When DFRobot announced a KickStarter campaign for their first educational robot, I got really impressed. After all, I had used their parts for my robot projects as a student, and now that I’m a teacher, the idea of a robot focused on introducing kids to programming really caught my attention.
I’m glad that the DFRobot team was able to process my pledge via PayPal and I was able to get one on the first pre-order “wave”. That way, I was able to get it before Christmas!
At first sight, the box looks professional and well-built. I like all the details that were put into place to make it look aestetically pleasing for kids and adults alike. Inside, the robot rests in a foam enclosure that protects it. And under it you can find an envelope with Vortex’s manuals
Opening the envelope, I found a lot of stickers (yay!), a quick start manual, and a programming reference, which is, in my opinion, one of the things that I really liked about this robot.You’ll see, instead of getting a wall of text detailing every function of the robot, you get a booklet that resembles an illustrated fairy tale: The Adventures of Vortex: Return to the Planet DF. There, you can learn (and teach!) about the robot and its programming language, WhenDo in a creative and engaging way.
With a white, clear enclosure and blinking leds for eyes, the robot looks amazing. It’s something that would get a kid’s attention. The build quality is good and I had no trouble installing the batteries, as the top cover, secured with magnets, is easy to remove.
And here comes my first criticism of this robot: It needs 4AA batteries to run. Although the QuickStart guide recommends using rechargeable batteries, in some parts of the world these are really expensive. Depending on the robot’s battery life, that could be an issue.
After receiving my robot and activating it for the first time, I couldn’t wait to play games with it using my smartphone, and then start running my own programs on it… Unfortunately, I was unable to do so.
You’ll see, that’s one of the drawbacks of being part of the “first wave” of the Vortex robot. Right now, the Android and iOS apps aren’t available. All the software that could be used to interact with this robot isn’t ready yet… So, for now, it’s basically a cute paperweight that says “Oi!” when you wave your hand in front of it.
That’s why I decided to make this a “First impressions” post instead of a video review, as I don’t think that it’s fair to judge a robot that can’t be actually tested.