Microbit Powered Robot that's Big on Personality

PLEN:bit - Microbit Robot

Updated: Jun 10 2020

PLEN:bit is a cute microbit powered humanoid robot from the PLEN Project team. This little guy is big on personality and can be programmed to perform lots of cool moves.

PLEN:bit is a humanoid robot by PLEN Project. It's the younger sibling to the open source PLEN robot and is designed to be cuter with shorter arms and legs and a smaller overall size. While the original PLEN is powered by an Arduino board, PLEN:bit works with the popular BBC microbit controller. Anyone familiar with the microbit can jump into programming PLEN:bit right away.


Assembling PLEN:bit

The PLEN:bit kit contains 6 servos, connectors, circuit boards, the robot's body parts, and 2 sensors - sound and distance. You will need to add a microbit of your own. To assemble the robot, all you need is a micro screwdriver and the whole process shouldn't take more than 2 hours. The kit doesn't come with a manual, but Plen Project has a downloadable PDF guide and tutorials on Youtube. The whole kit fits together nicely feeling more polished than other 'hackerish' robot kits. The process of building PLEN:bit is a good opportunity for beginners to learn about the basic mechanics and electronics underlying robotics.




Programming PLEN:bit

Once the robot is assembled you pop in the microbit, link it to your computer and fire up MakeCode to get started programming. If you already have experience with programming MicroBIT, this part will be familiar. You can download custom PlenBIT extensions on MakeCode where you can start programming in blocks or javascript. The commands enable PlenBIT to perform predefined movements and poses, walk and dance. There are also new commands for reading the new distance and sound sensors which are part of the robot. These capabilities make for some interesting robotic applications. Like alarm clocks, dance partners and remote controlled toys.

The addition of the microbit adds to PLEN:bit’s already impressive repertoire of expressions. By programming the microbit's LED to display words, icons and animations, you can let PLEN:bit express itself. It's a shame the kit doesn't come with a speaker. Sound bytes would be really cool. You can also use the microbit's acceleration, compass, temperature sensors.

Controlling PLEN:bit

PlenBIT can be remote controlled by installing the RC program onto the MicroBIT. This lets you control PlenBIT over Bluetooth via a free IOS / Android mobile app. Since microbits can communicate with one another, you can even write a program to use another microbit as a remote for controlling the robot.


PLEN:bit Applications

The kit offers a lot of possibility for experimentation and STEM play. You can play around and make PLEN:bit into a stopwatch, thermometer, compass all accompanied by its cute gestures.


Conclusion

People relate and interact with humanoid robots in interesting ways. Their ability to move like us gives them more personality than rovers or drones. Plen Project has done really well producing a robot with instant appeal and cuteness. Apart from being a capable STEM learning kit, PLEN:bit is also a joy to have around the house.