Sparki the Arduino robot is going places with Atmel’s Atmega32u4RC

Sparki is an easy to use Arduino-based robot that offers a fun introduction to programming, electronics and robotics. Although Sparki is simple enough for beginners, the ‘bot is packed with more than enough features to satisfy more experienced Makers.

The robot is powered by Atmel’s Atmega32u4RC paired with with a custom serial/HID hybrid Arduino bootloader. Additional key hardware specs include an NRF24L01+ data radio, 128×64 LCD, an ultrasonic distance sensor, accelerometer, 3x light-sensing phototransistors, 5x line-following and edge detection sensors, IR bounce for gripper, RGB LED, buzzer, IR transmitter/receiver/remote, TL serial port for expansion, a port for Bluetooth serial module, 2x geared stepper motors and a marker holder for drawing.

“Sparki is ArcBotics’ answer to robotics in education. After our first successful Kickstarter for Hexy the Hexapod, a low-cost open-source Arduino robot designed to be an intro to advanced robotics, we were approached by many who asked if we had anything for beginners. When we looked around, we saw that other educational robots were very expensive, difficult to use, lacked features, or had closed designs,” an ArcBotic rep explained on Kickstarter.

“However, we know that the interest in programming and robotics from people of all ages is enormous. So we thought, why not design an adorable new robot that lets people of all ages enjoy robotics, while offering them a wide range of [fun] possibilities?”

On the software side, ArcBotic has partnered with the folks at MiniBloq to bring drag-and-drop programming to Sparki, all while developing free tutorials and lesson plans.

Currently, Sparki can be used to teach a number of introductory robotic concepts, including edge avoidance, line following, maze solving, wall avoidance, room navigation, object retrieval and shape drawing. More advanced concepts include PID loops, pathfinding algorithms, signal filtering and heuristics.

Sparki has raised over $184,000 from close to 1,600 backers. Additional information about the ‘bot can be found on Sparki’s official Kickstarter page here.

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