Tag Archives: STEM

This STEM kit will inspire the next generation of inventors

Tio is a new way for kids to play, learn and explore their imagination. 

What do you get when you combine plastic blocks, magnetic wheels and a mobile app? A car that can drive and race around your living room, a merry-go-round that can revolve and flash coded messages, a robot that can lift and carry objects, and a butterfly that can flap its wings, among countless other creations that Tio makes possible

With hopes of “inspiring tomorrow’s inventors,” Tio is a DIY kit that people of all ages can use to build smartphone-controlled gizmos and gadgets out of everyday objects, like recycled and craft materials, old LEGO bricks, obsolete toys and even 3D-printed parts.


The set includes a pair of motorized building blocks with built-in LEDs, magnetic mounts, two wheels, two pulleys, two adapters, four adhesive tabs, 30 stickers and a personalized storybook that will introduce children to the “imaginary worlds and guide them through their first creations.” It even includes nine pop-and-fold invention templates — a helicopter, a crawler and a windmill, to name a few — to help the youngsters get their feet wet before exploring more advanced materials.


What’s cool is that you can customize and program your projects wirelessly via Tio’s accompanying iOS/Android app. This app has several modes, each of which enable you to control features like speed, direction, LED colors, rotation and patterns. With a simple tap or swipe of your screen, Makers can configure their project to record and play back movements. Although more experienced users can code their devices, those just starting out will take comfort in knowing that this skill is not required to join in on the fun.


So whether you’re looking to unleash your creativity with 3D prints, build your own LEGO robot or breathe new life into old toys, Tio may be the connected platform for you. Help inspire the next generation of inventors and head over to its Kickstarter campaign, where the team is currently seeking $69,255. The first batch of units is expected to ship in September 2016.

Rewind: 27 STEM kits from 2015

These STEM toys from 2015 are helping to inspire the next generation of Makers.

STEM education has been a growing venture in schools across the country, with even the President himself making it a priority to encourage students as young as grade-school to pursue the science, technology, engineering and math disciplines. After all, these fields are changing the world rapidly within the areas of innovation, economic growth and employment. But let’s face it; these subjects don’t come easy to everyone, so how do we instill STEM in kids?

With this in mind, many startups have sought out new and exciting ways to entice the younger generation to explore their creativity and develop an interest in hands-on learning. Testament to that, here are several products from 2015 looking to inspire the next generation of Makers.

littleBits Gizmos & Gadgets


The Gizmos & Gadgets Kit is the ultimate invention toolbox, complete with motors, wheels, lights , switches, servos, buzzers and even the tools to build a remote control.



Jewelbots are programmable friendship bracelets that teach girls the basics of coding.



Thimble is a monthly subscription service that delivers fun electronic projects with guided tutorials and a helpful community.

Touch Board Starter Kit


Bare Conductive’s Touch Board Starter Kit contains everything you need to transform surfaces, objects or spaces into sensors.

Makey Makey GO


Small enough to fit on your keychain, backpack or bracelet, Makey Makey GO turns everyday objects into touchpads and combines them with the Internet. Say hello to the world’s first invention kit.



RePhone from Seeed Studio allows Makers to create a phone themselves in minutes and hack a new way to communicate with things.



mBot is an all-in-one, Arduino-compatible robot that supports wireless communication and employs Scratch 2.0-like coding.



Ringo is a miniature digital pet robot equipped with an accelerometer, a gyrosocope, six RGB LEDs, as well as sound and communication sensors.



Wink is an Arduino-driven robot designed to help transition students from graphical programming to more powerful written code languages. It’s also the sibling of the aforementioned Ringo.



Kano is a computer and coding kit for all ages that’s as simple as LEGO, powered by Raspberry Pi.

Primo Cubetto


Primo Cubetto is a smart wooden robot designed to teach kids the basics of coding away from the screen.



Petduino puts a DIY twist on the old-school Tamagotchi.



STEMI is a hexapod that can be built right at home and controlled via smartphone.



mCookies are quarter-sized, stackable modules from Microduino that enable young Makers to bring their LEGO projects to life.



Modulo is a set of tiny modular circuit boards that takes the hassle out of electronics.

