Science

8 educational robots to engage students in coding

Not all robots are created equal. While there are plenty of cool toy robots in the market for students to play with, educational robots designed for STEM projects offer opportunities for you to introduce students to computer science and get them interested in future careers.

And they’re never too young to get started. Starting as early as PreK, students can engage in computational thinking, creativity, engineering, design thinking, and creative problem solving using programmable robots.

There’s no question that the world of robotics and coding can seem daunting from the start. Luckily, we’ve done the research for you to help you understand which type of robots will maximize student learning. Below we’ve highlighted eight classroom-friendly robots and ideas for incorporating them into your curriculum.

Coding Critters

Get your students to start coding at a young age with Coding Critters. Cute and colorful critters named Scamper, Sneaker, Ranger, Zip, Rumble, and Bumble will introduce preschoolers and elementary school students to critical-thinking, problem-solving, and other STEM skills with the help of fun, interactive, and screen-free coding challenges.

Activity ideas

• As a warm-up, get your students thinking like a coder through sequencing. Arrange a simple obstacle course and have each student pair up with a classmate. Assign one student to be the coder and the other to play the role of a robot. Have the coder use simple verbal commands such as forward, back, turn left, and turn right so the robot can get through the course to see if the sequence is correct.
• Practice ABCs and vocabulary while building valuable sequencing and logic skills. Students can place a Coding Critter on the ground and then place three random objects near it in different directions. The students then can build a code sequence to get their Critter to one of the objects based on the first letter of its name.
• Practice counting numbers while building valuable sequencing and logic skills. Students can place a Coding Critter on the ground and then place small items like coins, beads, marbles, and pieces of candy around the Critter in groups up to 10. Call out a number and have students build a code sequence to get their Critter to the group of items that matches the number.
• Play a racing game in between lessons. Students can set a start and finish line about five feet apart and place a Coding Critter on the ground and roll one dice cube to get a number. Students can then program the number, press go, and see their Critter race. They will have to rush to repeat the steps to get their Critter to the finish line first.

Code & Go™ Robot Mouse

Teach students hands-on coding concepts with Jack, the Code & Go Robot Mouse. Jack will help students create a step-by-step path using 30 double-sided coding cards that provide the perfect introduction to coding concepts. Jack lights up, makes sounds, and features two speeds and colorful buttons to match coding cards for easy programming and sequencing practice.

The extensive activity set can be a great tool for teaching the basics of coding like logic, sequencing, and problem-solving through fun activities that will have Jack navigating through mazes and obstacle courses that you and your students can create.

Activity idea

Set up a maze for your students with blocks or other toys on a tabletop or on the floor. Students can then program Jack so he can make it from one end of the maze to the other. Creating tunnels or other obstacles with books and classroom supplies is another option for Jack to navigate through or around. Rearrange the maze and obstacle course with different paths and routes to challenge students.

Cubelets®

Skill level: Beginner to intermediateGrade range: PreK–12

Cubelets is a versatile robot construction system that uses magnetic connections to make it easy for any skill level. The robot blocks can be combined and rearranged by students in different ways to create an entirely new robot.

Students can also connect the three different kinds of Cubelets® (Sense, Action, and Think) together to build a unique robot with its own program to sense its surroundings, to act on its surroundings, and to take in data.

Activity ideas

Cubelets Activity Cards help students learn new skills, practice design thinking, shift their focus from exploration to problem-solving, and practice the engineering process. The cards are ideal for groups of students to participate in a series of challenges of varying levels of difficulty. Each card has a challenge printed on one side and helpful hints and tips printed on the other.

For one of the activities, have students break into small groups to predict what a robot can do without building it. Have them create a hypothesis, find evidence that hints at what they think the robot can do, and then build the robot to test their theory.

Ozobot

Skill level: Beginner to intermediateGrade range: K–12

Ozobot is a pocket-sized programmable robot that can “see” colors, follow lines and mazes, and detect intersections on paper and screens. Its scalable platform supports simple to complete coding. This desk-friendly robot is packed with learning possibilities as students are introduced to coding concepts like cause/effect, critical thinking, and debugging.

