mBot RangerThe mBot Ranger is an app-controlled STEM toy that you can turn into a two-wheeled self-balancing robot, a tank, racecar, or whatever you want and then program instructions (via app,) or use a smartphone as a simple remote control.

We mentioned the mBot Ranger when it first came in over a year ago, and then several things happened in which it ended up being lost. TL;DR version without the three robberies, baby, emergency surgery, etc etc etc is that as a reviewer, I failed at getting this reviewed in a timely fashion. Now I’m back. Sorry Makeblock, I failed on this one.

Over the weekend I got an mBot Ranger in my possession and sat down to do an assembly. I’d planned to assemble all the forms and review each one, then I realized I own a four year old and a 19 month old and that was going to take a lot longer than was reasonable so I settled on the tank.

Unboxing was pretty easy. I needed a knife or a sharp object to break one piece of tape and that was the extent of tools required. I mention this as you might be unboxing with kiddos around and Mr. Stabby Stabby isn’t needed.

Assembling the mBot Ranger Tank

mBot Ranger assemblyI had a brief feeling like I was playing with an old school Erector Set combined a little with the magic of of my old Capsella. This magic faded in a minute when I realized how many different sized screws there were and how none of the bags had a label to indicate what they were.

I placed the screw bags in order, smallest to largest, noting there were hex screws and Phillips head screws. Luckily they include a dual capable driver.

There are a couple of issues I had with assembly.

The first is that package manifest claims you have two of something and there’s three. This was the case with the motor cables. Package manifest says two motor cables, I find three, I assume I’m looking at the wrong part. I’m fine if it said Screw M4x8 (8) might actually be 12 screws. Screw M4x12 (12) didn’t have 12 screws also and no indication on the bag. Etc. Weird listing in the manual.

mBot Ranger manifest

This really shouldn’t trip you up if you know it’s coming, but as I was having to keep a running inventory on things in case a baby came through and decided one was a snack, it was a bit rough.

mBot Ranger assemblyHint: screw size is shown on the instructions. Just put whatever screw you’re thinking of using on the page.

The second issue I had involved the motor wires. They appear to be designed to press in and click. Never happened for me. I became convinced at one point that this was going to be the end of my review after what, a year and a half? Finally I decided I was convinced I had them in the right was and I was going to push them in. They never quite clicked in, but they’re working.

mBot Ranger assembly (tank)These were all surmountable issues.

I spent about thirty minutes building the mBot Ranger tank. I made one mistake where I chose the wrong screws, and I made another mistake where I put the battery case in without batteries and then had to wiggle them in. Fairly painless.

The mBot Ranger in action

Everything seemed to be in place. I powered it on and then… nothing. Oh yeah, it has an app. I forgot about that. I downloaded the mBot app, it found it, connected to it, and nothing. Nada. Zip. OK they have another app – got that and suddenly I had control.

mBot Ranger mostly assembled

About this time the kids were up and awake and seeing a random tank running from them there was not much I could do to contain kid attacks. It survived. I’ll be transitioning it to a racecar or hover chicken next.

Mkeblock mBot Ranger powered on

I managed to write a simple program that had it trucking around the living room within 10 minutes of getting the kids back down for bed, so learning to program with their app is not a huge learning curve but I’ve got more to explore.

Currently you can get the mBot Ranger on Amazon for $179.88