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Arduino Engineering Kit - Review

Scoring

Product Performed to Expectations: 7
Specifications were sufficient to design with: 8
Demo Software was of good quality: 9
Product was easy to use: 6
Support materials were available: 7
The price to performance ratio was good: 7
TotalScore: 44 / 60
  • RoadTest: Arduino Engineering Kit
  • Buy Now
  • Evaluation Type: Electromechanical
  • Was everything in the box required?: No - Missing 2 white wheel hubs. Although, I was sent spare hubs after contacting the RoadTest team.
  • Comparable Products/Other parts you considered: This kit is very unique and I have yet to find a comparable product.
  • What were the biggest problems encountered?: The main issues encountered were missing parts and difficulties with the simulink to Arduino MKR connection.

  • Detailed Review:

    The Arduino Engineering kit is advertised to be a hands-on incorporation of Arduino technology in an educational setting. This kit consists of 3 projects and an online platform for users to learn various engineering concepts such as robotics, image processing, control systems and more. The projects included consist of:

    1. Drawing robot
    2. Mobile rover
    3. Self-balancing motorcycle

     

    With this kit, Arduino and Mathworks aims at targeting 3 kinds of users:

    1. University students who want to learn about engineering.
    2. Professors who want to teach engineering with a practical resource to demonstrate engineering concepts.
    3. People with a general interest in engineering.

     

    That being said, I'm currently an electrical engineering and computing technologies student in university. Therefore, this makes me a targeted user by the manufacturer and thus, my experience with the product could benefit in its enhancement. In short, I hope to inform you all of my experience, both good and bad, with this product. Before beginning the review, I would like to thank the teams at Arduino and Mathworks and the element14 community for giving me the chance to complete my first RoadTest with this product.

     

    Unboxing

    Figures 1-5: Arduino Engineering kit and contents

     

    Figure 6: Missing white wheel hubs

     

    Figure 7: Spare wheel hubs arrived

     

    Figure 8: Crooked connector on motor shield

     

    As pictured in figures 1-5, all the physical contents of the Arduino Engineering kit come in a reusable plastic bin with a plastic tray insert. This bin was very useful in keeping things neat and helped me prevent losing parts throughout my use of the kit.

     

    Unfortunately, the white wheel hubs were missing from my kit. These wheels, pictured in figure 6, were necessary for 2 of the 3 projects that would be done with the kit. It took a month before the RoadTest team was able to supply me with spare wheel hubs.(figure 7)

     

    Also, upon closer inspection of the boards themselves, I found a crooked 3-pin connector on the motor shield(figure 8). Fortunately, this was not an issue during my use of the kit. Although, this would have been an issue that could easily be fixed with access to a soldering iron.

     

    Arduino Education Platform

    Figure 9: Arduino Education platform home page

     

    Figure 10: Snapshot of assembly instruction video

     

    Figure 11: Snapshot of project explanations/instructions

     

    The Arduino Engineering kit provides an easy to use interface for its kit. The 3D assembly instruction videos, pictured in figure 10, were very well made and helped with the assembly necessary for each project. The instructions/explanations pages(example at figure 11) also went into detail on the aspects of the provided code, simulink models and concepts being used in the projects. There is also plenty of visual aid used in these explanations, making this platform a good tool to teach the concepts being used.

     

    It is important to note that this kit provides pre-written MATLAB code and pre-made Simulink models for each project that the user needs to modify or add onto in order to complete different tasks.

     

    Projects

     

    #1 - Drawing Robot

    Figure 12-13: Assembled Drawing Robot

     

    Figure 14: How I attached the hangers

     

    Figure 15: Drawing robot with finished drawing

     

    Figure 16-17: Red and black robot drawing(left) of captured image(right)

     

    The drawing robot was my favourite project out of the 3. I found it to be a very neat way to apply concepts of geometry, physics and math into a fun project. Also, the explanations provided were clear and explained the provided code well. The robot did not perfectly recreate the images I sent it but this can be expected with the robot being unbalanced sometimes. Such a result of this can be seen in the figure 15. Ultimately, the aspect of this project I liked the most was the final challenge, where I used image processing tools in order to incorporate the second marker(red colour). You can see the results of that challenge in figure 16. Figure 17 is the image that was used to create the drawing in figure 16.

