We can’t predict the future, but it is pretty obvious where it’s headed. As far as jobs and the skills required, future even has an acronym – STEM. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math are the fields of tomorrow, and as parents or teachers we recognize this and try our best to prepare our children with the knowledge necessary to thrive.
Robotic toys for children are made with this very sentiment in mind, to help our kids discover and reach their coding potential inside classrooms. Primary or secondary, school or home, there are robots on the market today that meet even the most specific education criteria.
At Hexnub we have picked a handful of these that encompass a wide range of features and needs. One thing is common though, they’re all extremely fun to code with. Enough talk, let’s check them out.
LEGO WeDo and LEGO Mindstorms for Education
LEGO might just be the most widely popular educational toy set used in schools worldwide. Building on the fame and fun of LEGO that we all know and love, the company has come up with STEM robotic toy versions of their renowned bricks.
The novelty here is rather than giving you the pre-build toy, LEGO requires that children create their personalized robots. Both LEGO WeDo and LEGO Mindstorms Education sets are powerful tools, with difference being related to the appropriate age.
OK, it’s two sets here. The WeDo version of LEGO robots is aimed at kids of 7-9 age group. The core set consists of 280 bricks that make it possible for their imagination to run wild. Helped by motors and sensors, children can build, or rather, engineer any structure that’s fun to invent.
Their robot toy thus created, a simple drag-and-drop visual program is enough to issue coding commands to their brainchild. WeDo is a perfect companion to any STEM curriculum out there.
Mindstorms ages 10+
Education is another level-up. Kids still get to create their own robot, but the programming possibilities are a little more advanced. We’re talking children 10+ advanced.
LEGO Mindstorms EV3 set is perhaps the most versatile STEM robot on the market. It is a cross-curricular toy that packs significantly more sensors and one EV3 brick – the programmable battery-run control center. It teaches kids to plan, build, predict, compute, analyze, problem-solve, and even run their own experiments. And besides, it is fully supported by lesson plans via LEGO curriculum packs and ideabooks.
Both LEGO education robotic toy sets lie at the core of what STEM Robotics is all about. Make your own robot and make it do whatever you want!
Learn more about Educational Lego kits… here
OZOBOT Bit and Evo
Another ingenious pair of robotic toys, Bit and Evo are currently used in more than 10,000 schools worldwide. Their popularity is understandable from every design choice Ozobot made.
If we consider the real world as a starting point, then Bit and Evo are the essential coding devices. There are two ways to program the Ozobot’s, either through block-based program or via down-to-earth pen-and-paper color commands.
The latter is especially interesting to younger, pre-school children as they can draw the movement pattern on a regular sheet of paper. This neat feature allows the real world to enter a new realm of the coding and together fuse into something greater. It is a never-ending source of coding creativity since Ozobot reacts to colors, intersections, and surfaces.
The other programming language feeds on Ozobot’s take on Google Blockly language. Ozoblockly it’s called, and works by issuing block-based action commands via tablet or smartphone.
There are 5 levels of complexity within the Ozoblockly system, making it ideal for progressive classroom activities.
Tiny as they are, Bit and Evo are more than capable to transform classroom into a colorful coding playground. It’s especially true considering the diversity of DIY kits and construction accessory for either of the pair.
Rather unique on the market, Sphero SPRK+ in a spherical shaped see-through robotic toy that is capable of multiple levels of coding difficulty. The spherical robot comes in two different expressions, SPRK and SPRK+.
It is important to note that we’re talking about the latter. That’s the one able to satisfy education needs of children from 6 – 18 years and up, making it a long-term classroom choice.
Speaking of coding mastery, there are essentially 3 levels of it. First, Sphero supports draw-based programming language which is instantly approachable by the beginner coders. Children can draw a route for their robot to follow, mindful of different color commands.
Second, having acquired sufficient skills, they can go to the block-based system whereby Sphero responds to the drag-and-drop actions in the program window. Kids can even do a little extra experiment by adding reactions (speed, color) to program what happens on freefalls, or build a maze for Sphero to navigate through.
The robot extends through different ages and grades offering something familiar but sufficiently new each time. And if kids need some extra help with each, Orbotix has devised a set of ready-made challenges and tutorials to get them started.
Sphero’s shape allows it to do what most robotic toys cannot. There are not many terrains it cannot roll on to, especially with the Hexnub Sphero Cover or the lightweight Exo Cover improving the grip and terrain traction. Washable, waterproof, Sphero SPRK+ works with both iOS and Android smartphones.
Find more out about Sphero in this article: Meet the Robotic Toys that got Sphero Rolling into Classrooms
Our list of robotic toys suitable for classrooms we close with the most robot-like of the bunch. Not only is VEX IQ a great coding tool, but is very mindful of teachers who may themselves be inexperienced coders. Freely downloadable Teacher’s Supplement is there to help, just as the entirety of VEX IQ Bundle is structured around the 12-unit curriculum made according to educational standards.
Similar to LEGO kits above, IQ kit lets kids run wild with what kind of a robot they want to create. It is a more advanced take on LEGO concept, as VEX programming software includes block-based language, text coding, and all the way to the industry standard C++ and C++ Pro. For the time being only Windows and Mac are supported by VEX Coding Studio, with plans for iOS and Android well under way.
Learn to Program with VEX
IQ provides not only the means, but also the palpable reason to make a proper robot. In other words, there is a real-world competitive incentive to become a better programmer. Namely, VEX holds annual international coding competition for children of different ages. Winning it is not an easy task, but winner accolades more than make up for the trouble.
The STEM talk is real, and not only for the related fields. The job competence in the future will be judged at least in part according to level of coding know-how. Children are invariably capable of learning the basics of programming at every age of their school development. With robotic toys in classrooms, we are helping them into more competent, better suited individuals for the new robotic age.