Root Coding Robot
The “Root Coding Robot” is an educational programmable robot designed and sold by iRobot, the company that also sells robot vacuum cleaners. The companion iRobot Coding App features three progressive Learning Levels (Graphical Coding, Hybrid Coding, Full-Text Coding) and provides a “personalized coding experience designed to continually evolve with [the learners’] skills“. You cannot just make this robot move, you can make it draw (with the help of markers) on horizontal and vertical surfaces (provided they are magnetic), which might remind you of the original Logo Turtle Graphics learning environment.
Material and technical aspects
The “Root Coding Robot” is a miniature version of iRobots vacuum cleaning robots. It measured about 20x20x10cm. It uses a Li-Ion rechargeable battery, has Bluetooth Low Energy, features 32 color sensors, 2 front bumpers, 2 Light-sensing eyes, 2 wheel encoders, 1 3D gyroscope, 1 3D accelerometer and 1 battery level monitor. It features 2 drive motors, 4 large multicolor LED lights, 1 piezoelectric speaker, 1 marker lift and drop as well as 1 eraser lift and drop. The companion app can be used on iOS and Android devices and as a Web App (using a compatible browser). Root rt1 Coding Robot costs about 150€ and Root Lite Coding Robot costs100€. There are additional packs with maps and challenges to explore that you can buy.
The tablet or computer to run the (web) app needs to be bought separately and does require a Bluetooth connection and a connection to the Internet. Teachers and parents can download lesson plans and activities from their website: https://edu.irobot.com/learning-library
The “Root Coding Robot” can be used to learn about a wide range of concepts in coding, programming, and robotics, namely about sequences, loops, advanced sequences and loops, conditional statements, functions, and variables. It can also be used for a very wide range of STEM topics as wells as a tool for artistic and creative expression. It was made by iRobot, the company that also does robot vacuum cleaners and thus has extensive experience in building and programming robots. Most interestingly, this tool allows you to smoothly switch between three perspectives on the underlying code used to program the robot’s actions: a graphical layer, a hybrid layer and a full-text layer.
From a pedagogical point of view, this learning resource uses a robot to teach children young and old about coding, programming, and robots in a fun and creative way. Teachers can choose between the three programming modes depending on the level of expertise of their students. Using color markers on paper can unleash children’s desire to create intricate and complex patterns. It allows teachers to dig deeper into more complex programming problems and to develop more formal knowledge and skills related to visual programming languages, hybrid ones and full-text ones. Overall, this tool allows teachers to adapt its use to their pedagogical approach, be it more closed (learning by imitation) or more open (learning by experimentation, by exploration and by creation). The app provides step-by-step learning activities that smoothly scaffold learners’ progress towards more and more complex problems. In principle, students could collaboratively in small groups learn about coding and programming without much intervention from the teachers, since the app guides them very well. It is however recommendable to organize discussions where students reflect on their learning process and where teachers scaffold the transfer of incidentally developed constructs to more abstract concepts.
According to iRobot, you can
[s]park engagement and creativity by using robots to connect classroom learning with the real world. Use robot SimBots to guide students through coding activities in virtual arenas, or connect with real robots to bring code to life – no experience required. The best part about learning with robots? Seeing all you can do with them.
Put your code on display with Root, the interactive coding companion designed to grow with you. From early learning to higher education, Root uses tangible, creative hands-on experiences to make learning to code magical while exploring the fundamentals of robotics. Powered by the iRobot Coding App, Root’s combination of interactive features and sensors, versatile design and long-lasting battery life provide a unique avenue to connect theoretical learning with the real world. And with hours of activities and accessories, now you can make your robo-sidekicks do even more.
Overall, “Root Coding Robot” and the companion App is a highly recommendable pedagogical resource that offers a wide range of opportunities to teach coding and programming in various fun, hands-on and creative ways! Teachers will love the fact that they can find many ready-made and tested lessons and challenges on their website. Those who have used Logo Turtle Graphics on-screen a few decades ago will appreciate the fact that they now can have a physical robot create drawings in the real world, on the whiteboard wall or on paper on a table. The prize might be a deterrent, but this is a tool that classes of different grades can share, as it allows to use it at different levels of difficulty and complexity.