While I was in high school, one of the coolest gadgets we got to play with was LEGO’s Mindstorm system, a tool that allowed us to create a simple sorting system, or a small robot that could follow a black line around while playing a tune. For its time, it was ground breaking, offering students a very simple insight into the world of automation. Nowadays, things have improved substantially. We are seeing more and more automation in everyday life, so it makes sense that companies are starting to develop ways to help students gain access to the tools they’ll need to push the technology forward. Enter DJI’s RoboMaster EP Core, an advanced educational robot designed to help students and enthusiasts of all experience levels.
It came as a bit of a shock when I opened the box and found the whole system needed to be built. Everything from the Mecanum wheels to the chassis, right through to the gripping claw needed to be assembled from the ground up. Given the kit shares the same style chassis as the RoboMaster S1, I had incorrectly assumed that I’d simply be building and attaching the grabbing claw, but this certainly isn’t the case. With five trays of parts and two boxes of screws, you’ll be busy for a few nights putting this together after work or school. Fortunately, DJI has also provided everything you need to ensure you can fit the components correctly, with a number of different tools and lubrications for the task at hand. The instruction manual accurately details which parts you’ll need and in what order, even going as far as telling you which compartment of which box the screw you need is in. While it might take a couple of nights after school or work, you’ll have your very own robot in about a days-worth of solid building.
Once you’ve completed the build, you’ll want to download the RoboMaster app and take it for a spin. Solo mode will allow you to play as if it’s a remote control car, buzzing around your house at speed, or using the gripping claw to fetch yourself a nice cold drink, all while watching the feed from the FPV camera. The Battle mode is more suited to the S1 version, but still potentially a bit of fun with the EP Core. You can set up some supplied markers around your house trying to beat your personal best, or racing against friends if you happen to have any who are also using the kit. Finally we have the Lab, and this is where the kit really comes into its own.
The Road to Mastery offers 11 different tutorials to program the RoboMaster EP Core, giving users a quick breakdown of the Scratch coding the apps uses to have the robot behave and react to external stimulations. One of the first tutorials for example, shows users how to program the robot to counter attack and fire back in the direction it was hit from in 5 easy steps. Not particularly useful for the EP Core, but interesting nonetheless. Once users have mastered the basics in Road to Mastery, they’ll be able to play around with Scratch coding in DIY Programing, or switch over to the more involved Python coding in the links from the RoboAcademy.
One of the biggest draws this unit has is its compatibility. Many other kits from various manufacturers will generally only interface with other kits and systems from the same developer, but the RoboMaster EP Core is designed to integrate third party hardware, such as Arduino and Raspberry Pie, while also being compatible with other AI software such as NVIDIA Jetson, completely opening up a world of possibility for its users. You can even use the supplied adapters to work hand in hand with third party sensors, enabling the EP Core to also measure things like temperature or distance. Supporting more than 39 programmable sensor ports, you can let your imagination run wild and have the system run away from certain noises or be drawn in by certain colours as it makes its way around your house by itself.
Ignoring the educational aspects, the DJI RoboMaster EP Core is a whole lot of fun to put together and drive around the house. The Mecanum wheels will have you performing some incredible drifts or perfectly lining up the Gripper to pull that can out of the fridge, while the high performance motors will have you zooming all over the place. All of this from the safety of your own room if you were so inclined, thanks to the beautiful quality FPV camera mounted snuggly on top of the robotic arm. This kit is only restricted by how creative the user can be, offering a number of avenues to explore and opening up countless new learning opportunities. I can safely say that if I had access to one of these kits in school, I almost certainly would have taken my classes more seriously.
- Simple to use programing guides
- Countless opportunities
- DJI Quality materials
- Great for students of engineering and programing
- Easy to follow build guide
- The guides in the application focus more on the S1 model
- Some assembly required