TI-Innovator Rover Review

By Tech Powered Dad | July 19, 2018

The TI-Innovator Rover

What Is the TI-Innovator Rover?

When Texas Instruments announced this product last year, a programmable robot that can receive its programs from their TI-84 Plus CE and TI-Nspire CX graphing calculators, my ears perked up. The TI-Innovator system, a series of programmable devices that interfaced with TI calculators had been intriguing, but the Rover is a robot on wheels, you might say a drone, created from many of the same devices as the earlier Innovator components.

What Can the TI-Innovator Rover Do?

The TI-Innovator Rover RGB Sensor

The Rover comes equipped with two motorized wheels to guide it about and a ball bearing to serve as a rear wheel. It has a “ranger” mounted on it’s front to let it know how close it is to approaching objects. It has a light sensor, an RGB sensor (color sensor), and it can play sounds and light up lights. It also has a convenient spot have a pen or marker mounted to trace out its path. Additionally, it has the ability to connect other sensors from the TI-Innovator family of data collection. It comes with a micro-USB charger, notably a slight change from recent TI calculators that use a mini-USB for charging. The arms that hold the calculator in place easily adjust to two different widths to account for the fact that the TI-Nspire CX and TI-84 Plus CE are slightly different in size.

The whole thing that makes this so interesting is the idea of getting all of these TI-Innovator parts working together as one robot without having to figure out how to assemble it yourself. Imagine building a maze on the floor with nothing but colored tape, and programming the Rover to escape or what about geometry constructions with the Rover. Texas Instruments has a whole site devoted to Rover activities, and it will only grow with time.

TI-Innovator Rover Dances The TI-Innovator Rover Dances. Here’s a full Rover video on YouTube.

Sample TI-Innovator Rover Program

You may be wondering with all of the seeming magic that Rover can do, how do you actually make it perform those wonders? The answer is that teachers, parents, or students need to enter their code into their TI-84 Plus CE or TI-Nspire CX with a program for the Rover to execute. Texas Instruments makes several sample programs available for the Rover, so you can learn from those. Here’s a look at one of those sample programs I examined from the TI-Nspire CX which tells the Rover to draw simple shapes. You can see that a square is drawn with four 90 degree turns inside a for loop with 4 iterations. A triangle is drawn with three degree turns inside a for loop with 3 iterations (© indicates comments).

Define shapes()=
©Connect rover
©Draw Square
DispAt 7,"Drive square then triangle"
©Loop to trace each square edge
    For side,1,4
©Move forward
        Send "SET RV FORWARD DISTANCE ",size," M"
©Turn left 90 degrees
        Send "SET RV LEFT"
Wait 13
©Draw triangle
©Set first angle to trace triangle, 30 degrees from starting point
©Loop to trace each triangle size
    For side,1,3
©Move forward
        Send "SET RV FORWARD DISTANCE ",size*1.2," M"
©Trace internal 60 degrees using supplementary angle
        Send "SET RV LEFT 120 DEGREES"
©Return Rover to its original position

Is the TI-Innovator Rover Worth It?

When the TI-Innovator system was released a while back, I gave it a qualified thumbs up. I think that the individual components of the TI-Innovator are a potentially interesting introduction to computer programming. However, there are a lot of ways to accomplish the same idea of introductory programming, many of which don’t require additional purchases beyond what a teacher (or home-school parent) would already have available to them on a real computer.

The idea of combining many of the individual components into a full fledged robot, the Rover, takes the TI-Innovator concept to a different level. There’s just something way more compelling about the Rover being able to use the sensors to make decisions and take actions based on the programs that the students have written. It’s way more interesting, and I give it an enthusiastic recommendation. Most teachers are aware that we need to do more to prepare our students to speak the language of computer code. While the Rover probably will never find its way into every school in America, there’s a strong case to be made that if you can find a few dollars in your school budget or grant, that picking up a few TI-Innovator Rovers would be a good place to spend some of them. This is especially true if you are in a situation where your students are already regularly using the TI-84 Plus CE or TI-Nspire CX.

Click here to see the TI-Innovator Rover price on Amazon.

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