What Robots are best for Children to Play and Learn with?

What Robots are best for Children to Play and Learn with?

With so many robots coming on the market:
mBot, HummingBird, Finch, LEGO Mindstorms, Dash&Dot, Herbie the MouseBot. How do you choose which one is suitable for your classroom?

My criteria for the Design-a-Thon school for educational robots, are :
1. make it yourself, easily
2. programmable with Scratch (or other visual programming language)
3. suitable for classroom usage;
4. suitable for ages 7 to 12;
5. Price range of 50 to 150 euros;
6. built to last.
and last and most importantly:

7. has multiple functionality and learning activity potential;

Here my findings on the MakeBlock mBot
1. make
it yourself, easily.
Yes! It is easy to make, good guide and children can do it themselves in about 30 minutes. You only need to add AA batteries.

2. programmable with Scratch
Yes, but.
You can program it with Scratch after you download the extra driver and extension. However uploading your code, overrides the remote control pre-programmed settings which are then are to reload.
MakeBlock are working on this, the Robot is very recent to market.

3. suitable for classroom usage;
Yes, in smaller groups. You can give a group of 4 children, one robot to work with, make it together and then do a series of activities with it. See below.

During a drawing w Robots workshop

During a drawing w Robots workshop

4. suitable for ages 7 to 12;
Yes!
. it looks friendly and accessible, but still shows it’s inner electronics.
Children start working with it very quickly with the remote control. No steep learning curve. It has enough possibilities to engage this age range.

5. Price range of 50 to 150 euros;
Yes! It’s Kickstarter price was even more friendly at 50 euros, it now costs 75 euros and can be ordered at Kiwi-Electronics. It is very affordable, compared to the price point of Lego Mindstorms at 300 to 600 euros.

6. built to last.
Probably.
It is definitely designed to last, the parts are very robust and the team at MakeBlock are amping up their support for glitches. It is also easy to replace motors or even the core as it is modular. However I cannot guarantee this after 3 working session with children.

7. has multiple functionality and learning activity potential;
Yes! Here is a short example.

During a drawing w Robots workshop

Here the children were making a path for the robot and working out what kind of lines, curves and colors the robot could ‘sense’ and follow. As you can hear they are collaborating and engaged.
This then gives the opportunity to learn more about the physics behind the infra red sensors which guide the robot and the programming behind it to allow it to recognize, follow a line and then instruct it’s wheels.

So far with the mBot we have done the following activities, in teams of 4
1. Drawing with the mBot.
2. Construct an obstacle course for the mBot.
3. Building the mBot
4. Basic programming in Scratch for the mBot.

The next robot review be the Push Button Robot. To know more about us and our work, please visit Design-a-Thon School.
Our mission is to teach children to design a better a better world using new technologies.