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5 Educational Robots You Can Use in Your STEM Classroom

by Patricia Dimick on November 29, 2016

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The Expanding Variety of Small Robot Kits for Educational Purposes is Ripe With Fun Possibilities for the Classroom

One of the most innovative technological concepts currently available is the idea of using robots for teaching children. Robotics is a fascinating field that can benefit students from elementary school all the way up to graduate courses.

Educational robots have up-to-date computing power, innovative engineering, and can be controlled not only via apps but using voice and gestures, as well. They can help you deliver lessons in STEM concepts crucial to modern education.

The activity of programming a robot and even building one from a kit is an ideal way to teach technology and engineering skills. It can help children naturally learn and adapt to the useful principle of computational thinking.

The following five child-sized robots bring fantasy to life, providing a fun and engaging learning tool for you and your students.

Root

Developed at Harvard University, Root is a robot with the aim of helping children learn how to code. Designed for kids at different school levels, it includes over 50 sensors and actuator motors.

Using magnets, it can operate on a vertical surface such as a whiteboard to follow patterns as they are drawn. Your students can program Root to follow lines, avoid certain colors, solve mazes or race along a track.

Root connects by Wi-Fi to a mobile device to form a real-time link for controlling the robot. The purpose of this little robot is to engage kids with computer programming by seeing immediate, physical results. Learning to code at an early age will help your students improve their overall ability to learn.

Root comes with an intuitive interface that you and your students can adapt to quickly. The coding app, Square, takes a multi-level approach for students of different skill levels. This is a strictly graphical environment that even kids who can’t read can use to create programs.

Cubelets

Cubelets offers a very modern approach to the concept of robotics. These robots are created through the assembly of different blocks or modules, each one being a separate robot. Different combinations can be used to create different types of robots.

A Cubelets kit can contain between 6 and 20 different blocks. Each block fulfills a function categorized as Think, Sense, or Action. Think blocks are logic circuits that communicate commands to the rest of the robot. Sense blocks have sensors that respond to touch, visual, or audio stimuli. Action blocks allow the robot to respond and move.

Cubelets train your students to plan and think logically as they build a robot. Children as young as four can have a great time building their own ideas into a working robot. You don’t need to teach electronics or programming first – the components simply snap together with magnetic connections.

Every creation is unique and allows your class to explore different capabilities and uses. Your students can also learn to code by controlling their robots through the Blockly application. This is an easy-to-use but powerful graphical tool that allows you to manage and expand the robot’s behavior.

Dash & Dot

Dash & Dot are a pair of robot “friends.” Dash is the larger one, with wheels and a moveable head. Dot is the smaller robot and they both have an array of sensors. They’re designed to interact with what your class chooses to put in their environment.

Different kinds of sensors allow them to detect certain objects. They can tell when they are relocated as well as react to sounds. Students at a range of learning levels control Dash & Dot to perform simple activities like singing or dancing.

Depending on your students’ age and learning level, you can choose from several available apps to control Dash and Dot. Apps such as Blockly and Wonder will allow students as young as eight to program the robots and learn the basics of coding in the process.

Ozobot Bit

Ozobot Bit is another robot that allows your students to play while learning coding and logic skills. Ozobot can be programmed to move around the classroom as well as to do more complex activities such as playing games or dancing. This robot can be taught up to 500 different moves to recreate customized dances or tasks set to music.

By drawing color-coded patterns called OzoCodes, Ozobot can be programmed to respond to different colors with different actions. A sensor located on the bottom of Ozobot allows it to follow the pattern of the lines that are drawn.

Your students can use the included software to do some fundamental coding that teaches Ozobot new activities. This fun approach to learning helps kids to acquire deductive reasoning and learn basic programming.

mBot

mBot is a robot kit that helps your students learn about different aspects of robotics, such as electronics, assembly, and programming. This educational robot is very convenient for children to manage. A modular approach lets your students put together robots by themselves in as little as 10 minutes.

The unique software, mBlock, doesn’t obligate children to learn to code but utilizes a simple drag-and-drop feature that lets students assemble patterns to create programs. Kids already familiar with Arduino (an open source electronics project platform) will find it easy to acclimate to using mBot and mBlock.

These simple approaches make it easy for younger children to understand robotics. User manuals and online courses developed by educators are provided on the mBot website to assist your teaching efforts.

Final Thoughts

Robots have become a very popular and accessible tool for teaching students of all ages. Through a hands-on experience, your students will be able to learn the basics of design, engineering, and programming to build robots that perform specific tasks. Child-friendly software and kits allow students of a young age – and even adults – to develop logic and problem-solving skills. These charming little robots provide a simple approach to learning that’s also fun and highly engaging for imaginative youngsters.

About 

Patricia Dimick is a freelance writer, stay-at-home mom and a bit of a tech freak. She enjoys exploring and writing about the innovations in the digital world and share her insights with like-minded people. Feel free to reach her @Patricia_Dimick.

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