The Crafty Robot


The Crafty Robot is a paper toy unlike any other — plug it into a USB port for 30 seconds, unplug it and you’ve got a moving robot.



Kamigami is an origami-style robot you can construct and program by yourself. Each one can be configured with a unique set of behaviors and characteristics through a drag-and-drop interface.



Phiro is a LEGO-compatible robotics toy that children can play with, code and innovate in various ways.



With Quirkbot, young Makers can devise and configure quirky robots (hence its name), blinking outfits and weird sounding creatures out of regular drinking straws.



Cannybots are LEGO-compatible, smart toy cars that introduce kids to the worlds of robotics, programming and 3D printing.



3DRacers is a Mario Kart-like indoor racing game that lets anyone design and 3D print their own car.

Volta Flyer


Volta Flyer is the world’s first DIY airplane kit that is solely powered by the sun.



Roby is a 3D-printed robotic machine that not only drives on four wheels, but can walk on two. If it falls, it can even pick itself up again with its pair of arms.

O Watch


O Watch is a DIY smartwatch for a kid, by a kid.



LocoRobo is a cute, inexpensive robot capable of being wirelessly programmed.



KamiBot is a programmable, smartphone-controlled paper robot.

Pixel Pals


Pixel Pals are easy-to-build, fun educational kits that grow from a project to a friend you can program.

Fiat Lux


Fiat Lux is an Arduino-compatible kit specifically designed for unique wearable projects.



AZIBOt is an open source, 3D-printed robot kit for STEM education in Africa.

mBot is an Arduino-compatible educational robot for young Makers

Now part of the Arduino AtHeart program, Makeblock is looking help children learn how to program through a user-friendly kit, software and interface. 

Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen a number of easy-to-use robotic kits become available for young Makers in hope of inspiring them to pursue STEM-related fields. Among the more notable companies looking to spur this initiative is Shenzhen startup Makeblock with their low-cost educational robot


In the company’s pursuit of an O.R.P.K (or “One Robot Per Kid”) world, mBot was designed to be a comprehensive solution that would provide children with a hands-on experience around graphical programming, electronics and robotics. With simplicity in mind, the kit is comprised of only 45 or so pieces, enabling a sense of achievement for kids to quickly assemble in 10 minutes.

Given the popularity of Scratch 2.0 as a graphical programming software in the classroom setting, the Makeblock team has developed a new line of Scratch-based software — aptly named mBlock — that uses a similar coding style to configure Arduino and robots. The drag-and-drop software is entirely free and supports both Window and Mac operating systems. Beyond that, mBlock supports wireless communication, allowing Makers to use either Bluetooth or 2.4GHz wireless serial to ‘talk’ with its accompanying mBot. The program is also compatible with Arduino Uno (ATmega328) and Leonardo (ATmega32U4) boards, as well as Makeblock’s own Arduino variant, the mCore.


Powered by an ATmega328, each mBot board features intuitional color labels and four easy-to-follow RJ25 connectors. This lets Makers wire the unit in a matter of seconds, and more importantly, provides them with a hassle-free way to focus on actually devising all sorts of interactive projects — ranging from robots that can avoid walls and follow lines to play music and duke it out in a fight.

The friendly blue robot is currently being offered in a pair of models based on its communication capabilities. The Bluetooth version, which is equipped with a Bluetooth module, is suitable for individual or team use; whereas the 2.4G version, which features two 2.4G wireless modules, is intended for the classroom. Aside from that, each kit consists of a chassis, two motors, an ultrasonic sensor, a line follower, a remote controller, a buzzer, some RGD LEDs, an mCore, and a few other electronic components. mBot can be powered by either a rechargeable lithium battery or four-1.5V AA batteries.


“We designed specially two available wireless communication instead of wired USB cable, so users can enjoy wireless programming to control robots without the limit of USB cable,” the team explains. “The chassis is compatible with Lego and Makeblock parts. And you can use on-hand Raspberry Pi or standard Arduino boards to learn more about electronics or bring kid’s more ideas to life.”

Not only did it garner more than $285,00 from 2,500-plus backers on Kickstarter earlier this year, Makeblock’s mBot has now become a member of the growing Arduino AtHeart program.

