Five years ago, Matrix TSL launched a robotics solution aimed at inspiring students to develop their own maze solving and line following programs in technology. The robot – Formula Flowcode was a real success, with thousands of robots supplied into various levels of education from age 14 + around the globe.
Formula Flowcode was a low cost, relatively unique in terms of its technical specification at the time and came with full compatibility with Matrix’s Flowcode graphical programming software, as well as providing a free course.
Since then, it is clear to see that things have moved on. Last year, we began to look at the development of our second robotics solution. Robotics has evolved (a lot) since we initially launched Formula Flowcode five years ago. In the US and Europe, a rise in the number of ‘out of school clubs’ has inspired students to pursue interests in STEM education and technological hobbies. The Raspberry Pi era has brought simple (and cheap) computer programming to the masses – and more importantly to children.
Nowadays, almost everyone has a smartphone with a camera, with Bluetooth, with access to the web and so on. All of this is generating huge interest in schools too – teachers are always looking for ways to develop and enhance the experiences had by their students in the lab, not only in colleges and higher education but also in the classroom in secondary and even primary schools.
It was clear, that we needed to come up with something relatively unique, with a specification that stood out from the crowd. There are hundreds of alternative robotics solutions out there – some simple, some cheap. Some popular and some difficult to use.
What we needed was something that could appeal to anyone, a COMPLETE solution in robotics that allowed someone to take a robot straight from the box and begin to program it and control it using just about anything.
From this, our team of skilled developers and embedded engineers have come up with a solution that allows you to learn robotics, your way. Formula AllCode.
Host independent API
Formula AllCode is a complete course in robotics with an impressive specification set. The robot itself is Bluetooth enabled and can become a slave for platforms including Android and Apple devices and the Raspberry Pi.
The system runs on a 16 bit dsPIC microcontroller – around 12 times faster than the processor on the original Formula Flowcode. What’s more, it is programmable from just about anything including Flowcode 6, MATLAB, LabVIEW, Python, App Inventor, various Blockly visual programming software and more.
Formula AllCode is pre-programmed with a full API (Application Programming Interface) that listens to commands through Bluetooth which allows the user with any type of remote Bluetooth enabled device to control the sensors/actuators of the robot.
Robotics applications for Android or Raspberry Pi
App Inventor is an innovative beginner’s introduction to programming and app creation that transforms the complex language of text-based coding into visual, drag-and-drop building blocks. The simple graphical interface grants even an inexperienced novice the ability to create a basic, fully functional app within an hour or less.
Formula AllCode can easily be programmed direct from App Inventor. Here, you are able to develop the UI of your app itself, then using a simple Blockly style of programming, create your program to control the Formula AllCode (see below).
You can also control the Formula AllCode from a Raspberry Pi devices. This tutorial guides you through the process of setting up a Raspberry Pi with a USB Bluetooth dongle so it can communicate with AllCode.
In education, popular algorithm development software such as MATLAB can be used to control the robot and LabVIEW users can also interface.
Formula AllCode is not only a robot – it’s a complete robotics solution. A free, accompanying course which will be launched alongside Formula AllCode and be available online from the Matrix website includes a range of activities with varied levels of difficulty; from simple line following to maze solving.
The course is being written to provide users with examples of how to use Formula AllCode with a host of their choice; whether you want to program from your Raspberry Pi or Python, Android and App Inventor or Flowcode 6 etc. you’ll be able to use the course to deliver a stimulating insight into robotics and learn your way.
The solution also includes a developing range of accessories; initially a maze and activity mat and desk mounted maze walls to make an X by Y cell maze for problem solving competitions.
Formula AllCode is available to pre-order today from www.matrixtsl.com/formula-allcode and will be in stock to ship by the end of January. Formula AllCode is available in standard and deluxe single user packs, as well as sets of 5 or 10 for classes of students in education.
If you have any further questions about the robotics platform don’t hesitate to contact Matrix TSL for further details.
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