MakeBlock mBot2 Review Arduino Compatible Educational Robot Car

Monday, May 31, 2021

A lot can be learnt by just observing and by watching movies too! Take for instance, the remote control car scene in Home Alone 3 and how the main character (a child) uses a remote controlled (RC) car to outsmart the intruder. While far fetched, this movie scene shows several lessons, the first being you can be smarter than somebody older than you. The second lesson is how the child implements technology (RC car + video camera) in a smart way, by mounting the video camera onto the RC car. Nobody is born smart, they just get smart! Educational toys such as the Makeblock mBot2 are a good way to spark the brain and make it fire in all cylinders!

Makeblock mBot2 is an upgrade of the original mBot robot car and teaches two main things: how to physically build something and how to make it work electronically, using programming. The nice thing about the mBot 2 kit, it's that you can upload ready-made program codes so, you can start toying with mBot2 right away. The ready-made program codes are downloaded via Makeblock website, under the tutorials tab. There are several ready-made codes currently available, including a "remote control" code that allows you to drive mBot2 like an RC car.
Once downloaded, the program gets automatically saved onto mBot2's internal memory bank. Mbot2 comes pre-installed with 8 programs. Program 1 is a recorder function that can record and playback 7 seconds of audio. The other built-in programs include voice show (program 2), kaleidoscope (program 3), trigonometric line (program 4), Find Green (program 5 -gyro based game), Math Game (program 6) and Space Invaders (program 7)
Inside the box, you get 19 parts, including a screw driver with detachable dual shank (flat head tip  + star head tip). The screw driver has a grippy rubber handle and a chuck clamp (twist lock) to quickly and securely fasten the shank in place. The screw driver measures 17cm long and weighs 33 grams.
The hardware for bolting mBot2 together is also included. The hardware includes three sets of different lengths M4 screws (4mm diameter), as well as one set of M2 screws (2mm diameter). MakeBlock mBot2 also comes with different lengths picoblade/JST type cables with 4 pin connectors. Total weight of all the cables is 12 grams. The cable lengths varies from 11cm long, 18cm long and 19.5cm long.
Sensor wise, you get two, including a quad RGB sensor, which is dual purpose and designed for line tracking and light sensing. The quad sensor uses visible light (rather than IR light) and can sense the amount of light present in the area. The quad sensor weighs 14 grams and measures 8cm long, 2.5cm wide and 0.6cm thick. The sensor allows mBot2 to be more versatile and accurate at recognizing colors, thanks to light calibration. You can make mBot2 follow a line or react to light. You can, for instance, make mBot2 stop moving when you turn off the lights in the room. The lights also double as front headlights lighting the way.
The second sensor included in the mBot2 kit is an ultrasonic sensor, which weighs 24 grams and has two circular openings (2cm diameter) covered by a metal grille mesh and a programmable blue led ring. The ultrasonic circuitry is housed inside a plastic protective casing that measures 2cm deep, 6cm long and 4cm wide. Compared to other ultrasonic sensors, which come mounted on an exposed board, the mBot2 ultrasonic sensor has the advantage of being protected from dirt and dust. 
MBot2 uses two high speed DC motor encoders capable of up to 200RPM and stopping accuracy of ±0.05 degrees. At just 1500 gcm (1.5kg/cm), the DC motors produce twice as much torque as the original mBot, enabling quicker acceleration and pulling power to drive mBot2 with ease without any struggle. The motor components (stator and shaft) are built inside a metal housing. The blue housing is made of plastic. 
Being DC motor encoders, they use a closed-loop system design, which means you can precisely measure, monitor, and control the speed and acceleration of the motors across the RPM range from 1 RPM all the way to 200 RPM. The original mBot could not do this. The mBot2 DC motors weigh 140 grams (70 grams each) and have quality solder joints, as well as gold plated female screw threads and Makeblock branding carved into the plastic. The motors measure approximately 7cm deep, 4.5cm long and 2.5cm thick.
The mBot2 main control board has been also upgraded from the mCore 8-bit microcontroller (Arduino Uno based) to the CyberPi, which is a detachable single board computer that uses two 32-bit LX6 microprocessors (240 MHz max clock frequency) and onboard memory (448 KB ROM, 520 KB SRAM and 8 MB SPI Flash). CyberPi uses the CyberOS operating system, which has been developed in-house by Makeblock. 
CyberPi is a powerful processor capable of running Python 3.0, microPython and mBlock 5, which is a block-based and text-based programming software similar to "Google Blockly" and "Scratch Blocks" where you simply drag-and-drop blocks of code in order to create programs. Mblock5 also integrates a Python editor where you can write code directly into it. 

There are three versions of mBock5 - a browser version , a desktop version and a mobile version, which supports iOS (iOS 10.0 +) and Android (6+). The computer version of mBlock5 only supports Windows (Win7 or Win10 64-bit) and macOS 10.12+. If you have a Linux and/or Chromebook, you will have to use the browser version. Regardless of the operating system though, the browser version requires downloading an additional software called mLink. You can find all download links here.
CyberPi weighs 36 grams and measures 8cm long, 3.5cm wide and 2cm high (including the joystick). It features a light sensor, microphone, ESP32 combo chip (2.4 GHz Wi-Fi and Bluetooth), five leds, speaker, gyro accelerometer, full color display (1.44-inch), USB-C port (power+data), two face buttons and a joystick with center push button. The buttons and joystick are made of plastic make a loud clicky noise. 
The ESP32 combo chip supports Bluetooth Low Energy, as well as Bluetooth Classic for 2-way audio communication from the CyberPi control board. On the rear of the CyberPi, there is an IDC socket (14 pin dual row (14 pin dual row), which allows the control board to be mounted and connected to mBot2. The IDC socket is also breadboard compatible so, you can hook the control board onto a prototyping board. There is a removable sticker on the back of the control board with the pinout. 
CyberPi comes built inside a clear see-through plastic housing that exposes the electronic components, just like the Shield component. The mBot2 Shield weighs 154 grams and measures 10.5cm long, 8cm wide and 3.5cm high. The Shield houses the connectivity ports, including four servo ports (S1,S2,S3,S4), two encode motor ports, two DC motor ports and one mBuild port, which is designed for connecting mBot2 to other Makeblock control boards such as MegaPi and ME Orion, or other mBuild electronic modules. 
There is currently over 30 mBuild electronic modules. MBot2 Shield also houses a 2500mAh cell battery (3.7V) that recharges via 5V/2A (10W) input and, it's capable of outputting 30W (5V/6A), which is enough to power a maximum of ten mBuild modules. S1 and S2 servo ports are multifunctional so, they can be used to connect Arduino modules.
Assembling mBot2 is easy by following the included instruction diagrams, which shows you step by step where each piece goes and how it is attached. The parts and sensors are assembled onto a perforated machined aluminium chassis that weighs 110 grams and measures 17cm long, 9cm wide and 3cm high. MBot2 has a total weight of 552 grams. 
To move around, mBot2 uses three wheels. A small, front facing plastic castor wheel and two rear low profile rubber wheels sitting on plastic rims (5.5cm diameter). The rear wheels weigh 62 grams (31 grams each). Other accessories included are a charging cable (1.8 meters long) and a full size bluetooth 1.0 dongle (5.5cm long). You can buy MakeBlock mBot2 from Amazon. Check other Makeblock reviews: Neuron blocks, Codey Rocky robot and Airblock drone.

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