Crumble Controller

Let’s Get Ready to Crumble

Joseph passOn Wednesday 29th March, we had a very special visitor to Rode Heath – Joseph Birks from Redfern Electronics.

For those of you who are unaware, he is the inventor of the Crumble Controller – an electronic board to which you can attach up to two motors, lights, buzzer and lots of switches and sensors to control how they operate.

Mr Randall and I first encountered these excellent boards when we became involved with the Manchester Robot Orchestra last year – The Year 3 children loved using them so much, that we decided to buy 15 starter kits – enough for the children to work in pairs.

The visit to Rode Heath came about because of our wonderful Strike A Chord robot, which played with the Halle Orchestra. As the whole project had been such a success, Joseph was asked to create some Robot Orchestra kits so that children could make their own robot instruments. We were contacted by Alison Mcmurray, from Manchester University, and asked if we had any children who would like to be filmed explaining how to make the kits – the videos would then be included on the Redfern Electronics website – Mmmm! Hard Decision!

The date was arranged for Wednesday 29th March and 8 lucky Year 3&4 children were chosen to take part – children we knew would be happy in front of the camera and able to think on their feet.

Joseph arrived just after 10am, armed with 4 robot kits. This was the first time that they had ever been put together by anyone but Joseph, so everyone was very excited.

First, Joseph visited the Year 3s and had a look at what they had been doing with his Crumble Controller. He appeared very impressed by the stability tester – I think this was the first time that the Crumble had been used to wobble a tray of jelly!

The children asked some questions about what had inspired Joseph to invent the Crumble and how the first one had been made. Then we returned to the Year 4 classroom, where the filming was going to take place.

Joseph had brought 4 prototype kits with him: the Crumb Drum; the Crumble Chime, the Crumble Clacker and the Crumble Wobbler. Each kit is designed to make its own percussion sound, using either a motor or servos. The children worked in pairs to demonstrate how to put each kit together. I think that we were all amazed to see how articulate and adept they were. With limited instruction, they were able to build each kit, commenting as they progressed on what they doing. Not only that, but the technical language and obvious knowledge of the inputs/outputs and connecting circuits together was extremely impressive for such young children (aged between 7 and 9).

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We filmed one robot kit at a time, so some of the children had to be very patient, waiting for their turn. Those who had filmed their videos couldn’t wait to rush off though, to put their robots to the test by programming them. We even had some suggestions for improvements to Joseph’s designs, such as changing the chime bar to a bell – much to the amusement of the adults. It really was like a scene from the Tom Hanks’ film ‘BIG’.

This is what learning should be about: children taking charge and exploring the possibilities open to them – something that we believe engineering clearly offers.

And now, thanks to the extra kits and equipment Joseph left behind, and the impetus he has created, all the children in Year 3&4 will be given the opportunity to design their own robotic instrument using the Crumble.


Who knows? At the end of the summer term, we may be giving our own Robotic Orchestra performance.

But first . . . we need to perfect our rap – so, Let’s Get Ready to Crumble.

Look out for these new Crumble Orchestra kits – they should be available to buy at the end of April.