Instantly print art onto your fingernails with your smartphone

The Nailbot prints instant custom nail art, while inspiring girls to explore creative technology.

If you’re tired of the same ol’ one-color manicure and rather decorate your nails with smiley face emojis, logos or even selfies, one Menlo Park-based startup has just the thing for you. The brainchild of Preemadonna, the aptly named NailBot is a nail art device that instantly prints custom designs onto your nails via your smartphone.


With aspirations of providing girls with a fun way to explore creative technology, the Nailbot uses your smartphone’s vision capabilities and processing power to print photos from either your camera roll, a preloaded image gallery or (eventually) from your social networks directly onto a nail in less than five seconds.

First, you must prep your nail with a basic white polish and then open its accompanying app on your smartphone. Select the picture of choice, place your hand inside the cradle and hit print — it’s as simple as that! The resolution of the Nailbot is the same as traditional thermal inkjet products, reaching up to 1200 dpi.


The idea was initially conceived after co-founder Pree Walia was unable to find an easy DIY solution to rock unique nail art. And so, like any true Maker, she decided to invent her own system along with fellow co-founder Casey Schulz. The original prototype, which the duo had mocked up in 2013, employed an Arduino along with a resistive touchscreen.

Through Preemadonna’s platform, Nailbot users will have the ability to express themselves in unique fashion by devising, sharing, selling and printing their own designs, photos and art. A smaller, more portable version of the Nailbot prototype will be shipped to Indiegogo backers next year. The team hopes that the next iteration of the device will feature Bluetooth connectivity, swipe-to-print capabilities and will employ a smartphone’s back-facing camera to size an image onto a fingernail. Beyond that, the gadget will be battery-powered, making it much more portable. (The current version must still be plugged into a wall outlet.)


And that’s not all. As a way to inspire young girls to pursue STEM disciplines and build things of their own, Preemadonna is offering a Maker Kit, too. This includes an Arduino-powered handheld unit that will teach users how to program a graphical touchscreen interface and how to print their own creations. It should be noted, however, that this device is not for use on nails. Instead, it can print on paper or stickers.

Ready to say goodbye to the nail salon? Head over to the Nailbot’s Indiegogo campaign, where the Preemadonna team is seeking $150,000.


Phiro is a LEGO-compatible robot for kids

Phiro is a LEGO-compatible robotics toy that kids can play, code and innovate in various ways. 

Research shows that one of the most effective ways for kids to learn problem-solving is through robotics and coding. This is an area that sisters Deepti Suchindran and Aditi Prasad — who are the founders of Boston-based startup Robotix — hope Phiro can play an integral role. The LEGO-compatible kit will enable the future generation to program and solve challenges in a more engaging and interactive manner, whether that includes making a movie or cleaning their room.


Robotix has acquired many years of experience teaching coding and robotics to several K-12 schools. Along the way, they have discovered that such gadgets are usually expensive, use proprietary programming languages and are not so fun for its young user base. Instead, the team is looking to change that with an affordable robotics toy that will assist kids in learning to code and develop computational thinking skills. Young Makers will be able to enhance their coding skills in five different ways, either without a computer or with open source programming languages.

With Phiro, children can play music, create games, flash lights, detect faces and much more. The combination of programming and playing with such a toy will empower the next generation to pursue STEM-related disciplines and to become the innovators of tomorrow.


And so, Robotix has launched a pair of ATmega2560 powered robots for two different age groups: Phiro Unplugged and Phiro Pro. Both units come fully assembled and are ready for use right out of the box. First, Phiro Unplugged is designed for those between the ages of four and eight, and is an excellent instructional tool for sequential programming and binary coding. The best part is that it can all be achieved without a computer. Meanwhile, Phiro Pro has shares many of the same qualities as the Unplugged and then some.

Geared towards Makers between nine to 18, users can program their bot with a computer, tablet or smartphone, which connects wirelessly over Bluetooth to an assortment of programming languages: Scratch 2.0 (MIT), Snap4Arduino (UC Berkeley/Citilab) and Pocket Code mobile apps (Graz University of Technology). Learners can link to an online community that will encourage collaboration, sharing, and of course, more education.