     

    Unfortunately, there are some negative aspects that I experienced while going through this project. One being the drawing robot hangers falling off. As pictured in figure 14, the hangers required the use of tape to hold them onto the whiteboard. In addition to the negative aspects, I found that the screw heads on the bottom of the robot were scratching my whiteboard. These scratches can be seen in figure 16. In order to prevent further damage, I had to cover the screw heads with tape. Another issue I encountered was the need for a wired connection to the PC. This made it difficult to leave the robot drawing unsupervised as the cable often got caught up in the robot.

     

    #2 - Mobile Rover

    Figure 18-19: Part with missing holes

     

    Figure 20: Mobile rover assembled and in the arena

     

    Figure 21: View of the arena from my webcam

     

    Figure 22: Frequent error with the Simulink/MKR connection

     

    The mobile rover project was built around the two wheel drive robot pictured in figure 20. Upon construction of the rover, I noticed that one of the plastic pieces I had received was missing 2 holes(figures 18-19). Fortunately, I was able to fix this issue by drilling the missing holes myself.

     

    Unfortunately though, the necessary calibration process at every use was a process that took a lot of my time, especially considering I had to calibrate more often as my webcam setup was not solid and often moved out of place. Another issue I encountered during this project was the errors with the Simulink/MKR connection. The error messages I would receive are pictured in figure 22. These error messages caused me to be stuck for many days debugging this issue. I initially restarted my PC and opened MATLAB as administrator which did not fix the issue. I then uninstalled and reinstalled the software needed(MATLAB, Arduino, MATLAB add-ons) but I kept receiving the same error messages. I then found a comment on a mathworks post that was able to help fix the errors I was getting. More specifically, Emanuel’s comment on this post: https://www.mathworks.com/matlabcentral/answers/407753-arduino-mkr1000-simulink-build-procedure-aborted-due-to-error. It seems that my errors were related to the add-on download sequence. This is an issue that the Mathworks/Arduino team should look into as it could have stalled my progress for even longer than it did.

     

    Ultimately, I was able to get the rover moving and picking things up with the servo controlled forklift. This project became a great way to teach me concepts such as types of controllers(open/closed loop), state machines(Stateflow in Simulink) and image processing tools. In the future, I want to try rebuilding this robot and attempt to control it via smartphone like in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jUGCIfsYLo4.

     

    #3 - Self-Balancing motorcycle

    Figure 23: Assembled Self-balancing motorcycle

     

    Video 1: Motorcycle balancing in place

     

    Video 2: Motorcycle balancing while moving

     

    The self-balancing motorcycle was another great project. Throughout this project I was able to use the IMU sensor data and incorporate it into a control system to keep the motorcycle balanced, see video 1 for a video of my motorcycle balancing in place. I was also capable of making it balance while moving forward as seen in video 2. This project also leaves the user with an interesting challenge of making the motorcycle execute banked turns. Sadly though, the ping sensor at the front of the motorcycle(figure 23) isn't necessary for this project but I'm sure it could be added in an obstacle avoidance algorithm for this motorcycle.

     

    All in all, this project went without a hitch and gave me an even better understanding of controller algorithms in Simulink.

     

    Conclusion / Final Thoughts

    I have listed my final pros and cons of the Arduino Engineering kit in the following table:

     

    ProsCons
    Tons of fun while also learning about various engineering concepts

    Missing parts, in my case the 2 white wheel hubs

    Projects can be extended with the added challenges or by the users creativityPlastic pieces missing holes
    1-year MATLAB license includedSimulink/MKR connection issues
    Boards, sensor, actuators and hardware included in the kit can be used for various other purposes/projectsCost is high for a student to afford (Around $300)

    Table 1: Final pros and cons of the Arduino Engineering kit

     

    As a student, the Arduino Engineering kit was a great tool for me to learn about various engineering concepts in a fun and engaging way. Although I had prior experience with Arduino and Matlab programming, I feel like beginners would also be able to enjoy this kit and pick up the programming skills necessary while using it. As for having this kit in a classroom of a university or even high school(senior) level, I believe it would definitely be an incredible learning tool for students. That being said, issues of missing parts and software errors like those I have experienced would need to be ironed out to limit setbacks for students.

     

    Disregarding the missing parts and software issues, I think this is an excellent kit with great educational projects tailored for any student or maker who is interested in programming, robotics or engineering in general.


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