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Hardware Design

The sciBot project is built on top of MakeBlock’s mBot robot v1.1 (available from Robotshop.ca). Students can learn to code graphically using mBlock, and then extend their skills by learning to code in Arduino C++. The mBot is an excellent platform to learn how to code, but has some drawbacks when used in a high school science classroom.

We are interested in hooking up a variety of custom sensors to our sciBots, so we need a common interface to use. The RJ25 plugs that allow access to the Arduino’s inputs and outputs are fairly expensive and only available at specialty stores. In addition, they are not very physically robust. The search for a new connector began after watching several groups of 13-year-olds bend the pins on the mBot’s RJ25 port as they attempted to insert the plugs. We decided to choose a new standard connector which could be connected to the RJ25 ports and provide a more robust interface for the students to use.

We chose RCA plugs and jacks as our interfaces because they are widely available at low cost (due to their common use in audio-video systems). In addition, due to their physical construction, they can be used to connect and disconnect power without causing a short-circuit, and they are rated to allow fairly high currents.