Frequently Asked Questions

General FAQS


What happens if I need technical support for my mBot?

First of all, be calm, maintain a "Positive Maker Attitude". Then follow these steps, which are the most common but very normal mistakes that everyone makes including ourselves.   

1. Have you actually turned on your mBot with the cable plugged in?   

2. Have the batteries gone flat?   

3. Have you established a connection?   

4. Check your program again, have you set up the right port address?   

If you're still stuck, have a look at   

Or simply email us: with what you need from us.

Why coding is a necessary skill for kids to learn as they grow?
In an era of technological advancement, there is a growing need for people not only to know how to use computers and electronic devices, but also to understand how they work in order find innovative ways to resolve our everyday problems. Understanding coding for computers or machines becomes necessary like reading and writing, and schools are already including this in their curriculum around the world.

What makes SMINKS LABS’ learning programme different?
SMINKS LABS programmes utilises mBots not only for teaching kids to code but also exposing them to the “maker culture” by building the bots from bare parts.

Kids learn better and faster when they have hands on experience in building the mBots, understanding how the electronic components work and then coding to control the movements of the mBot.

Because kids have an easier time learning skills than adults – their minds are flexible and open, so learning code is like learning a language. This builds their logic-based thinking – ‘procedural literacy’, which is an ability to think about and understand processes. 
Another key benefit is that SMINKS LABS programme can build their confidence, creativity and provides the tools to create a world of limitless possibilities. SMINKS LABS kids can build their own bots and be creative with their solutions.

What age does SMINKS LABS’ holiday programme cater for?
SMINKS LABS programmes are designed for kids from age 8 – 15. We are looking in programmes for adults wanting to learn coding.

Does SMINKS LABS programme tie in with NZ Curriculum?
At this stage, it is up to the schools to determine the content of course to satisfy the requirements of NZ curriculum.

What abilities do students need to have before attending a SMINKS LABS programme?
Students to do need to have prior experience before participating in SMINKS LABS programme. Each module will cater to different age groups and skill levels.

What equipment do students need to bring to SMINKS LABS programme?
A laptop with a USB port, and Windows 7 or Mac OS 10.7 or later version installed. Please ensure the participant have "administrative rights" so we can install the mBlock software and drivers (if not already). If you have a bluetooth version mBot, you will be issued with a loaner 2.4G serial USB comms module for the class.

What if I’ve paid for a holiday programme but my child is unable to attend?
If a student cannot attend for any reason, please notify SMINKS LABS as soon as possible. Refunds are not provided for no-shows. However cancellations made 7 or more days prior to the commencement of the programme will receive a full refund less a $40 administration fee.

What size are the classes?
Classes are generally between 12-15 students. However up to 20 students can be accommodated. The teacher to student ratio is dependent on the type of activity, age of child and workshop topic.

If I made an online registration for SMINKS LABS programme, what happens next?
Once a booking is paid, a confirmation email will be sent to the email address provided. An instruction detail will also be sent a week before the programme commences.  

Do the students need to be accompanied by an adult?
No, all SMINKS LABS tutors are police vetted and trained to supervise your child. You are welcomed to stay and observe the class in session but we respectfully ask that you allow the tutors to do their job and not distract their attention to the class.

If I were to set up a robotics lab at my school, how can SMINKS LABS help?
You've come to the right place. The Makeblock solution for educational technology is very easy to learn and challenging enough for all students. Please contact us and tell us what your goals are and we will put together a complete robotics lab package to suit your budget. All schools get a standard 5% discount off normal retail for all purchases and if you take up our teacher training bundle, you may qualify for 10% discount.


Should I buy an mBot for my child?

  • Absolutely! SMINKS LABS’ robotics embraces the Maker Culture

  • Simple instructions to build your own robot from parts

  • Create your own program to control its actions

  • An inexpensive way to learn coding in a flash 

Which mBot should I get?
There are 2 types of mBots, the bluetooth version and the 2.4G serial USB version. We recommend the 2.4G serial version because connecting to it is the easiest with no hassles in trying to pair it with bluetooth. The only disadvantage in not having the bluetooth is not being able to use the mBot app that you can download on your phone/tablet to play with the mBot as a remote controlled car. You can always have the best of both worlds by purchasing the bluetooth or 2.4G serial modules separately!

