunities to learners in schools and FE colleges.  In addition, the University works with …

Super Simple Robots for Weekend Projects | NooTriX

Super Simple Robots for Weekend Projects | NooTriX: "Robotics is of great fun. But, making robots can take very long time… Or may be not. Checkout the selection of videos below we have gathered for you. Those DIY robots belong to the so called BEAM Robotics. Robots made along this philosophy are based on simple analog circuits with inexpensive and more often scavenged parts."

For more details go to:

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Recently a post on a site Primary Robots & Coding curated by Steve Thomas (His twitter feed is a great resource @stephendathomas) caught my attention - Art "Robot" ( ). Essentially a similar idea, but it many ways a more sophisticated idea, than my drawing bots.

The Art "Robot" takes an idea similar to the drawing bots of using junk to make drawing 'robot'; then kicks it up a gear. The use of the ice-lolly stick push it further into the area of reusing materials (instead of my broken propellors - I wish I had thought of the lolly sticks). The cork for adding weight to a light motor is clever.

Have a look at  for more details of how they built theirs.

Art Robots are not just being made from 'junk' another curated post from Primary Robots & Coding has Lego and Scratch being used to make drawing robots.

I plan to incorporate some of the ideas from Art &quo…