Jun 19, 2013
It is no secret that in the last few decades the United States has fallen behind the rest of the educated world in math and science. These are major academic fields not just support American industries, but help make us a major world power. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, our children are not absorbing these subjects as they used to, and I feel that this is because we do not encourage the tinkering with electronics and robotics like we used to. Speaking from the point of view of an engineer, I can say that there is definitely a dearth of these resources available to kids and teenagers.
Many like-minded entrepreneurs have tried their hand at attempting to bridge this gap, and there are many quality products on the market. One new product combines electronics and robotics with an an RC car in a smart attempt to make these subjects more appealing. The RK-1, as it is called, is nothing more than a rectangular acrylic box housing for the micro controller with four wheels connected by tank-style treads. Sporting an Arduino micro controller that can be controlled over wifi through any smartphone or tablet the RK-1 has a lot of potential as an entry level engineering device.
The biggest feature of this device is that it is completely hands on. It comes in a kit, assembly required, and every add-on goes through the typical output ports that are commonplace to electrical engineers like myself. The project delivers a great feeling of freedom; allowing the user to strap custom sensors and lights on at their discretion. Unfortunately, to have these parts available out of the box, the RK-1 will have to reach is multiple stretch goals. What it does come with is the Arduino, a dual H-bridge motor controller, battery, acrylic case, wheels, and motors. That is the most basic set of functions and, obviously, it is able to read both digital and analog signals from exterior devices or sensors.
My sole complaint is that the pledge price to pre-order a RK-1 is £150 which makes this less of an impulse purchase. Unfortunately, for a product of this ilk to be successful, it has to become something that can more easily be bought on a budget. Hopefully, the actual pricing can come down to a more competitive price point, and if it does I envision a bright future for the RK-1 and similar products.