Our dear little Cubetto robot from Primo Toys has had a nice long life in our family, entertaining both our oldest and youngest daughter. However, in the last year, he hasn't been able to track a straight line when following the commands from the programming board. Which means that our youngest, who is now in the prime target age for learning sequential programming through playing around with this little robot is now without a little friend to help her learn!
Unfortunately, when I contacted Primo, they weren't set up for replacement parts and they had already long sold out of their original units... however, the person in charge seemed to be really set on setting up some sort of replacement part supply chain for these somewhat expensive educational toys... the lack of after-purchase support after a certain time is something that is pretty common in the software/hardware fields, and it would be a pity if the educational toy sector caught on to this habit.
The guy even had me video and test various parts of the robot to see if we could narrow down the actual problem... and in the end, he reckoned on it being one of the motors starting to fail, thus turning the wheel irregularly and making Cubetto track a curve instead of a straight line (and even worse for the actual turns!),
Thankfully. this guy seemed pretty damn determined to make it work... but we were one of the first people to start contacting him about it after the original supplies had run out (in fact, I might have even been the first!)... Our Cubetto (one of the first...) was about 5 years old by now... so, little failures were starting to be expected.
That said, this was and still is in the midst of a supply chain crisis caused by the pandemic and the various responses to it. So, for months and months (and almost a year...), he wasn't able to source replacement parts... there were some interesting leads, and then they would peter out and fail...
However, earlier this year, we received a pretty enthuiastic email saying that Primo had managed to source a replacement part manufacturer, and that they would be shipping out the replacement motors. He was really apologetic about the huge delay, and said that they would be shipping everything out at their own cost (even the motors were free!)... well, I was pretty chuffed about that... we were pretty patient and hadn't really annoyed them too much! Plus, we are big fan of most of their products... except that Pigzbe thing that ended up being a big flop!
So, like any really annoying father... I've trained my girls to expect to help fix their toys when they need it. This time, they were both really into the idea of fixing their beloved Cubetto... the older one always likes fixing stuff anyway, but the younger one prefers that her house servants do most of the work!
The little one could help a little bit with the outside screws and that sort of hing, but the older one had to do the actual inside and replacement. Thankfully, there was very little to do... mostly just figuring out how to unlatch the retaining mechanism for the motors (which was pretty obscure in the video... but my oldest figured it out before me!).
So, not too much to do... but I took the opportunity to introduce them to the various bits and connectors on the PCB... I do have an Arduino kit waiting for my oldest (I bought it when she was about 2... and I have been waiting for the day to spring it on her!)... maybe I should break it out soon!
Whilst taking a tour of the insides of the robot... my oldest pointed out this possible damaged wire... it looks still okay, but it has been bent pretty damn hard, hopefully without damaging the actual wire inside. I was a little bit worried that this was actually the cause of the turning problem as it seemed to be ne of the current (power) carrying wires for one of the motors... or it could have been for both, without looking underneath the housing it was a bit hard to tell. I think it was for both as the circuit completion seemed to come out from the other side.
It was pleasant hour of just showing the kids around the inside of the robot, and the girls were pretty happy to see that Cubetto was working again. The calibration of the motors is a little bit off (he turns a touch too far) and I had wanted to fix that straight away whilst he was opened up... but that would take some software downloading and attaching the Cubetto to a laptop to get the turn settings just right. Not a big deal... except for the fact that the girls wanted to get straightaway onto playing around with little guy again!
So... that will have to wait a little bit. He only does a little bit of a over-turn, but if you are doing quite a few turns one after another, it does add up quite a bit!
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