Monday, July 12, 2010

Day 5- On to the metal

Today we opened up brand new kits of Tetrix, a metal-based robotics set that combines with the Mindstorms to build sturdier robots, designed for an older age range. As first time users of Tetrix, we were encouraged to provide feedback, and keep a record of our opinions as we experimented with the kit. Thus, this blog post will be reiterating the list I created, as well as providing elaboration on each point. I'll start with the things I liked about the set:

1. The metal is more durable and sturdy than the plastic Mindstorms pieces. During the construction process, various pieces are much less likely too fall off. One example I can remember is accidenally dropping a Mindstorms robot off a table. While the Mindstorm robot broke into multiple pieces, the Tetrix would remain solid and intact.

2. The style and durability makes the Tetrix kit more applicable in the real world/in real construction projects.

3. The instruction manual provided along with the kit was very helpful and necessary for first-timers. The step-by-step guide on how to build a basic square base and attach two motors for wheels became the basis of our first robot, and saved us a great deal of confusion and time.

4. The design of having various sizes of holes in a "flower" shaped pattern made finding a place to attach pieces very easy.

Now, on to the things I found frustrating about the Tetrix kits:

1. When we first opened the kit, there were massive amounts of random little pieces in plastic bags that seemed to be poorly labeled. Perhaps it's simply because I'm not a big texter, but I can't read "BRKT" as "Bracket".

2. While the kit provided a card with pictures of each type of piece, and a separate list with names of each piece, there was no list matching the picture to the name, or indicating the specific purpose of each type of piece, which would have been helpful in trying to build our bot.

3. Working with the screws and bolts and metal pieces becomes very time consuming, as things are difficult to attach and take apart. Seriously, the 4-piece square base took us over an hour to build. Granted, we built it incorrectly twice and had to re-do it, but nonetheless, each attachment of the Tetrix pieces takes a significant amount of time to complete.

4. Occasionally we would find discontinuity between the instruction booklet and the pieces in the kit, as certain wires were covered by plastic pieces in the kit but not represented as such in the book. Also, the kits labels "shafts" what the book labels "axels", which caused some confusion during piece-finding and building.

5. To quote myself directly from my original list "Ouch- fingers = so freakin' sore". This is likely an unalterable effect of working with the Tetrix kit, but sharp metal can really do some damage on your hands, especially after working so many little tiny screws and bolts!

By the end of the day, our Tetrix bot wasn't quite finished, so I'll post some pictures of our completed bot tomorrow.

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