The Hummingbird Robotics Kit is a spin-off product of Carnegie Mellon’s CREATE lab. Hummingbird is designed to enable engineering and robotics activities for ages 13 and up (10 with adult supervision) that involve the making of robots, kinetic sculptures, and animatronics built out of a combination of kit parts and crafting materials. Hummingbird kits come with all the robot guts you need: pre-wired LED lights, motors, five types of sensors, and a controller that connects to the computer via USB. It also includes free graphical software for programming the robots. Hummingbird is used in hundreds of schools, and has been integrated with art, science, math, and even history and language arts courses. It’s a great way to introduce engineering, CS, and IT skills into the K-12 curriculum.
The company behind Hummingbird, BirdBrain Technologies, partnered with IT-oLogy to bring three free Hummingbird teacher training workshops to IT-oLogy locations in Columbia and Charlotte. In these workshops, teachers learn how to build, wire, and program their own robots. The workshop usually begins with a description of Hummingbird’s origins at Carnegie Mellon, followed by 1-2 hours of guided time where teachers connect electronics to the core Hummingbird controller and learn how to program, which is then followed by 2-3 hours of open building time. Teachers had to make and program a robot that uses at least one sensor, two lights, and a motor: The results are endlessly diverse – cartoon characters, buildings with drawbridges, flowers that open and close, and more!
At one of the workshops, we observed exactly how intensely interested teachers were in building their robots. The caterer providing lunch to the workshop arrived over two hours late, but even after announcing that lunch was (finally) here, most teachers continued working on their robots instead of grabbing food immediately!
BirdBrain Technologies is currently launching a new version of their Hummingbird kits on Kickstarter. The new kit, dubbed “Duo”, adds many of the features requested by BirdBrain Technologies’ core community of teachers: Tetherless operation, Arduino mode, and more minor improvements like wheels for motors, solid-ended leads, improved sound sensing, and color-coding of the connectors by function. The Hummingbird Duo may be the first electronics kit that is fun and educational for a fourth grader, a high school student, a college engineering student, or an adult maker. Duo provides several levels of engineering and technology learning. Instead of a steep learning curve, learners go up a staircase where each step increases skills and where mastering each step allows one to use the Hummingbird in a new and more interesting way.