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Cambridge HackLab Academy acquires BinaryBots



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Cambridge HackLab Academy has successfully completed the acquisition of York-based BinaryBots and says the combined products and services will “provide an innovative, sustainable, and integrated STEAM – science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics – education to the next generation.

BinaryBots prices start at £39.99
BinaryBots prices start at £39.99

Cambridge HackLab Academy (CHA) is a STEAM product, workshop and service development company with a strong track record at 3D printing, coding and IoT education. Partners include local Cambridge education providers Cambridge Biomakespace, the Cambridge Museum of Technology, Incubyte, global STEAM kits manufacturer The Crafty Robot, and others.

BinaryBots is a UK brand for educational robotic kits and smart toys. Its products were sold to schools and the retail market, with 35,000 units sold globally. It was a finalist at the BETT awards Innovator of the year in 2017, the winner of the Tillywig Toy Award in 2018 and the AI winner at the 2019 Golden Panda global competition. The company’s trading was severely hit when the pandemic began.

Dr Rongsheng Zhang, CEO of Cambridge HackLab Academy, said: “BinaryBots is a very strong UK brand; it is not just teaching how to build a robot, but also providing a problem-solving skill to children. These general capabilities are crucial to growing a future-ready workforce.

Rongsheng Zhang from Cambridge Hacklab Academy and digital information technology manager David Earp with some of the BinaryBot robots. Picture: Keith Heppell
Rongsheng Zhang from Cambridge Hacklab Academy and digital information technology manager David Earp with some of the BinaryBot robots. Picture: Keith Heppell

“We are so pleased to work together with Chris Burgess and continue the innovation of STEAM education. Access to education and engineering opportunities is a social and environmental perquisite: we believe that every child on this planet has the equal right to access STEAM education and become an innovator.”

Chris Burgess, inventor of BinaryBots, said: “I am extremely happy to witness BinaryBots is in good hands with Cambridge Hacklab Academy, their strong team and experience in the market will be instrumental to the success of the brand and to help many children with their ongoing journey within the STEAM world.”

He adds: “BinaryBots is a brand of robotic education kits with a great back story perfect for children to learn coding and STEAM skills from the age of eight.

“They were designed to be low cost and low entry as the perfect kit of schools, with a range of activities that allow the user to increase difficulty as their skills increase; as well as lessons for teachers to use in class and with CPD [continuing professional development] workshops.

“The beginner sets are flat pack cardboard robots that when assembled are very strong. They are made of white card for the user to colour as they like, and they come with glossy sticker sheets.

“We use the BBC micro:bit computer in the kit to bring the robot to life and have included various sensors – light sensor, temperature sensor, motion sensor, buzzer – to expand what is possible.”

All the kits can be assembled by pupils for learning coding in Python. They can code the programme online, then control the activities of robot. The entry-level BinaryBot Dimm is priced at £39.99: the BinaryBot Totem (spider, crab or tortoise) is £59.99.

BinaryBots offers a popular way for pupils to learn to code in Python
BinaryBots offers a popular way for pupils to learn to code in Python

“Our next level of kits are called Planet Totem,” Chris adds. “They contain pieces of ‘Totem’, a framework of boards, beams and metal components. You can build a spider, a tortoise or a crab, each with a unique capability. We designed an ‘Instinct’ board for these kits, you can poke it and stroke it like an actual animal and it will respond depending on what you do.”

HackLab Academy was founded in 2019. Based in Stirling House on Cambridge Innovation Park, it has two full-time staff, two part-time staff and one consultant.

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