Perhaps one of its greatest selling points is its LEGO compatibility. For instance, Phiro lets you transform your robot into a bull dozer or snow plow with LEGO attachments, and command it to navigate your room and clean your things!


“Be endlessly creative and transform Phiro into an animal, alien, car, join your tea party, or anything you imagine with Phiro’s LEGO-compatible connector. Kids can personalize their own Phiro robots,” the Robotix crew writes. “Want speed? Create code for a remote control in Scratch 2.0, Snap4Arduino, Pocket Code mobile app’s and gear up Phiro with LEGO parts and watch your race car go!”

Want an awesome bot of your own? Head over to Phiro’s Kickstarter campaign, where Robotix is currently seeking $50,000. Delivery is slated for May 2016.

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.


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.


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.


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.

Watch this low-cost, Arduino-compatible bot draw on its own

This group of Makers built a 3D-printed, Arduino-compatible robot that can draw and write.

Dating back to the late 1940s, turtle robots have been employed for computer science and mechanical engineering training. These low to the ground gadgets were later perfected by Seymour Papert, co-inventor of the Logo educational programming language in the 1980s. Papert’s models had carried out assigned drawing functions using a small retractable pen set into or attached to the robot’s body.


Well, the MakersBox crew decided to take this concept and apply it to a 3D-printed, Arduino-compatible doodling robot of their own, which was originally conceived as part of a recent 10-hour workshop for ChickTech.org. Their device, equipped with a pen in the center of its body not unlike its predecessors, works by wheeling around a sheet of paper as it simultaneously draws shapes.

The bot is based on an Adafruit Pro Trinket 3V (ATmega328), along with a pair of steppers, a driver, a micro servo and four AA batteries for power. The Makers also created eight different 3D-printed parts, which included the chassis, wheels, pen holder and stepper bracket.


The robot itself is programmed using a set of commands relating to its position on a piece of paper. The Trinket can be configured to move the robot backwards and forwards, rotate it in both directions, as well as raise and lower the pen so it’s not always drawing. Intrigued? Check out the Makers’ entire project here, or simply watch it in action below!

LINKKI is a DIY kinetic construction kit

LINKKI lets you design movements whether it be for kinetic prototyping or storytelling.

The brainchild of Eun Young Park as a part of her at Master’s thesis at Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture, LINKKI is a DIY toy kit based on a planar linkage mechanism that enables Makers and designers to prototype their own simple movements, create kinetic storyboards, as well as learn basic STEM principles through hands-on tinkering.


The idea for the DIY kit first came about after having been inspired to extend storytelling media beyond two-dimensional space and into the physical world with interactive components.

“Consisting of a modular box, bars and circles, and active modules, LINKKI simplifies the technical construction toy to such an extent as to look minimal but still retains the versatility of construction blocks as an educational tool and designer’s prototyping tool,” Park explains.


Devised with expandability in mind, LINKKI allows for Makers to add various modules to any project. For example, a signal meter or visualizer can be built on top of the kit, and when coupled with a sensor (like a weather or push sensor), can trigger interesting behaviors. Aside from that, this lets users familiarize themselves with the concept of physical computing and the Internet of Things.


Made from birch plywood, PLA and metal, there are 16 types of bars in four different shapes and two circles. Movement is driven by either a hand crank or one of three types of Arduino-based motor boxes: a full rotation version that spins with a constant speed when a user pushes a button, a limited rotation device that revolves to and fro between the angles set by a knob, and an interactive motor that moves according to the Wi-Fi signal sent from the sensor unit.

Intrigued? See it in action below! You can also read all about Park’s backstory and inspiration for the project here.

Build your own spider-like robot with STEMI

This DIY kit lets kids make their own nature-inspired robot while learning electronics, programming and more. 

What’s better than a bio-inspired, crawling robot? A spider bot that you can build yourself, that’s what. Locomotion mimicking nature has been around for a little while, but up until now has only been available to university researchers. That’s all going to change. In an effort to entice more young Makers to pursue STEM fields, one Croatian startup has developed a DIY smartphone-controlled hexapod.