If I bought an mBot and my child doesn’t know what else to do with it, where can we get more material to keep them interested?
Ok, so your child at this point must be really too smart, because the mBot already comes standard with an array of inputs and outputs modules. Go to our web store and add accessories to your mBot such as a PIR motion sensor, temperature sensor, joystick, LED matrix display etc, etc. Don't forget to get the bracket pack to build on your mBot to attach these extras.

What else can I do with my mBot?
That is a very good question to ask and challenge yourself! What else you can do with the mBot is only limited by your imagination.

Is there money back guarantee on your products?
We honour the manufacturer's 3 months warranty from the date of despatch, back to base. If you bought our products and changed your mind, we can at our discretion credit you back the value of your purchase less delivery fee and restocking fee. The fee is $25 or 20% of the goods current value, whichever is greater. Please refer to our terms and conditions for full details.



Can the mBot be upgraded to support stepper motors etc.. if so what is required as the board seems to only have 4 ports.
For stepper motors, you will need to have the stepper motor driver which requires a higher output voltage (6-12V), represented by a red tag colour port. Unfortunately this port is not available on the mCore board (3.7-6V) used in the mBot. You will need the Orion board which is used on the Stater and Ultimate robot kits (has 2x red tag ports). The mDrawbot uses the Orion board and also comes with 2x stepper motors and drivers.


Can I use the Robotic Arm Add-On pack on my mBot? Why not?
The motors are driven a motor driver module which requires the ports with the red tag (output voltage 6-12 VDC). Unfortunately these are not on the mBot’s board which uses the mCore board. So you really need the Orion board, which has these red tagged ports on 2 of it’s 8 ports, which are included on the Starter Robot Kit and the Ultimate Robot Kit.





What programming language does the mBot use and where can I get it from?
Download the mBlock software from mBlock is based on the Scratch programming language that was developed by MIT. You can also program in Arduino mode.


The new mBlock software is giving me problems! What shall I do?
Please report the problem to Makeblock by clicking from the top menu /Help/UploadBug. If you need to revert back to the previous version, please go to our repository here, where we try to keep old versions, just in case! Nothing worse than trying to do something which used to work and then it doesn't work.


Should I upgrade the firmware?

YES, always. If you are have recently upgraded from an older version of mBlock latest version, be sure to also upgrade your firmware of your robot! If you don’t you might find that some of your existing programs not working properly. After you have upgraded your firmware, DO NOT “Reset to default program”, that just puts the old firmware in. Once you have upgraded the firmware, the remote control programs that were pre-installed into the mBot are gone and and this is normal. You can now write your own programs for the remote control!


How do I update the firmware?
Steps to upgrade firmware:

  1. Connect with USB cable and turn on the mBot at the slide switch.

  2. From the top menu click on /Connect/SerialPort/<choose the highest COM port if running Windows, on a Mac choose dev/tty.wchusbserial...>

  3. If you click on the “Robots” section of the Scripts, the round indicator should be green (red=not connected).

  4. From the top menu click on /Connect/UpgradeFirmware and the process should begin, click “Done” when finished.

  5. Remove the cable from the mBot. Turn off the mBot and turn on again so it has a hard reset.

  6. We have found that we may need to close and open the mBlock software again to establish a connection via 2.4G.


Connecting and interfacing with Mac computers
If you have a Mac and you get this message "mblock - can't be opened because it is from an unidentified developer". We recommend that you right click the app and then click "open" and follow the prompt to allow your Mac to always allow the app to run on your Mac.  Always click "Allow" when your mac ask you if you want the application to accept incoming network connections.

I am having issues with USB connection with Mac OS El Capitan.  What can I do?
Drivers security have tightened with the latest OS release, those of you who have updated to the latest El Capitan OS will find that you can no longer connect to your robot via the USB cable. To make it work again, follow the steps here -


What does "Reset to default program" do?

On the mBot, it resets the firmware to the original ex-factory firmware and loads the pre-configured programs for the IR remote control (i.e. A=direct control mode, B=wall avoidance mode, and C=line follower mode). However, in this mode, you will find that some commands does not work properly so you must upgrade your firmware. This is because every time Makeblock releases a new mBlock software, they also release a new firmware to match the additional functions that they may have added to it, in addition to bug fixes for existing functions.