When it comes to robotics, there is a wide range of ready-made robots that claim to be ‘educational’. But when it comes to spending hard-to-come-by school funds on expensive technology, which products do you choose? This post is to show some examples of the variety of educational robots available and provide some information that may help you decide on the product that best meets your needs. For lesson plans, learning sequences and other resources to assist in teaching and learning with robots, the Digital Technologies DigiPub is a great place to start.
KIBO, from Kinderlab Robotics, is a simple wooden and plastic robot designed for children aged 4 to 7. You assemble the robot and then place a series of wooden blocks in sequence to program the robot ($229 to $399).
BeeBots (Yellow and black) and BlueBots (Transparent) are sturdy, well-designed robots suitable for pre-school and early years. The original BeeBots can only be controlled by pressing the buttons on top of the device, travelling in four directions. BlueBots can be controlled remotely, using a free BlueBot app, and can turn 45 degrees, as well as 90 and 180. There are also a range of colorful accessories and mats to stimulate a variety of learning opportunities. ($90-120 each or $600 for a set of 6 with charging station)
Dot and Dash is actually two robots that can communicate with each other and can be programmed remotely with the Blockly app on mobile devices. Suitable for students from 5 to 8 years of age it has attachments for Lego bricks and ranges from $199 to $349. These devices are available from Wonder Workshop and are supported with a range of educational resources for teachers, including lesson plans.
Sphero and Ollie are rolling robots ($150 – $200 individually) that are programmed using drag-and-drop coding. The free SPRK Lightning Lab app is available for Apple iOS, Google Chrome, Android or Amazon Kindle. Both the spherical Sphero and cylindrical Ollie are fairly sturdy and water resistant, so can be used outdoors. Students can program them to roll through a maze or design an obstacle course to navigate. They can also make accessories, such as trailers or chariots for the Sphero to tow along. The website has more examples of educational activities.
Edison starts at $60.00 for the basic model, but is compatible with Lego, so most schools will already have construction materials to customize these robots. Edison robots can be controlled with free software on a variety of platforms (Windows, Mac, Linus, iOS and Android) and comes with 10 free lesson plans as well as activity sheets, an achievement chart and a student award certificate. This robot suits middle years students from Year 3 to 8. It is powered by 4 AAA batteries and can be programmed with bar codes. The variety of sensors (sound, light, obstacles) make this a versatile choice.
Ozobots are tiny, light-sensing robots that can follow a line on a piece of paper. They can detect colors and can be programmed using visual color codes. Ozobot can also move and ‘dance’ when programmed via the Ozogroove app. Ozobot Bit offers all of the functionality available in the base Ozobot model, but also gives students the ability to fully control its behavior the block-based programming editor OzoBlockly. With Ozobot Bit, kids can make the natural progression from visual coding into the world of block-based programming ($179.00 for two).
The Hummingbird Robotics Kit is suitable for junior secondary school and up and also compatible with Lego. It can be combined with recycled cardboard and any other construction materials to create a variety of projects. It contains a range of sensors (distance, light, sound, temperature and rotary) and outputs (DC gear motor, vibration motor, single and tri-colour LED’s). There are at least four different ways to program Hummingbird Duo.
- CMU CREATE Lab Visual Programmer (for those with no prior programming experience)
- Using drag and drop, blocks-based visual programming such as Scratch 2.0 or Snap!
- Arduino and Ardublock programs can be downloaded to the Hummingbird controller, allowing it to run independently of a computer.
- Python, Java and Raspberry Pi can also be used for more advanced programming options.
In our small, rural P to 12 College, we have a set of 6 BlueBots for the primary students and a Hummingbird Duo kit for secondary students. I would also recommend the Edison robot for durability, flexibility and the ability to combine with Lego materials.
Which robots would you like to recommend as tools for teaching and learning?