Educators from around the world have been searching for an easy to use, plug-and-play robotics controller that is simple enough for classroom learning, yet powerful enough for advanced robotics competitions. So Pitsco Research & Development naturally jumped in to fill this need. The TETRIX® PRIZM™ Robotics Controller is a Pitsco exclusive and your next step to mastering robotics. This controller is perfect for middle and high schoolers who are interested in exploring the field of robotics.
You probably already know what TETRIX® is, but just in case you’ve been living under a rock, think of them as metal LEGO® pieces. The main pieces are made of heavy-duty aluminum and the sets also contain gears, wheels, and motors. You can build any structure out of TETRIX, including robots.
Think of the PRIZM™ as the brain for your robot. It is programmable and enables your robot to move in dozens of ways and sense its surroundings.
Check out our quick 40-second video showing a robot following an S-shaped trail of black tape.
My family is so excited to add this set to our son’s makerspace. I won’t lie, the controller is expensive, but I strongly believe that when it comes to STEM products, the benefit of kits and devices like this one far outweigh the cost. Let me encourage you that these types of purchases are worth their weight in gold.
You’re not buying a toy, you are buying skills and experience for your son or daughter.
It is so important, in this modern-day and age, that we expose the kids who are educated in small homeschool classrooms to the STEM resources that they would normally receive in a large, well-funded school classroom. The robotics field is going to keep growing leaps and bounds every year, so introducing your child to robotics at an early age has tremendous benefits, especially if they decide to go into the field of robotic engineering as a career.
The TETRIX MAX Programmable Robotics Set (which is the set we have) comes with 679 building elements, sensors, motors, cables, the PRIZM controller, battery pack and charger, and a 168-page printed guide that includes 15 activities.
The cost of this kit, broken down by activity, is less than the cost of a typical high school level robotics class AND unlike classes, you get to keep the material! You can download a pdf version of the activity guide by clicking on the image below.
Here is the lowdown on why this robotics controller is so advanced and worth the cost. Think of this as PRIZM™ for dummies.
- 32 KB flash programmable memory
Why is this important?
Flash memory enables the device to retain previous commands. You don’t want to keep reprogramming it over and over again. The Arduino IDE is the software that resides on a Windows, MAC or Linux PC and is used to generate the code that is uploaded to PRIZM’s flash memory. PRIZM has specialized firmware installed making complex tasks very easy to program using the Arduino IDE and a custom PRIZM library of commands.
- ATmega328P processor with Arduino Optiboot bootloader installed
Say what? What exactly does this mean?
Basically this means that the controller uses a software called Arduino, which is very easy to use and extremely powerful.
- 4 digital sensor ports and 4 analog sensor ports
Digital and analog sensors can be plugged into these hubs. Go here for an in-depth explanation of the difference between digital and analog and when to use which. PRIZM is compatible with the GROVE family of sensors from Seeed Studio. There is a wide variety at www.seeedstudio.com. Two of these ports can also be configured for I2C and Serial connectivity.
- 1 USB programming port
The USB port enables your computer code to be uploaded and stored in PRIZM’s flash memory. Once uploaded, it can be executed by PRIZM to control your robot. Motor and sensor data can also be sent back to the computer via the USB port for viewing or recording.
- 1 motor controller expansion port
Are you thinking “what’s with all these ports???”
All of these ports are very important, trust me. Pitsco will soon be releasing motor controller plug and play expansion modules that will enable additional numbers of DC and Servo motor channels controlled by PRIZM.
- 2 quadrature encoder input ports
These ports give you precise speed and position control of the DC motors.
- 2 high-current DC motor control ports
These ports are for controlling the powerful TETRIX DC gearhead motors.
- 6 standard control servo ports
Are you still wondering “seriously, why does a controller need so many ports???”
Because if you are going to pay the money to learn to program, Pitsco wants to make 100% sure that you are getting your money’s worth. A servo is a motor coupled to a sensor. A standard servo can be commanded to rotate to any position between 0 and 180 degrees. Once there, it will hold its position and resist being moved.
- 2 continuous rotation (CR) servo ports
A CR servo is designed to rotate clockwise or counterclockwise
Thank you to Pitsco for partnering with me for this post! A special thank you to Paul Uttley, the head of Pitsco R&D who created PRIZM and the TETRIX Building System. He is THE AUTHORITY on all things TETRIX.
*Disclosure: this post may contain affiliate links.