The Cubetto is “the friendly wooden robot that will teach your child the basics of computer programming through adventure and hands on play. Montessori and LOGO Turtle inspired”. Its movements are controlled with the help of simple coloured coding blocks that are place in a row on a separate control board. There is no screen to interact with. There are maps and story books to create adventures to explore. It’s aimed at children 3+.
Material and technical aspects
The robot is “made of tactile and hard-wearing wood”. No screen to interact with. The coding blocks are made of robust plastic. Both the robot and the control board require batteries to operate. Make sure to always have the required screwdriver close by when using Cubetto, otherwise it’s rather impossible to switch batteries for recharged ones. Having a set of recharged batteries available is always recommendable. Teachers can find additional materials to download on their website, like the instructions guide or various storybooks. The basic kit costs about 250€ to buy.
Cubetto can be used to learn about the basics of programming a robot, like instructions are executed one after the other, arbitrarily coloured code blocks represent certain instructions, each instruction stands for an action, instructions on the control board make the robot do the intended actions, and we can write little sequences of actions that we can call with the help of a single coding block.
From a pedagogical point of view, this learning resource uses an age-appropriate little robot to learn about programming a robot to execute certain actions or sequences of actions. Children are presented with a fictional world (the map on which Cubetto moves around and the stories they are told to introduce different problems to solve). Children can learn to solve those problems themselves (learning by experimentation), by creating a sequence of instructions, test it out and correct it if necessary until they achieve the target goal. Learning can also imply predicting what will happen and discussing various solutions with peers. Engagement is generated with the help of cover stories and a variety of problems to solve. Children see the consequences of their instructions in a real-world object. Cubetto can also be used to have children generate their own stories with problems that Cubetto needs to solve in a fictional world.
Overall, this programmable robot is a nice tool to teach the basics of programming and robotics to young children in a fun and engaging way without requiring a computer and a screen, in a similar way than other such robots. The relatively neutral wooden block robot allows for creative and decorative learning activities in addition to computational thinking activities. A highly recommendable pedagogical resource, especially for teachers in early childhood education! However, the high price can be a deterrent. Just be sure to always have enough spare batteries that are charged.