Tenergy ODEV Tomo 2-in-1 STEM Educational Robotic Kit Review
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Review by Nicholas Turner, Staff Contributor
- 6x "AA" batteries
- Motorola Moto X Gen 1 Android Phone
- Everything needed minus batteries
- Multiple apps for interaction
- iOS and Android support
- Lots of fun
- Easy build
- Clear instructions
- No Windows OS support
- No clear left and right motor
- Batteries not included
- Must hold power button down on Tomo for several seconds to turn on and off
- Low battery is not great for dicycle mode
The Tenergy Odev Tomo 2-in-1 Robotic Kit is built on the Open Development platform and is geared for ages 8 and up to help teach STEM concepts to kids in a fun way. Tomo can be built as a tricycle (3 wheel setup) or what they refer to as a dicycle (2 wheel setup). The control unit on Tomo has ports for modules (wheels, IR tracking, and sonar are included in the kit), has built in accelerometers/gyroscope to control the dicycle balance, and uses Bluetooth to communicate with iOS and Android devices. There are two apps (ODEV Explorer and ODEV Blockly) that can be used to interact with Tomo. ODEV Blockly is an app that has predefined programming statements that allows one to visually program the robot, the predefined statements can be customized. The ODEV Explorer allows for a nicer interactive approach with Tomo with multiple ways to control, program, and learn Tomo.
Tomo comes packed in a box with two layers of foam with foam pockets for each of the pieces, IR tracking module is packed in an ESD bag, nuts and bolts are in bags labeled according to their size. The manual sits on top. There was clearly no damage to the pieces. A quick inventory of the parts with the instruction manual proved no pieces were missing. The included tools are a small wrench and hexagonal driver whose handle is very comfortable and ergonomic, the shaft is double sided for two different sized screw heads. Also included a fold out mat with a one inch wide black track for the IR sensor to follow.
I opted to build the tricycle version first just to have the increased stability. The build instructions are very straight forward and clear. Each step shows the number of bolts and screws with the sizes needed. Each step is clearly illustrated making it very hard to mess up the build if the instructions are followed. The build took maybe 20-30 minutes and that was due to my kids wanting to help. The manual has a decent troubleshooting guide to help with any issues post build. Since there is no clear left and right motor, if Tomo runs backwards when first trying to move, just swap the motor cables around on the control unit.
Interacting with Tomo:
I opted to use my Android mobile phone to interact with Tomo. I opted to use the ODEV Explorer app first. This was very intuitive and fun, even for my boys.
ODEV Explorer App:
The ODEV Explorer App offers three ways to interact with Tomo: 1) R/C controller, 2) graphical programming, 3) tasks to teach you how to use Tomo. I went straight for the r/c controller interface, but I recommend going to the Tasks option to complete the walkthrough on how to interact with Tomo and what features are available. The r/c controller interface has many options in its self: control stick for movement control, tilting of phone for movement control, enable/disable obstacle avoidance, enable/disable IR tracking, enable/disable free roam (need to have obstacle avoidance enabled), LED ring controls, and speed controls. This is the app interface I spent most of my time in, mainly due to my boys just loving the r/c aspect of Tomo and wanting to drive him around. As long as the mobile device is in Bluetooth range of Tomo, the controls are very quick with little to no lag, even when using the tilt control functionality. The tracking mode worked really well, and the manual states one can create their own track by drawing a one inch wide stripe on paper using a black marker. Tomo can also be turned off remotely in this part of the app.
The Tasks option is a complete walkthrough of how to use the graphical programming interface with Tomo. Each step builds on a previous step to teach chaining of commands. This also teaches one how to make use of all the features on the control board on Tomo. In addition to movement and LED ring control is the ability to make music with Tomo, how to make Tomo respond to certain criteria.
The Programming part of the ODEV Explorer App is free form version of the Tasks section of the app. Under this section of the app one can create a program that is sent to Tomo when play is hit and Tomo runs the program accordingly. This methodology of interacting with Tomo allows one to create a program with no Bluetooth connection, having Tomo turned off to save battery, and then connect to Tomo to run the app.
ODEV Blockly App:
The goal of this app is to teach kids basic computer programming concepts; code flow, if then statements, looping, etc... Having a Bachelor’s of Science in Computer Science, I found this app not to be to my liking. But I forced myself to step out of my training and take a hard look again. I started to see how moving the prepared blocks of commands around and clicking special areas of the blocks to customize the logic is geared towards kids getting their first experience with programming. But at the same time logic like "if pineapple [picture of pineapple is used] equals orange [picture of orange used]" in my opinion not technically sound to teach computer logic to kids. My first thought was "how in the world does fruit relate to this robot?" But if one plays with one side of the logic statement (change one of the fruit for example), then one can see how programming logic works to an extent. Once a program is ready to run, it is sent to Tomo via the play button. Again, this allows one to create a program with Tomo turned off to save batteries on Tomo.
I was excited to be able to review the Tenergy Odev Tomo 2-in-1 STEM Educational Robotic Kit because I like tech and robots are just cool. But to be honest I kind of had low expectations. These expectations were blown out of the water. The only issues I encountered were dicycle instability with low battery power (admittedly I spent way too much time in tricycle mode) as well as Bluetooth connecting issues at low battery. In the version of the ODEV Blockly App I tested, many of the default program examples names were in Chinese. I was told by Tenergy this would be updated in the next version of the app. I found r/c control of Tomo to be the most fun for my little boys, very easy for them at young ages to move it around. The ultrasonic sensors for obstacle avoidance work extremely well, the manual explains how this works. With obstacle avoidance enabled I am not scared to let my kids play with Tomo in my house. My oldest son also was starting to get interested in using the graphical programming option in the ODEV Explorer App, he still needed assistance due to his age, but it's easy enough for him to understand the basic workflow. I can go on and on with my experience because there is so much Tomo can do and how one can control Tomo.
Do I recommend the Tenergy Odev Tomo 2-in-1 STEM Educational Robotic Kit? Yes
Is it for beginners? Absolutely
Will I get bored of Tomo? Not for a long time. There's so much Tomo can do and be programmed so many ways, it'll take a long time to get bored of the robot. And even there there's ports for additional modules for future growth
What ages are appropriate for Tomo? Tenergy lists ages 8+ on the packaging and I agree with this, my boys are considerably younger than that at the time of this review and were just interested in the r/c side of Tomo. The thought it was cool for Daddy to program Tomo and let Tomo run by itself.
Will this help teach STEM curriculum? Yes. It'll help teach mechanically skills of assembling nuts and bolts, following instructions to build and program and then teach the logic/though process of computer programming, as well as cause and effect knowledge.