Austrian robotics institute shares proven teaching platform

May 12, 2017 // By Julien Happich
Bringing its proven educational toolkit to Kickstarter, non-profit association Practical Robotics Institute Austria (PRIA) shares its teaching experience and promotes a robot control platform it has developed along the years to teach robotics across all age groups.

Dubbed Hedgehog, the Raspberry Pi 3 SBC runs a programmable ARM-based STM32 microcontroller and is described as simple enough for use by elementary schoolers, yet versatile enough to allow even university students to learn new things.

The kit uses Google's open source Blockly visual programming editor that allows kids to start their first programming experiences visually. As kids grow up, Blockly allows them to transition naturally to textual programming and for more advanced programmers, existing Blockly programs can be converted to Python code. PRIA uses a web-based integrated development environment (IDE) that lets you code on any operating system using a browser. The IDE's server runs on the controller itself, so an internet connection is not required and users can connect to the controller either via WiFi or Ethernet. On top of programming, the IDE lets users control connected motors and servos, and displays the analogue and digital sensor values, so the robots can be tested quickly.

Compatible with standard RC servos and DC motors, with 4 motor ports and 4 servo ports, the Hedgehog robot controller can take the inputs from a variety of sensors using any of the 16 sensor ports (8 digital and 8 analogue). As an example, a standard webcam could be used to provide machine vision but any other Raspberry Pi compatible USB device could be plugged-in.