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Valiant Roamer

By Sally Finley - Posted Nov 1, 2005
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REPORT CARD
Overall Rating:5 Stars
Installation:A
Content/Features:A
Ease of Use:A
Product Support:A

Company: Valiant USA, P.O. Box 639, Forest Park, IL 60130. Phone: 888/366-6628; Fax: 708/366-8348; E-mail: info@valiantusa.com. Internet: http://www.valiant-technology.com/us/.

Price: $279.95—Roamer unit; $69.95—Roamer software (PC only), single copy. A wide variety of accessories can be purchased, ranging in price from $14.95 to $79.95.

Audience: K-8.

Description: The Roamer is a battery-operated, disc-shaped "robot" made of sturdy plastic that can be programmed to move forward or backward, turn, play music, and leave a trail.

Reviewer Comments:

Installation: The unit requires two "lantern" batteries or the Valiant Rechargeable Battery Pack. The batteries are easy to install, using a coin to open the cover.

The company cautions that the Valiant rechargeable batteries incorporate features essential for the safety and protection of the Roamer. The use of unapproved rechargeable batteries may damage the device and will void the warranty. Installation Rating: A

Features: The Roamer moves on a set of wheels over a variety of surfaces, including flooring or carpeting. A keypad on the top controls movements. Users operate the Roamer by pressing an operation/function key, followed by a number key (0-9).

The device can be programmed in two ways: in a short-term memory process (known as the Go Program) or in a long-term memory storage process (known as Procedures).

The Go Program is made up of a list of instructions that are carried out when the user presses the Go key. When the unit is operated for the first time, the Go Program accesses a demonstration that shows the Roamer's basic functions.

A Clear Memory button clears previous Go Program instructions and allows the user to enter a new Go Program.

The Procedures are made up of lists of user-defined instructions, each identified with a number. A selected procedure is carried out when the appropriate number is selected. The Roamer can remember up to 59 instructions and can carry out hundreds of actions.

The device moves forward and backward in units equal to its body length and turns in angular units of one degree. These units of distance and turn can be redefined and saved as needed.

Roamer sounds can be played at one of five tempos and one of three octaves.

The Roamer Activity Book contains a variety of tasks and games to be used with students. An extensive list of additional activities and lesson plans are available on the company's Web site.

The Activity Book and online lesson plans offer a variety of tasks that complement math, science, and language arts instruction in the classroom.

The additional accessories available for purchase greatly extend the capabilities of the Roamer. Many scientific investigations can be undertaken using the optional sensor, light, and motor packs.

The extensive list of optional accessories includes rechargeable batteries and a battery charger, software and a PC interface, a literacy pack, nursery rhyme activity pack, control box, light pack, sensor pack, motor pack, control pack, playing cards, jackets, floor mats, posters, and platforms.

Classroom Applications: I sponsor a Lego Robotics Club that enjoyed the challenge of programming the Roamer robot. Introducing Roamer first to my club members greatly aided their under­standing of the concepts necessary to program our Lego robot for our county's FIRST (First in Recognition of Science and Technology) Competition.

The Roamer's demonstration program built my students' interest and excitement. After the demonstration, the students were enchanted by the Roamer and couldn't wait to learn the programming.

The device is especially useful when teaching measurement skills of area and perimeter. We spent one class teaching the Roamer to make various geometric shapes.

The robot makes it easy to present an introduction to angular units (including cardinal directions, angles, and degrees) and to linear units using the metric system. Children can explore the ideas of perimeter and area through programming by taking measurements and performing calculations.

My students enjoyed creating original games and functions for the Roamer to perform. One student created an original obstacle course and invited his classmates to program the Roamer to navigate it.

We also included the Roamer in our annual Family Robotics Night, to the delight of all who attended. Features Rating: A

Ease of Use: The simplicity of operation is definitely the unit's most attractive feature. The user simply turns it on, presses two keys, and the Roamer moves.

Without looking at the manual, my students were executing complex movements in a very short time. Once they were familiar with the keys, I showed them more advanced techniques and the students became quite adept at operating the Roamer.

The keypad is simple and easy to use by students of all ages. The included User Guide provides clear and concise instructions that make operation easy and quick. Ease of Use Rating: A

Product Support: Product support is provided through product manuals included with the device and in curriculum ideas available online. Basic instructions and a detailed user guide are also available online. In addition, e-mail support is available at info[at]valiantusa.com. Product Support Rating: A

Recommendation: The Roamer promotes critical thinking skills as students program the robot to do a variety of tasks. Students learn to think sequentially.

All children—including second language learners, the gifted, and students with special needs—can experience success using the Roamer.

Note that the Roamer uses lantern batteries with spring terminals that can be costly to replace. The optional battery charger and rechargeable batteries would be a good investment in the long run.

If you're looking for an innovative strategy to challenge your students, the Roamer will provide hours of stimulating activities to enhance your curriculum. In my classroom, the unit has turned out to be a highly successful motivational and educational tool. Highly recommended.

Reviewer: Sally Finley, Gifted/Technology, Country Hills Elementary School, 10550 Westview Drive, Coral Springs, FL 33076; 754/322-5950; sallyfinley1[at]yahoo.com.


 
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