Any educator worth their salt knows that the only reliable way to get kids actually interested in learning is to make that learning fun. Colorful block toys naturally motivate infants to develop motor skills and basic special reasoning. Typing tutor computer games make it a fun challenge for kids to increase their words-per-minute. And, as those kids get older, more advanced STEM education toys like MaeGo can help them become acquainted with technology that may not have even existed when you or I were children. MaeGo is an autonomous robot rover built for a target shooting game, but it also gives kids an opportunity to learn coding.
The MaeGo self-driving robot rover is launching through Kickstarter, and the campaign has reached more than three times its funding goal at the time of this writing thanks to funding from 90 backers. The MaeGo robot rover itself is a bit like an advanced iRobot Roomba vacuum cleaner, in that it is able to drive autonomously around your home while avoiding obstacles. It has a pair of sensors to facilitate the target shooting game: an infrared sensor and a pressure sensor. Players can shoot the robot with either an IR light gun or a Nerf dart gun in order to score points. The robot’s battery lasts about 45 minutes, so there is time for plenty of fun.
Most kids will probably lose interest in that basic target shooting game fairly quickly, and that’s when the real fun comes in. They can use either Python or Blockly — a visual programming language developed by Google and MIT — to reprogram the robot and give it new abilities. There is a surprising amount of hardware inside of the MaeGo robot, which means they can program all kinds of new features. That hardware includes a quad-core Arm Cortex-A35 processor running at 1.3GHz, an Arm Cortex-M4 microcontroller, a WiFi module, a LIDAR sensor, an IMU, a camera, a microphone, a variety of LEDs, and the infrared sensor.
The MaeGo Kickstarter campaign will be running until May 28th. It’s available in yellow, red, and green colors, and super early birds can get a package with the robot and a single light gun for $129. Rewards are expected to be delivered in July.