These days I got an mBot Ranger for free, and I want to say many thanks to Makeblock for this great kit. The normal price for this kit is around $149.99, but it hasn’t yet been released. If you want to play these days with an older version of mBot, you can find them on Amazon. Otherwise, you
have to wait until 23rd May 2016 can buy the mBot Ranger kit.
Autonomous metal robots are hard to build from scratch unless you own a chassis kit and have degrees in electronics and programming. That’s what makes Makeblock’s mBot Ranger sets so amazing. The mBot Ranger kit combines sensors, motors, and an electronic brain with solid anodized aluminum parts, wheels, and tracks to make robots anyone can build. Of course, the robot can also be wirelessly controlled via Bluetooth connection. But I like more the autonomous way.
The good, the bad
- well designed with focus on details;
- easy assembly;
- strong and quality components;
- a lot of room for further extensions;
- if you want to change the batteries, you need to have with you the wrench included in the kit;
- the documentation is not up to date;
- I have some bad experience with the MeAuriga firmware. A lot of errors at installation in the Arduino IDE;
Inside the box
For your $149.99, you get the mBot Ranger intelligent brick called Me Auriga with ten ports for sensors and other components, the chassis parts, sensors, motors, six-AA battery holder (without the AA batteries), screws, the tools needed to build the chassis and more. The complete list is here:
Me Auriga is a compact brick based on Arduino Mega 2560. It provides connection ports for sensors and other modules that can be attached to the platform. It also has built-in sensors such as temperature, gyroscope, light and more. It features two ports for the two DC motors, a DC jack and a type-B port to connect it to your PC.
The whole brain and the motor driver is enclosed in a transparent case with an ON/OFF power button on top of it.
The main body
The main body is made with solid anodized aluminum elements pre-drilled for mounting all the parts and additional sensors, motors, or brackets. The kit includes all you need to build the three robots. If you combine additional components, you can build a wide range of robots.
mBot Ranger can be programmed with mBlock (an open-source graphical programming environment with drag-and-drop function blocks) or using the Arduino IDE. I choose the second option since I’m pretty familiar with the Arduino ecosystem.
You can manually control your mBot Ranger robot wirelessly via Bluetooth using an Android or iOS application. Also, the robot can work autonomously to avoids walls or path follower.
The kit includes all mechanical and electronics parts to build three distinct robots:
- Off-Road Land Raider – off-road robot tank
- Dashing Raptor – three-wheeled racing car
- Self-Balance Nervous Bird – a smart self-balance car
Also, all tools needed are included in the kit – a screwdriver and a wrench.
For this review, I’ll just focus on how to build two of the three robots following the building instructions available here.
Building the three-wheeled racing car
After I opened the box and I counted the components, I rolled up the sleeves, and I start to build up the three-wheeled racing car. I built it in about 40 minutes and was very easy with instructions provided.
At this step, I didn’t upload any sketch into the Me Auriga. I just want to test how easy was to build something with the kit. Below is the result.
Building the robot tank
This was the funny part for me because I like the tank version. I built it in around 30 minutes (now I have experience). I attached only the ultrasonic sensor since I want to build a robot able to detect and avoid obstacles.
I followed the instructions from this link, and I write the first Arduino sketch for the mBot Ranger kit. The idea was to program the robot tank for autonomous driving. Here is the result:
Both DC motors have a smooth and quiet sound. The robot is really fast, especially if you have some good batteries.
mBot Ranger makes accessible functional robots for beginners who have already spent years playing with RC cars and toys. The Makeblock mBot Ranger kit is the newest in the Makeblock series and comes with clear building instructions.
In other words, this product did not disappoint. It’s an accessible and intuitive way to get into robotics without investing too much time and money.