Coding is one of the essential skills of the new generation. Bill Gates believes everybody should know basic coding from a young age. But getting into this tech space can seem overwhelming for kids.
Teaching kids coding with regular classes can also be to theoretical at first. This is why I looked for a solution such as Ozobot. The little robot teaches basic coding skills. It has been an inspired gift I offered to all my nephews. The little robot comes in 2 versions and both of them are based on simplified coding.
The first generation tiny robot moves around on a trajectory kids draw with a marker. The second-generation robot has in-app functions such as basic variables defined by code. This newer robot comes with a few tricks kids can teach it when and how to perform. Among them, spinning tricks seem to be the most fun to watch.
The first generation tiny robot comes as the simplest visual method of teaching basic coding skills. There are no codes to learn with this robot. It can be used by kids as young as 6 as a result. But what I like the most is just how good the robot is at its movements.
Basically, children have to draw a line for the robot to follow. This line can be drawn with special markers but it may also be made out of stickers. Based on an optical sensor, the robot knows not to travel anywhere the line doesn’t go.
It follows the lines to the end and back. However, whenever you draw a different color or stick a different color on paper, it accesses its tricks and it stuns kids by always doing something different. Color combinations are used to perform these tricks. Here are 3 examples of how they work.
These colors combine in this orders tell the robot to slow down. The tiny robot continues its journey but for 3 seconds, it starts to move along very slowly. Kids can add this color combination at any point on their track. With better visualization, they get to learn that a basic sequence of colors is a code.
This color combination is the polar opposite. The robot starts to travel at higher speeds. However, there’s a catch. The robot will continue traveling at higher speeds until it reads a new code or until it reaches the finish line.
The basic skills this code teaches the little ones are the begin and end function code. Unless the add another code to slow the robot down, the rest of the playtime is going to end faster.
As one of the more complex codes, this already requires kids to draw multiple lines. It is the type of code that makes the robot change lines completely. Those who want to have the robot traveling on multiple lines without turning them into one line can add this code. The robot turns at a 90-degree angle and continues the journey on the first line it reaches in any direction.
The codes are visual representations of how robotics work. Kids don’t need to entire code lines into a computer to see them in action. Even more, they can be made with stickers or markers which make the entire process a bit faster.
There’s a second-generation robot out. Its more complex than the original robot and it already starts to take coding more seriously. This robot is able to connect via Bluetooth to a mobile device and its official app. Inside the app, kids add various commands which control the robot from an enhanced coding perspective.
If in its first generation the robot was controlled through lines, this is also the case now but with the added app functionality. A few popular codes include the following.
If you’re a coder yourself, you need to know these are new actual codes kids play around with. They are simply a representation in forms of blocks they add to a simply browser-based or app-based editor.
There are a few functions that take the robot to the next level. For example, it can be controlled in a classroom where more kids can learn how to control it together.
Shape Tracer is the name of the game in which kids can play with the second generation robot. This turns the physical marker into a virtual marker. Kids draw the trace for the robot to follow on the computer. It’s here the robot finds the way around. Each child can add personal input to the track for improved communication skills.
The Educator Kit which includes 1 robot costs $99. Inside the pack, you’ll find all the various markers you need. My nephews got the hang of it quickly as they were drawing within minutes.
There’s a USB charging cable for the robot which comes inside the box as well. The manufacturer also added the Educator Bot Camp book which tells kids all the tricks the little device can perform.
A classroom kit comes with either 12 or 18 robots. The 18 robot version costs $1,800. Stickers and markers are included in the pack. Children get to experiment with this fun coding technology without having to fight one another for playtime.
But the classroom kit also comes with training lessons for teachers. Kids can follow these lessons just as they would with any other subject. At the end of these lessons, they have a better understanding of how the little device works and how it performs.
Joining the coding world is certainly not easy today. A study even showed girls don’t get into coding as they’re not open to this world from a young age. But both girls and boys can be presented to this tech space in a fun way.
Apart from the learning and fun aspect of the game, this opens up a new world for children. They can understand how electronics and websites learn based on these coding principles. At some level, they might also understand the basics of malicious intent online.
If someone plays with their code while they’re not paying attention, the robot is going to go off-course. This teaches kids the basics of safeguarding their apps and how they interact with them.
But most importantly, these robots found a way of turning coding strings into visual tabs which are dragged and dropped to create a liner pattern of events. Kids will start creating their own adventures which boost creativity.
In theory, there are endless paths to create for these robots. But I found my nephews appreciated the tiny machines a bit more when playing in groups. Together, they plan and execute various paths which are often more complex than if they simply drew them on their own.