Students can learn how to code using Ozobot in two different ways: screen-free with Color Codes and online with OzoBlockly visual programming software. Students can use Color Codes to learn basic coding concepts with the use of markers or stickers and OzoBlockly to build programs with drag-and-drop blocks.

Activity ideas

From STEAM-related activities to lessons in language arts and history, students can learn the basic functionality of Ozobot through line following, drawing color codes, and programming directionality.

Encourage students to show off their creativity by crafting costumes for their Ozobots that match up with lesson and activity themes, special occasions, and holidays throughout the year. A dressed up Ozobot will add an extra layer of fun and engagement to every lesson and activity that students participate in.

Wonder Workshop Dash™ & Cue™

Skill level: IntermediateGrade range: Dash (K–6) and Cue (5–12)

Have students take their coding to the next level with Dash and Cue. These responsive, Bluetooth®-enabled robots from Wonder Workshop connect quickly and easily to mobile devices for advanced student-to-bot interaction. Both robots bring coding, problem-solving, engineering, creativity, critical-thinking, and design to life for students through interactive communication.

Dash features multiple built-in motors, sensors, LEDs, and audio capabilities that allows it to interact with students, their environment, and each other. Program it to move, sing, dance, react to the sound of voices, detect and avoid obstacles, and more.

Cue coding robot is designed to help transition students from block-based coding to text-based programming. With a library of in-app demos, tutorials, and challenges, Cue supports students’ self-guided exploration of programming languages and capabilities.

Activity idea

With Dash or Cue, play bowling! Instruct students to create a grid, plan on where they want to set up pins, and then plot the course so they can figure out how many pins can be taken down using Wonder Workshop’s in-app programs. Students will have to think critically and creatively on pin placement and how far apart they want pins to be from one another. After the pins are set, they can then program a route for Dash or Cue to knock down as many pins as possible. As students play, they’ll need to continue programming until all pins are knocked down. Instead of bowling pins, you can use dominos, blocks, or anything that will easily fall.

Meeperbot

Bridge physical and digital learning with Meeperbot, the most versatile remote-control vehicle that’s built by students from the bottom to the top.

Students begin by building a brick-block creation with Lego®, Mega Bloks®, and other compatible blocks. They then download the Meeper Controller App on any smartphone or tablet, connect to the bot, and program it into a remote-control vehicle powered by two dual rear-wheel motors.

Activity idea

Get ready to have some destructive fun. With the Meeperbot, students can participate in a classroom-friendly demolition derby so their bots can smash into one another. Split the class into two teams and have every student and their Meeperbot compete in several rounds until the strongest bot wins. Students can also participate in bot battles where students can strategize beforehand and construct the strongest bot to compete with before the battles begin.

Makeblock

Prepare students for the digital age with mBots from Makeblock. Students can build mBots for simple playing, game-based learning, and advanced programming. Through hands-on learning and coding for the mBot, students will be able to think logically, be more observant, and solve problems independently.

The mBot has beginner-friendly coding designs for young and older students alike. Students can use block-based coding that enables them to simply drag and drop color blocks for simplified programming.

Students then can use preset control modes or write new code through the mBlock app: obstacle-avoidance mode, line-follow mode, and manual-control mode. It connects to smartphones, tablets, and computers via Bluetooth® function blocks for control. The app can also be used for interactive and fun games.

Activity ideas

Prepare for a dance party. Add-ons will give students an opportunity to assemble their mBots into different forms so they can see more of what they’re capable of, learn additional concepts, and put coding into practice.

With the Music Box add-on, students can use programming and additional parts to turn their mBot into a dancing machine. When set up, switch on the mBot by controlling lights and watch it as it spins to music and its LED light shines bright.

STEM careers await

As students’ skills develop, the more fluent they’ll become in technology and the easier it’ll be for them to make an impact in a STEM career. Continuing to add coding skills to their toolbox will open up doors to a wide range of high-paying, in-demand jobs from web designers and computer programmers to software developers and computer systems administrators. Their future can be built and programmed starting with you and the robots you bring into the classroom.