Grove Mixer Review and Milcandy

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.

Another suggestion
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.

Final Summary
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. :slight_smile:

Thanks for your good ideas.Mixer v2.0 will consider Milcandy into it. Mixer v2.0 will add some standard logic modules and actuators modules.

I know this post is over a year old but I wanted to add my “plus 1” to the thoughts and express my disappointment that the answer to “not enough amplifier modules” was to completely eliminate the option.

I totally get that power loss and other “inconsistent” results makes for upset kids when what we want is for the kids to be interested enough to explore on their own. I would love for Grove to replace SnapCircuits but I understand that the sturdiness of SnapCircuits is inconsistent with the advanced functionality and I wouldn’t want Grove to be limited to only elements that can be sturdy enough to survive being used as projectiles.

I think the idea of adding a voltmeter type function is a very good one. Most kids I deal with are familiar with using a simple voltmeter for specific tasks but it is still fiddley for them to use the probes and/or alligator clips.

My child and her friends also really like making small things like “throwies” and it would be great for them to be able to use something like Grove USB power to light up a diorama. They are very aware that coin cell batteries don’t supply as much power and know how to research how much power a simple device like LEDs or vibration motors need.

In summary, we already have plenty of SnapCircuit toys and the current Mixer (V2) package doesn’t really provide anything not already available in a basic SnapCircuits set. The original Mixer package wasn’t great for a child to explore on their own but at least it offered more advanced concepts (such as using an amplifier if needed).