TinkerGen's MARK — the Make A Robot Kit — Aims to Bring Artificial Intelligence to STEM Education

Designed around a Kendryte K210-based machine vision module and an Arduino-compatible base board, MARK looks to simplify machine learning.

Educational electronics startup TinkerGen has launched a crowdfunding campaign for MARK (Make A Robot Kit) with which it is hoping to bring coding, robotics, and artificial intelligence skills to a new generation.

"MARK is designed in the form of a car, so we'll preload code which allows you to implement basic self-driving car functionality once everything is assembled and connected," TinkerGen's Erin Linke writes. "We want to involve all members of the family! MARK interacts with the environment including but not limited to pets, humans and other MARKs!

"MARK brings a lot of fun through it's ability to interact with the external world. Aside from the obvious camera sensor, there is an ultrasonic sensor included for collision avoidance, a button which you can program to change modes, and an electromagnet which gives MARK a 'pick up' function. Simply attach metallic stickers (included in pack) on the back of an image card."

The core of the MARK is a custom PCB the company has dubbed the M.A.R.K.duino, which includes the usual Arduino Nano pinout along with multiple ports for motors, servos, digital, analog, and I2C pins — the latter offering compatibility with Grove sensors. Machine vision, meanwhile, is handled by a modified Sipeed Maixduino dubbed the CyberEye and powered by a Kendryte K210 system-on-chip with dual-core RISC-V processor and dedicated Kendryte Processing Unit (KPU) neural network accelerator.

The board, TinkerGen promises, will come pre-loaded with five pre-trained machine learning models for computer vision tasks: One recognizes common objects like books, pens, smartphones, and rather worryingly bombs; another recognizes traffic signs, and is used for the self-driving vehicle project; another identifies numbers; yet another animals including dogs and cats; and the final model recognizes a selection of zoo animals.

Each MARK kit includes the board, CyberEye with camera and 2.4" LCD, chassis, sensors, and all the parts required to get up and running; higher-end packs include pre-printed cards for the computer vision models, a sumo-battle arena, an autonomous driving map, and/or a grabber and slingshot attachment.

More information on the project can be found on the Kickstarter campaign page, where early bird pricing begins at $119 — a claimed 40% discount off the planned retail price - with initial shipments due in July this year.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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