BumpConnect is coming back!!

Hey all, David here.

As many of you know, all of us here at Barobo have been working hard on improving the stability and user-experience of Linkbot Labs. We started the process almost two years ago when our devs collectively decided that it was time to redesign and re-engineer our entire software stack, all they way from the firmware on the robots to the Linkbot Labs experience today.

During the rewrite, BumpConnect was temporarily postponed, but no longer! BumpConnect is BACK!

To those of you just joining us, “BumpConnect” is a connection method that lets you control Linkbot modules with other Linkbot modules. Here’s how it works:

  1. Take two Linkbot modules.
  2. Press and hold the “B” button on the module you want to be the controller.
  3. Next, press and hold the “B” button on the module you want to be controlled.
  4. Bump the robots together
  5. Your robots are now “paired” together!

Upon pairing, the robots enter an “idle” state. Press the “B” button on the controller once to enter “Tilt-Drive” mode. In Tilt-Drive mode, you can tilt the controller Linkbot forward, backward, and side to side to make the controlled robot move. With this control mode, you can put some wheels on the controlled robot and drive it around like a remote controlled car.

If you press the “B” button again on the controller Linkbot, you will enter “Copy-Cat” mode. In this mode, the controlled robot will do its best to copy the motor positions of the controller Linkbot. Try moving the motors around on the controller Linkbot and watch the second Linkbot copy your motions!

If you press the “B” button again, it will go back to the initial “idle” mode.

If you want a sneak preview of BumpConnect, follow these intructions:

  1. Open Linkbot Labs
  2. Click on the “?” button/icon at the top right of the screen.
  3. Click on the link “Linkbot Labs Development Site”. This will send you to our bleeding edge dev site where we work on and test our newest technologies.
  4. Connect a robot to your computer with a USB cable and turn it on.
  5. Linkbot Labs should automatically tell you that you need to update the firmware on the robot. If this does not happen immediately, give Linkbot Labs a few minutes to download the latest firmware files from our repository on the web. This should happen automatically in the background.
  6. Update the firmware on any robots you want to use BumpConnect on and BumpConnect away!

Barobo Goes to the Capital Air Show

The whole Barobo team went to the Capital Air Show a couple weekends ago. I personally had a very small idea of what I would be doing. I thought I would be talking to aviation enthusiasts and military pilots, but oh how I was very wrong. I knew I would be helping the team talk about our Linkbots and how they fit into STEM curriculum, but I was pleasantly surprised at how effectively the Linkbots attracted and engaged a veritable horde of kids from 6 to 60.

At any time over the entire day of the air show, there were no less than 20 kids playing with our Linkbots. We were overwhelmed by the attention we were receiving from these kids. Almost every visitor wanted to learn about the unique features integrated into our Linkbots like Pose Coding and treated them like monstrous automated building blocks by linking these robots with accessories like the snap connector, bridge connector, and cube connector.

Linkbots were made to be fun. We definitely accomplished that part of our mission when we were scrambling to put a Linkbot in every childs’ hands that day, but what stood out the most was its educational application. I had the opportunity to talk to a few teachers who walked by our booth. Some of them wanted the means to help children learn coding as an after school program with our curriculum. Others wanted our Linkbots to augment their own robots and curiculum. I also met a retired engineer who wanted to start her own home business teaching kids how to code.

Check out our gallery of the airshow below!

Creating a Buzz

I’m excited to say that I found the time to complete my first chapter of Introductory Python on sound!  When I first started, I was introduced to a piano roll, an interface where I can click on each individual key. The neat thing about this is that each key corresponds to a certain frequency on the Linkbot’s buzzer! My musical prowess was demonstrated by my exemplary knowledge of “Mary had a Little Lamb”. I’m obviously a talented musical genius; perhaps I should pack my things and venture off to be a famous musician rather than a bookkeeper.Screenshot (1)

I clicked “Next” and read the objective. I
clicked “Run” to see what my Linkbot would do. It beeped 10 times in consistent intervals. I looked back at the code and tried to make sense of the code pre-written in the terminal…I understood it. I can read Python.

Screenshot (2)

for i in range(10): # repeat the next indented block 10 times
    robot.setBuzzerFrequency(4186.01) # sets the frequency of the first beep
    time.sleep(.5)                    # Wait half a second
    robot.setBuzzerFrequency(0)       # Turn the buzzer off
    time.sleep(.5)                    # Wait another half-second


This is amazing. By having my Linkbot demonstrate the code in front of me, I was able to make inferences that helped me understand what each line of code does!
I walked myself through the rest of the lesson and played with the provided code. By the end of the lesson, I was able to play my masterful concerto without even lifting a finger.
Screenshot (5)

Meet Linkbot

DSC00235Hello everyone! AppleSauce here.  I’ve recently joined Barobo to help them with marketing strategy. As part the process of getting to know the company, I’ve been given a small robot called the Linkbot and an application called “Linkbot Labs”. My mission is to dive into the Linkbot Labs ecosystem to explore, learn, and write about my experiences. As it so happens, I also happen to perfectly fit the demographic targeted by Linkbot Labs: A non-technical person interesting in learning some introductory programming and robotics.

