Wink is a low-cost, Arduino-powered pet robot


This bug-like bot enables Makers to easily migrate from graphical style programming to written code. 


Pet rocks were all the rage in the mid-’70s, and then came the Tamagotchi in the ’90s. So what could be the next craze in the current millennium? Pet robots? It’s not a far reach. Robotics has been a disruptive innovation in STEM education, with a growing number of kits being deployed by K-12 educators to teach science and engineering. These easy-to-build and even easier-to-understand sets continue to provide students with a basic overview of programming concepts, with hopes of inspiring more children to pursue STEM disciplines. However, students will eventually need to move on to writing “real world” programming languages like Java, Python, C, and C++. Plum Geek saw this need, and came up with the next logical step to prepare the next wave of hackers, tinkerers and Makers.

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Meet Wink — a low-cost, Arduino-based robot that instructs students how to write code, while programming the robot’s behavior as well. The project was originally conceived by a team of Makers who wanted to help transition students from graphical programming to more powerful written code languages. With Wink, students will learn the foundations of the C programming language, which is widely used to control microprocessors used in all manner of robotics, embedded systems, automation, and the growing Internet of Things revolution.

The Wink robot includes a free and open curriculum with lesson plans and guide videos that could be easily adopted at home, in the classroom, and at workshops. Students will train their new pet robot by programming common robotic tasks such as line following, light seeking, barrier detection, and autonomous roaming, while also leaving room for students creative experimentation.

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If Wink looks vaguely familiar, that’s because the bug-like bot is the sibling of Plum Geek’s earlier Kickstarter success Ringo. These palm-sized pet robots may be small, but still pack quite a punch. Built around an Arduino Uno (ATmega328) at its core, Wink runs on a fast motor and each motor can be independently driven forward or backward. At full speed, it can zoom across the floor or table in the ‘wink’ of an eye — surely quicker than any pet rock you ever had!

What’s more, the bot is equipped with three sensors on top to measure any light that’s straight ahead and 45 degrees to either side, an infrared barrier headlight tucked under its nose to detect obstacles that stand in its way, four more sensors underneath for high-speed line following and edge detection, as well as a piezo buzzer to emit simple chirps and alarms. Onboard is a rechargeable 240 mAh LiPo, giving you hours of fun and experimentation.

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Interested in a new pet robot for your house or classroom? Head over to Wink’s Kickstarter campaign, where its creators have once again stormed right by its initial goal. The first batch of units is expected to ship sometime in January 2016.

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