review

Makeblock Neuron Programmable Electronic Building Blocks

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Playing is fun and so it's learning, which is why STEM toys like the Neuron Inventor kit by Makeblock are superb for tickling the curiosities of little ones while they learn how to problem solve and follow the logic!
The Makeblock Neuron Inventor kit covers the fields of science, technology, engineering and math which collectively go by the name of  "STEM", and makes it stand out from other robotics kits by its simplicity and modular design.
The Neuron Inventor kit consists of seven plug-and-play electronic building blocks which are programmable and snap together magnetically to create different electronic gadgets. The building blocks in the Neuron Inventor kit have a color-coded rubber that surrounds the block that protects the block and distinguishes them according to functionality.
Green blocks (power and bluetooth) provide power to other blocks and wireless communication. Orange blocks (gyro and funny touch) are input blocks that send input signals to the blue output blocks (servo drive and buzzer).
An input block can control multiple output blocks but multiple input blocks cannot control an output block.
The programming portion of the Makeblock Neuron Inventor kit is handled via the mBlock desktop app and/or the Makeblock Neuron app which you download from the App Store and Google Play onto a tablet or smartphone.
The mobile and desktop app for Neuron is similar to Scratch programming language as you can read sensor values and control the output of the blocks.
the Neuron app features tons of cool sound effects
The Neuron app comes with multitude of nodes from logic nodes and button nodes that you use similarly to “flow-based programming” so the status of a node could be yes-or-no, numbers, colors, etc.
The Neuron app also integrates a debugging feature that lets you check why your code isn't working. When an error happens, you will see a number or a symbol on the outputs of nodes which you can click to check the actual value it is outputting.

There are also virtual Button Nodes from the control panel that you can use to test logic out and see results of logic graphs without using real hardware which is pretty neat. The Neuron software app is very intuitive so even without previous coding experience you can quickly get the hang of it.
Saying this, you don't have to do any coding at all as you can simply link graphical blocks on the app, which creates code for you automatically in real-time, making the Makeblock Neuron Inventor kit very easy to use for children 6 years and up!

Gyro sensor
The Gyro sensor works in unison with the servo drive and analog servo motor by adding another level of precision to your creations. The gyroscope sensor senses angled movement such as a dip, incline, slope; hence why cameras and planes use them though planes use wheels and gimbals. The gyro sensor in the Neuron Inventor uses a MEMS gyroscope which is the same type of angular rate sensor that smartphones use and the reason why you can steer when playing a racing game on your smartphone.

Buzzer
The Neuron buzzer is a piezoelectric buzzer that lets you literary make some noise! You can use it for creating an alarm detection system or a beep to alert you when a specific input threshold is met.

Servo Driver
The Neuron Inventor kit Servo Driver is a servo motor driver that lets you control the analog servo motor via pulse signals to achieve precise positioning.

Analog Servo
The analog servo in the Neuron Inventor kit is a micro 5 metal gear servo motor that rotates and holds the motor shaft at a specific angle position. This motor works very differently to dc motors. You can use the analog servo motor for moving robot arms, car steering or anything that you want to move at a certain angle. The servo can rotate from 0 to 180 degrees.

Funny Touch
The Funny Touch block is an input sensor circuit that lets you turn objects into conductive circuits. It consists of one ground wire connection and four live wire connections (green, red, yellow, blue). The crocodile clip live wires are all included so it's just a matter of clipping the live wires onto anything conductive (i.e.banana) and grounding the ground wire by holding it with your fingers. Now, you can send signals by simply touching the banana which is pretty cool.

Power Block
The power block has a 950mAh lithium-ion battery capacity with an output voltage of 5.1V DC and powers the blocks (you cannot power the blocks while it is charging).

LED Panel
The led panel contains 64 RGB leds that can change color.

Bluetooth Block

The bluetooth block integrates a bluetooth 4.0 module that lets you create a 10 meter-long wireless connection between the building blocks and your smartphone. It also integrates a "power pass through" that lets you delivery power via the bluetooth block by connecting the included micro USB cable into the micro USB port. This means, you can hook up the bluetooth block to a power adapter or power bank (5V 2A) to power the other blocks.

Neuron White Blocks
Neuron blocks are like Lego blocks that you can connect (via the included plastic pins) to other Makeblock toys like Codey Rocky and mBot. Rubber bands are also included for securing things like the servo motor to the blocks.

Servo hubs


Funny Switch cables


Example cards
These are premade cut outs that you can use for making projects.


Rubber bands


6 months warranty: building blocks/ 3 month warranty: servo motor
The Neuron part list are basic in design, easy to identify and safe for small children aside from some included accessories like rubber bands, plastic pins and croc wires which parents with small children will have to pay attention to. Other than that, the Neuron electronic building blocks is a solid entry-level electronics kit for STEM education.

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