Screenshot from 2015-09-08 16:04:14

The Linkbot looks like a really simple device. It’s maybe a little smaller than a softball with two motors on the sides of the Linkbot and a few buttons and unique serial ID on top. Linkbot Labs downloaded and installed onto my Windows 10 machine without a hitch.

My first impression of the opening screen of Linkbot Labs was that it seemed a little barren. However, after reading the “Getting Started” section, I figured out how to add my robot to the “Robot Manager”. Once I added my robot’s Serial ID to the list, I was able to open the Robot Controller and control the robots motors, buzzer, and read the accelerometer values on the dialog. It seems that this dialog can be useful if I just want to drive my Linkbot around, and make beepy noises but that’s about it. Still, it’s neat because it let me immediately be able to drive my Linkbot around and annoy my coworkers from across the office.

I then figured out that you have to click on the “Add Learning Pathways” button to display more content.  It gave me the options of enabling the “Getting Started”, “C-STEM Pathway”, “Python Pathway”, and “Coming Soon Pathway”. Although I’m only really interested in learning Python right now, I went ahead and enabled all of them because, what the hey, why not?

Screenshot from 2015-09-08 15:47:07

I dove straight into “Intro Python”. The curriculum guided me, step by step, on basic programming concepts and clearly defined the jargon used in programming. This is where Barobo’s Linkbot Labs platform shines. The cool thing about this is that it’s self guided and complete with exercises and assignments. Each code example is accompanied by a “Run” button that immediately makes the robot perform the tasks written in the code. Some of the code examples have editable fields so that you can try changing a number and see how it affects the way the Linkbot behaves.

The first few lessons are all about how to make the Linkbot beep. In the very first lesson, a piano keyboard is displayed with a small, 3-line code snippet. When the virtual piano is clicked, the robot magically plays the note that is clicked. I am proud to announce that in just a couple minutes, I was able to perform my own weak rendition of “Mary Had a Little Lamb”. I then noticed that as I was clicking on the piano buttons, the code snippet was dynamically updating, displaying the necessary code to play the piano note I just clicked on. Clicking on the “Run” button runs the code and plays the last tone I had just clicked on the piano.

The examples so far have introduced not only some programming concepts like loops, but also more than a little interesting information about sound waves, music, and math. I was able to learn at my own pace, and had the freedom to tinker with my own robot.

Linkbot Labs Piano Example

Linkbot Labs Piano Example


After taking it out for a spin, I can see its potential. So far, I haven’t actually written a line of my own Python code, but I feel like the interactive Linkbot+Python examples I’ve worked through have given me a taste of things to come, and I’ve become familiar with how Python “looks”. Looking ahead in the Pathway, it looks like I will begin writing my own complete Python programs when I get to the “Beginner Python” section.

I will be actively working through the curriculum and writing about my experiences over the next few months. I hope you can take something from this, as we are learning with Linkbots together.

Linkbot + SmartThings = Awesomeness!

We recently got the SmartThings Maker Kit and have had a great time playing with the functionality when paired with the Linkbot. Robots bridge the gulf between the digital world and physical world, and now, with the SmartThings Hub, you can control the Linkbot with your smart phone from anywhere in the world!

Our goal was this: Solve a problem that most people have utilizing only one Linkbot and the SmartThings Hub. First we were thinking goldfish feeder, or maybe auto-adjusting window blinds, but we settled on the Linkbot Gardener. Whenever I go on long trips my plants suffer, but no longer!

DSC00832 DSC00834

*Garden hat sold separately… :-)

The Linkbot has a $1 conductivity sensor in the soil to measure moisture, and a $1 conductivity sensor in the cap to measure if the bottle is out of water. You can set the Linkbot to water automatically or use your SmartThings App to water it remotely!


We’ve used the ThingShield to control the Linkbot so far, but we have Zigbee built into each module and we’re working on a wireless control straight from the SmartThings Hub. If you have any thirsty plants, check out our Kickstarter: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/barobo/linkbot-create-with-robots



“Pop the Trunk, I’m Running Across the Freeway to Maker Faire!”

Thank you so much to all our early backers for making the launch of Linkbot on Kickstarter such a success! The last few days have been a whirlwind, so I’m dedicating the next hour to writing our first update, sorry if it’s rough, but I’ve got to share some stories from the days leading up to the launch and the awesome people we’ve met so far.

It was our “plan” to launch the Linkbot Kickstarter last Friday (day before Maker Faire), but after weeks of building robots and shooting video we were running a little late! I finished uploading the video and content to Kickstarter and pushed submit around 4:30am, slept an hour, and my wife and I jumped in the car, picked up a few team members and headed to San Mateo Saturday morning! We read that 120k+ people were expected this year at Maker Faire, and it showed on the freeway! After traveling 100 feet in half an hour I wasn’t sure if we’d make it by the time the gates opened… At some point we saw a section of freeway fence leaning over, so we jumped out of the car, grabbed some robots out of the trunk, ran across the freeway, hopped the fence, and serendipitously flagged down a taxi driving by. We went from gridlock to through the Main Gate of Maker Faire in under 15 minutes! (Thank you Natalie for spending another 2 hours in traffic… xoxo) Still riding the sleep deprived high of what we’d just done, we met up with the rest of our team and put robots in the hands of hundreds of kids and Makers as they visited our booth.


