RoadTest: GraspIO Cloudio + Raspberry Pi 3
Evaluation Type: Development Boards & Tools
Did you receive all parts the manufacturer stated would be included in the package?: True
What other parts do you consider comparable to this product?: Before this board, I was using a GPIO breakout board with a breadboard and individual components. If one is trying to prototype a complex, custom build; then individual components may be the way to go. On the other hand, if quick automation with less time spent assembling and testing components is the goal, I'm not sure there is a suitable replacement for this board.
What were the biggest problems encountered?: The biggest problem that I encountered was trying to connect the GraspIO at work (a public school setting). It seemed that the software was attempting to identify each WiFi access point in the building as a different network. As a result, when selecting a connection, we would see several (sometimes up to five) networks with the same name. Trying to find the correct access point (the one that phone we were using was also connected to) proved problematic. We had to select each instance of the correct network name until we found the correct one. This added considerable time and frustration to the connection process. However, this may be a problem unique to our network setup, which our technology department could not develop a work around for. It should be noted that I did not encounter this problem at home where there was only one access point.
I chose to take a bit of a different angle for this road test than other reviewers have. My perspective is of a public school teacher (gifted education) who has been looking for a more accessible way for my students to use Raspberry Pi to interact with the physical world. Up to this point, we have been using GPIO breakout boards to connect to a variety of electronic components and to control motors, servos, LED lights, etc. I have used this type of project to encourage my students to learn simple Python programming. It has been a great motivator, but sometimes it would be nice to be able to test a hardware setup without the time/effort it takes to program using a text-based programming environment. This is where the GraspIO comes in. The students have really enjoyed the accessibility provided by the block-based programming platform. Testing a hardware setup on the GraspIO first has been a great jumping off point to testing the capabilities of the same setup using text-based programming languages.
The GraspIO is nicely packaged within an appropriately sized black box. Within the box, the first thing to remove is the product documentation followed by the board itself, which is packaged neatly within an anti-static bag.
The dimensions of the board are shown below. At 2.5 inches x 2 inches, it is a bit smaller than I expected, but notice that the size seems to be well designed to fit perfectly atop a Raspberry Pi 3. This is the only model of Pi that I tested the board with, so I am unsure about fitment with other versions of the Raspberry Pi.
1. Format micro SD card.
2. Download the GraspIO OS from www.grasp.io.
3. Flash image to SD card using an image writer such as Etcher.
4. Insert flashed SD card into unpowered Raspberry Pi.
5. Mount GraspIO onto Raspberry Pi's GPIO header being sure to use the included plastic standoff.
6. Power on the Raspberry Pi by plugging in micro USB power supply.
7. LED will flash for approximately one minute before the welcome screen appears.
1. Download the app from Google Play or the App Store.
2. Create/Login to an account. If you connect using Google or Facebook, there is no need to create a new, separate account.
Connecting to Cloudio using Mobile Device
1. Click “Add board” icon within app.
2. Select your version of the Raspberry Pi (Raspberry Pi 3 in my case).
3. Be certain the SD card wtih GraspIO OS is mounted and Pi is powered on.
4. Connect the USB cable from Raspberry Pi to mobile device and change the connection type.
5. Confirm the connection type.
6. Long press the GIO button and USB Twinkle will commence
7. Select WiFi network that your mobile device is connected to and enter the password for the network.
8. Cloudio will display “USB Twinkle Successful” if connection was established.
9. Disconnect USB Cable
10. You may rename your board if you would like (especially useful if you will be utilizing multiple boards).
Create Your First Project
1. Click on "Projects" tab at bottom of screen.
2. Click "Create New" Icon.
3. GraspIO Studio will take you through a short tutorial to create the "High Five" program.
If you have ever used any sort of block-based visual programming language, the programming interface will be pretty intuitive to use. My students have plenty of experience with these sorts of languages, having used Lego programming environments (WeDo, Mindstorm NXT Robots), MIT Scratch, Snap, Blockly, and the code.org curriculum. The menus are easy to navigate and fairly intuitive. The five menus are pictured below:
The biggest challenge for my students in using GPIO breakout boards was always trying to learn about each electronic component, how to safely wire a circuit, and Python language/syntax all simultaneously. This board has made it possible to experiment with hardware while using familiar block-based programming. Previously, the steep learning curve meant spending multiple class periods just setting up a project, followed by additional time debugging whenever a problem arose. With this board and programming interface, we have been able to complete several projects in one class period.
This board will not allow me to accomplish all of the objectives of the Raspberry Pi electronics curriculum that I have developed, but it will serve as a great jumping off point for the introduction to the unit, as well as an efficient and accessible way to introduce several different projects that we build throughout the unit.
Overall, this has been a really fun board for my students to interact with. Every time they have switched away from this board to another application, they have always begged to come back and play with the GraspIO. Its accessibility, shallow learning curve, and immediate gratification have made this a truly rewarding board to work with.