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Makeblock mBot Ranger – Because who doesn’t want to build a robot tank?

Makeblock mBot RangerLast year I  played around with the Makeblock mBot, which aimed to have a STEM style robot per child at a sub $50 price, but didn’t quite ever get there as far as I can tell.

This year they’ve released a 3-in-1 version of their original mBot called the mBot Ranger (which is currently in the + $150 range,) which includes the ability to make the device into a tank with treads, a fast moving three-wheeled concoction, and a self-balancing two wheeled form they call the Nervous Bird (the balancing isn’t transparent, you notice it catching itself and it sort of does look like a chicken).

They claim the average build time is about twenty minutes per form, which jives with my experience.

The whole thing is powered by an Arduino MEGA 2650 with inputs of Bluetooth, light sensor, ultrasonic, gyroscope, temp sensors, sound sensors, and a line follower sensor. All but the line follower I believe can be used in any form you make the robot into.

mbot ranger

The whole thing is programmed by an app that you create projects in (or you can use it as a simple remote control and have a little RC fun).

Makeblock mBot RangerWant to make a robot that follows lines traced on a piece of paper every time you clap? You can do that. Want to make a two wheeled monstrosity that seeks out the warmest part of the room and hangs out in it while bumping into the wall over and over? Also it can be done. Wish to make a tank that buzzes anytime it hits something or is flipped over? This mBot’s for you.

The programming app works on iOS and Android, and should work on any device that supports Bluetooth.

One of the cool things you can do if you’re contemplating getting one of these is download the Makeblock app and just see if the options look like something you’d like to attach a robot to. Programming is fairly simple to get up and running, but a bit maddeningly complex if you want it to travel back to 1984 and kill Sarah Conner.

Makeblock appmakeblock app

It should be noted that if you’re very much into building from scratch, you could probably piece together all of the parts yourself less expensively than this kit.

mbot chicken

By based on a GPL work by User:MartinLing on 2006-04-30 here [1] - based on a GPL work by User:MartinLing on 2006-04-30., CC BY-SA 3.0, first time I ever ran into something like this was in 1979 with the Big Trak. 16 commands. I ran through so many batteries and my parent’s nerves it was amazing and got me into thinking through processes logically when I was six or seven.

Also amazing that they didn’t beat me for figuring out how to program it to navigate from my living room into the bathroom to fire a laser at whoever was in the john and then return.

While I can’t claim that programming a robot got me into the high paying world of writing about phones and programmable robots, it didn’t hurt.

I’ll be posting some projects I do with this hopefully later this week (things have been hectic lately, trying to put a robot on the floor with a baby who’s convinced she’s a vacuum cleaner has not happened,) but for now go out and buy a few hundred of these and get a school district interested in the world of robotics, planning out moves, and visual programming.

You can grab the Makeblock DIY mBot Ranger at Amazon

Paul E King

Paul King started with GoodAndEVO in 2011, which merged with Pocketables, and as of 2018 he's evidently the owner. He lives in Nashville, works at a film production company, is married with two kids. Facebook | Twitter | Donate | More posts by Paul | Subscribe to Paul's posts

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6 thoughts on “Makeblock mBot Ranger – Because who doesn’t want to build a robot tank?

  • Avatar of smee

    It looks interesting, but the one you link to on Amazon is $180 right now, not $50. I don’t see a $50 version on their website .

    • The $50 version was the goal of the previous one (aimed to have, not have or had). They never reached it as far as I can tell. This one the Arduino board itself is $49 (different manufacturer)

      You can build your own as long as you use that Arduino board and make your own frame and buy the parts for probably about $70

      • Avatar of smee

        It’s this part that surprised me:
        “It should be noted that if you’re very much into building from scratch, you could probably piece together all of the parts yourself, however using this level of Arduino it doesn’t look like you’re going to be able to achieve the sub $50 price tag.”
        This comes after the description of the $180 kit.
        I already have everything I would need to build robots like these (and more) so I don’t need to piece anything together right now, but $50 for the described kit sounded like an incredibly good deal.

        This isn’t meant as a criticism, just letting you know how it read to me. I’ve been reading this site for a long time, following the ups and downs, and appreciate the work you’re doing to keep it alive. Thanks.

        • Hrmm, reading back I agree – I’m a tad vague it appears. going to modify it to remove any confusion.

          I was in the middle of two projects yesterday unrelated to this and had at least four stops while writing…

          • Avatar of smee

            “I was in the middle of two projects yesterday unrelated to this and had at least four stops while writing…”
            Sounds familiar. :)

        • I’ve modified the article. I did miss a couple of things and did tend to indicate that this was related the $50 attempt from last year.

          You were correct, sorry about the confusion and unintentional misleading. I try not to do that, but yup, I sure did it here.

          Some of the misleading was also caused by my not putting prices which tend to change a day after I post something and turn off readers. Current price I believe is $170 and if it’s not $99 by Christmastime I’ll be surprised.


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