Here's what I really like about Hummingbird. Using the Create Labs Visual Programmer, students can program lights to turn on/off, make servo and DC motors run, and use sensors to react to the environment, in just a few minutes. Students create "expressions" for things that the hummingbird can do (i.e., turn on the green light, make the servo rotate 90 degrees), while "sequences" are collections of expressions that can then be attached to a number of different sensors (light, sound, distance, temperature). The screen interface on Visual Programmer graphically represents what is seen on the Hummingbird board, including all of the ports, so the correlation is clear.
In addition to Visual Programmer, students can also build programs using other languages, including Scratch, Snap, Python, Java and more.
The major disadvantage to Hummingbird, when compared to Arduino, or any other microcontroller, is that it must be tethered to the computer (for code and audio) and power (for motors) when deployed. This limits the location for showcasing a final project, and requires more equipment at all times. However, the short learning curve benefits in my opinion outweigh this limitation. The need for tethering is also a great motivator for students to learn about Arduino and its many variants in order to create something that is standalone.
It is important to note that the newest version of Hummingbird, the Duo, is a combination of the current board and an Arduino, so this should bring even more flexibility to the platform.
We've had three sessions thus far with Hummingbird and students are on their way to creating their "robot", which can take many forms. One team is building a dog that will wag its tail and bark when you get close, another is making a person that greets you. A couple of teams have letters and shapes that light up. Other teams are making vehicles with 3D printed wheels.
Here are some photos of work in progress.
I created a couple of items for use in teaching Hummingbird:
1) Hummingbird Chassis - Available on Thingiverse.
2) Laser Cut Hummingbird teaching panel, as pictured at the start of this post. I used 1/8" plywood. Here's the original illustrator file:
The projects are now complete, please check out the student blog posts from fall of 2014 to read their project reflections and see video of their final product.