• Students sharing robots doesn’t work – ideally you want one per student
  • Once you’ve got past using Scratch, coding on screen can get somewhat dull – making the coding exercises ‘do’ something is far more engaging

The solution is to create a low cost robot …


Nick McCloud ChickBot founderI’m Nick McCloud, owner/manager of descartes, a software development company and Handy Little Modules, a security electronics company. I’m married, six cats, three chickens and a share in an ASW15 glider. We live in the Peak District National Park in the middle of the United Kingdom.

As a STEM Ambassador going into my local schools to deliver CodeClub and teach some elements of computer science, I could see how learning to code was having a hard time competing with the lure of games consoles. Hope Valley College runs a well equipped robotics club but the average price of retail robots is too high for one per student and certainly too high for parents to take a gamble on buying one for home. The coding assignments for the computer science syllabus are academically sound but just don’t jump off the screen. As a consequence, students aren’t inspired to practise either at school or at home.

Having seen the revolutions that the Maker communities have started with the wide spread use of the Arduino and the launch of the Raspberry Pi, it appeared there were no low-cost robots, most kits coming in at £50 / $75 / €75 or more. So a obsession was born to create a well formed robot kit that was affordable for both schools & parents with a target price of £10.

After some prototyping in late summer 2015, the first versions of what came to be known as ChickBot were unveiled at a Mini Maker Faire in Derby in October 2015. A full kit was developed over Christmas 2015. Since then, various other formats have been created using motors and supporting the Raspberry Pi & the BBC MicroBit.

The main electronics interface board for all versions goes far beyond driving a couple of motors – even standalone, a ChickBot controller board provides a low cost way to have your computer interact with the outside world.

At the pocket-money price range, this is not a commercial project – it is impossible, even at minimum wage, for someone to bring the parts together, do the soldering required & process orders and pay themselves. However, if a school gets some student, teacher & parent volunteers together, it is very feasible to get a batch of kits together for under £10.

My ambition is to use the resources I have available to provide a master blueprint of the various forms of ChickBot & outline some core activities to get people started. I want people to copy the design. I’d like people to contribute to the resources.

I can’t subsidise individual kits at the target price but as long as I cover staff costs (I’m a Living Wage employer), my team can ship kits & accessories at a starting price already half the typical kits in the market place. Any surpluses from this will go in to developing new resources. I intend to register ChickBot Club as a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee once I have sold some kits to pay for the registration & accountants fees!