The Tribotz is a great introductory robot kit that
performs three basic robotic functions: line-following, sound sensing, and
obstacle avoidance. In line-following mode, the Tribotz follows a black line on
a white surface using a pair of phototransistors and a bright LED. In
sound-sensing mode, the Tribotz drives forward until it detects a loud sound, in
response to which it makes a quick turn backwards before resuming driving
forward. In obstacle-avoidance mode, the Tribotz operates basically in the same
way as in sound-sensing mode, except that an infrared reflectance sensor is used
instead of a microphone.
The Tribotz is powered by two preassembled gearboxes that provide a smooth,
quiet drive system, and which make quick work of putting the Tribotz together.
By assembling the Tribotz robot kit, you will learn about how autonomous robots
can "see" obstacles and black lines and "hear" sounds, and
you will practice basic skills that are applicable to assembling any electronics
or robotics kit. Playing and experimenting with the Tribotz will give you an
appreciation for what it takes to create an autonomous robot.
Kit Contents and Packaging
The Tribotz kit comes in a sturdy, colorful box with English text. The kit
includes all the parts you need to put it together, including three pre-soldered
circuit boards, two DC gearmotors, and high-quality, durable plastic parts that
snap and screw together nicely. The kit has relatively few components, primarily
due to the simplicity of the design and the preassembled gearboxes.
The smaller parts, including the gearmotors and printed
circuit boards, come packaged in a separate plastic tray. Small hardware is
limited to two kinds of screws, making parts identification very simple. A
34" x 34" folded paper with a printed track for line
following completes the package.
Assembling the Tribotz
Due to the pre-assembled circuit boards and gearboxes,
assembly is very simple and quick. All parts fit together well, and all you will
need is a small phillips
screwdriver, though wire
cutters may be helpful in removing some of the pastic parts from the parts
The instructions are very easy to follow, although the
drawings of the two screws in the parts list are misleading. Just remember that
the three smaller screws are for mounting the wheels and for securing the
battery hatch; the larger "screw B" is used everywhere else.
Important Note: step 7 on page 15
instructs you to install batteries prior to attaching the battery holder leads
to the printed circuit board. Doing so would expose your batteries to a
potential short circuit that would destroy your batteries. We recommend that you
do not install the batteries until your robot is assembled.
The instruction manual contains a brief history of
robotics milestones as well as a relatively detailed description of the theory
of operation of the robot, including a complete schematic diagram, block
diagram, and block-by-block descriptions. The descriptions are among the most
detailed we have seen, but they are still difficult to follow for the robotics
or electronics novice. Fortunately, you do not need to understand everything to
make the robot work!
Letting it Loose!
Like most small robots with small wheels, the Tribotz performs best on smooth
surfaces, though we saw decent performance on a carpet as well. The obstacle
sensor and line sensor both use a very bright red LED instead of an infrared
LED, providing the user with a bit more appreciation for the inner workings of
the robot. The obstacle sensor is very effective: we saw detection of typical
(not especially shiny) objects up to six inches away. The sound sensor also
worked without a hitch.
The included track for line following made it easy to get
started with that mode, and though the robot often lost the line at first,
slight tweaking of the reflectance sensors gave us much more solid performance
(we did not add the glue in the picture to the right). The Tribotz, having two
sensors for line following, performs better than other line-following robots
that have just one sensor.
The iBOTZ Tribotz is a good robot kit for anyone as young
as 10 who wants to get into robotics. We have not seen a robot kit that is
easier to assemble, and you get all of the functions that are commonly available
on beginner-level kits, all in one robot. We especially like the kit for its use
of high-quality, pre-assembled gearmotors that provide smooth and quiet
performance. Coupled with the spacious chassis, the motors make this kit a prime
candidate for future retrofitting with your own electronics. Through
construction of the robot, you will gain valuable skills that will help you with
more advanced projects in the future.