STEMI, a play on the acronym STEM, ships in the form of a DIY kit along with a series of multimedia tutorials that instruct its teenage Makers to piece together their gadget and bring it to life. More than just a robot, however, STEMI is designed to be a learning experience for users ages 13 and up as they explore the basics of 3D modeling, electronics, Arduino and programming. In the near future, they’ll also be able to create their own 3D-printable custom covers, ranging from Batman to a Walking Dead-like zombie.

Although primarily targeted for the younger generation, there’s nothing that says kids at heart can’t get in on the fun as well. STEMI is capable of performing complex movements, adjusting heights, walking in three different way and dancing. The best part? Using a smartphone’s built-in gyroscopic sensor, Makers can completely control the robot’s movement by simply tilting their handheld device.


Making it even cooler is the fact that STEMI is fully open source, meaning anyone can freely modify its code, blueprints, 3D models and more. The robot itself is built around an Arduino Due-compatible (SAM3X8E) board and a custom PCB packed with an Arduino shield, a Bluetooth module, a USB battery charger, voltage regulators and LED indicators. Aside from that, the kit comes with 18 servo motors, a rechargeable battery pack, aluminum body parts, rubber leg caps, as well as various nuts and spacers.

So, are you ready to begin assembling your own spider bot? Then crawl over to its Indiegogo campaign, where the STEMI team is currently seeking $16,000.

Meet the world’s first DIY origami robot

With Kamigami, engineering is for everyone. Build your own bug bot and then control it with your phone. 

STEM education has been a growing venture in schools across the country, with even the President himself making it a priority to encourage students as young as grade-school to pursue the science, technology, engineering and math disciplines. After all, these fields are changing the world rapidly within the areas of innovation, economic growth and employment. But let’s face it; these subjects don’t come easy to everyone, so how do we instill STEM in kids? A team of UC Berkeley graduates found a way to pique children’s interests, while also inspiring the next generation of Makers. Meet Kamigami, an origami-style robot you can build and program by yourself — no engineering degree necessary.


Kamigami is the brainchild of Dash Robotics, a startup founded by Berkeley engineers Nick Kohut and Andrew Gillies. The company firmly believes in STEM education, and that the power of innovating is for everyone. Kamigami was created with this belief in notion, and it has proven to be an educational and affordable way for kids to get an early start in robotics, engineerin and biology.

Now live on Kickstarter, these robots come in a DIY kit comprised of laser-cut body components, a motor, a transmission, a rechargeable battery, a microUSB port, and plug-and-play electronics. The assembly takes less than an hour and instructional videos online shows you how it comes together. Plus, the robot’s behavior can be programmed and controlled all through Kamigami’s accompanying mobile app (for iOS and Android).


Each Kamigami can be configured with a unique set of behaviors and characteristics through a drag-and-drop interface, opening up a range of possible modes that take advantage of the robot’s integrated sensors and functions. So what type of games is it capable of? For starters, sumo wrestling (first to fall of a table loses), relay races (one robot can’t run until it’s tagged by another), tank battles (take turns trying to get into firing position) and IR laser tag, to name just a few.

And unlike other DIY robotic kits before it, biology comes into play in the automation of each Kamigami. In fact, the bots take into account animals and mimics their locomotion through its built-in linkages and motors. The robot’s chassis is made of a patent-pending material (an extremely durable plastic composite) that allows it to fold up through an origami-like process. This material doesn’t fatigue or wear, which makes for a more durable robot.


The mechanics of the robot itself are custom designed, and packed with processing power and sensors. The main microprocessor features a Cortex-M0 core and a Bluetooth Smart radio. Plus, the cockroach-ish unit is packed with an array of sensors including ambient light, infrared detectors and emitter, a gyroscope and an accelerometer. The electronics also entail motor drivers, charging circuitry and an accessory header for expandability. The infrared emitter and detectors enable each bot to send and receive signals from its mobile app, as well as communicate with other Kamigamis. The gadget runs on a rechargeable battery, with about 30-45 minutes of play time.

Sound like a bug bot you’d love to have? Crawl over to its Kickstarter campaign, where Dash Robotics is currently seeking $50,000. Delivery is expected to get underway in March 2016.