I bought a Grove Mixer Kit and some extra grove sensors, actuators and some Milcandy modules.
I wanted to see if these Grove elements can be good for teaching introductory analog and digital concepts to kids.
Actually the Milcandy is an (arduino compatible controller in disguise - with ATMEGA168) so it is a controller but you do not have to program it to make it a functional block in your circuit and this is quite cool. I was very impressed with the Milcandy but first I will start with some ideas about the Grove Mixer Kit.
Short Review of Grove Mixer Kit
Once you play with the Mixer-modules you get ideas for new Mixer modules that could be used for teaching and education.
The little acrylic boxes are VERY CUTE and children will be interested in them.
The idea of using sensors and actuators to make stuff without having to code in an IDE is a good one
The less good.
Grove Mixer as delivered is not always providing a friendly way to learn.
Kids will want to combine the mixer modules in interesting ways but often there is no reaction to the actuator when changes are made to the mixers. This is a mystery that kids do not enjoy. I think some improvements are recommended.
How to improve Grove Mixer.
Kids and learners need consistent and predictable feedback when they are learning things for the first time. Apart from very simple circuits the actuator output can be unpredictable at times. The opamps in the Mixers go a long way to providing a usable signal through the chain BUT to make an actuator behave the way you actually want requires more control of the signal than is available in the mixers.
Using the Mixer-Amplifier module was a way to improve results but there is only one Amplifier provided in the kit. Maybe Seeed could add extra Amplifier modules to the kit although giving each Mixer module its own adjustable output amplifier stage with it’s own pot would make a stronger solution.
A Mixer-module that acts like a voltmeter and shows voltage 0.0-5.0V would also provide good feedback and insight into what a sensor and a Mixer chain is doing. I added request for a Grove-Mixer-Voltmeter to Wishlist.
Grove Mixer is not ready for use as an educational tool. Reason to buy (might be like me) to get basic starter kit of grove sensors and actuators and get a hands-on look at new cute acrylic cut cases. Evaluate Grove Mixer yourself and see how the Mixer modules work.
*Note on cases - You can put many 1x2 grove modules in the case if you resolder/replace vertical grove connector with a 90 degree grove connector. You want a shiny case for some reason.
Short Review of Milcandy
It works just as described in the product page.
Has built-in Lipoly battery with USB charge circuit.
Works with Analog Grove Sensors and actuators and Grove Mixer Modules.
Is programmable in Arduino IDE
You can reprogram this to support even Grove Digital Sensors and output serial or PWM or i2c?
It is now a nicer price.
Milcandy is fun to use without modifcation.
After modification it like a simple grove module that does what you want.
Just buy one and try it out. I think you will like it.
Thanks for reading. If you have thoughts on Grove Mixer and Milcandy and other educational, experimentation type kits from Seeed, add your comment.