But there was a problem, a few hours into the event our Kickstarter was still “pending”. I’d read somewhere that there was a several day approval process, but hadn’t put two and two together that this was AFTER the Amazon approval process. What a bummer and oversight on my part. It was tough to work so hard for so long and not have it go live… and that’s when we met John from Kickstarter! “Cool robot, you’re doing a Kickstart?” Yep. “Is it live yet?” Nope. “Well, let’s take you out of your misery!” Well, long story short, John reviewed and approved our Kickstarter in our booth at Maker Faire borrowing our neighbor’s internet so the campaign could go live Saturday! I always thought of Kickstarter as this nameless mechanism, but after meeting John and talking to him about the community and their mission it was obvious that they really care and spend a lot of time thinking about the projects on their site!


The staff at the Maker Faire really went above and beyond to make things go smoothly for us. For being an event with major sponsors like AutoDesk and Intel, they worked really for us, the little guy. For example, we were at a press event last Thursday where Dale Dougherty announced a new partnership with Radio Shack and I went up to introduce myself to him, a little star struck. He was super busy and after waiting a few minutes I decided to take off. Well, after packing up our robots we were half way out the door when Dale Dougherty ran across the room to stop us. He’d seen us waiting to talk and apologized for being too busy, and called us the “robot guys”, which was a complete geek-out moment for me. Totally cool guy and his whole organization, from top to bottom, gave off this friendly, professional vibe. I really think that’s the magic of the Maker community, everyone coming together to help make something great happen.

So, after two days of thousands of people coming to our booth to create with robots, Maker Faire was over. Some modules took some serious falls to concrete, but they held up great no broken modules. Also, the batteries lasted 4 hours on average, which was awesome!


Thank you again to everyone who pledged already! If you’re excited about these robots please help us spread the word about the Linkbot. We’re trying to do something new that will let anyone create with robots, and we need your help. Please “Like” our Facebook page and post ideas on our wall for what you’re going to use the Linkbot to do. We might pick one of your ideas and run with it for our next video post. :-)

Ok, back to work!


Education in The 21st Century

“…I’m announcing a new challenge to redesign America’s high schools so they better equip graduates for the demands of a high-tech economy… We’ll reward schools that develop new partnerships with colleges and employers, and create classes that focus on science, technology, engineering and math.”
President Barack Obama, February 12, 2013

Just recently (April 10, 2013), President Obama announced the budget plan for the fiscal year of 2014. In this budget, the president has included a $3.1 billion investment in STEM education, an increase of 6.7% in funding from 2012. While the budget is still up for debate in congress, at the very minimum, it shows the administration’s strong determination to improve STEM education.

President Obama’s decision reflects the growing focus on providing students the resources they need to qualify for jobs in the STEM field (i.e Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). While we expect to see 1 million new job openings in fields of STEM today, there will only be 200,000 graduating students that qualify for these positions.

Barobo created the Mobot educational robot for this very reason; we believed that STEM subjects should be fun and easy to understand.

Last year Barobo sponsored STEM Day, where students were tasked to direct their Mobots in such a way that they navigated around obstacles through a course to capture an object. Not only did the mission challenge their problem solving and team-building skills, but it also tested the students’ ability to code in C++ and exercised their skills in geometry.

In the end, this event not only served to enhance the quality of STEM education, but also created opportunities for students to master skills in creativity, collaboration and communication. Skills that are also essential to succeed in an increasingly competitive and complex world. A place that Eric Schmidt describes as “fueled by globalization, automation and demographics.” Yet, as experts such as Sir Ken Robinson have pointed out, creative talent has been neglected by our educational system for several decades.

When paired with strong curriculum, the Mobot can meet the rapidly rising demand for a quality STEM learning environment to improve the creativity and technical skills of young people.

  1. http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/12/eric-schmidt-how-we-outrace-the-robots/
  2. http://www.ted.com/talks/sir_ken_robinson_bring_on_the_revolution.html
  3. http://www.barobo.com/2012/05/29/high-school-students-use-mobot-at-stem-day/
  4. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WlnLAOCZDWI
  5. http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/2014_R&Dbudget_STEM.pdf


Incubator allows local business to take root

An entrepreneur may have all the qualities required to run a successful business, but it could all be for naught if he or she lacks a fleshed-out business model, convincing sales pitch or a network of experts to call upon.

But with Davis Roots in town, such things should daunt those with incentive no longer.

Davis Roots is a local start-up business accelerator created by Anthony Costello and Andy Hargadon, who launched the program last May. So far, two businesses and local leaders have nothing but good things to say about their presence.

“The community response — from locals, the city and the university — has been great. People really get it,” Costello said. “If we take small companies coming out of the university and keep them here — there’s all sorts of tangent, trickle-down benefits for Davis.”