Coding is a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) topic that is getting a lot of press right now, and rightfully so. Moving into the future, students and employees with coding skills will have an advantage moving into school and into the workforce. Luckily, there are a lot of free resources that can get you ready. Scratch, Code.org, and this fancy article from Lifehack have some great places to start.
But, I wanted to talk about a new tech tool that my library purchased that brings the concepts of drag and drop programming off of the computer screen, and into the real world. The tool is called Kibo, and it is a programmable robot, complete with sensors, that doesn’t require a device to program or code.
Kibo uses a simple barcode scanner, and wooden blocks with barcodes, to get your robot to move around. Designed for students ages 4-7, the concept of wooden blocks makes for a durable tool, and the simplicity of putting blocks together gives them the freedom to control the Kibo robot.
The number of blocks available and the instant gratification of seeing a robot do what you want makes this a tool that other ages will enjoy as well though. I’ve brought the Kibo to several elementary school after school programs, and the students were enthralled with it. Having an auditory, light-sensitive, and distance sensor also gives the robot more functionality, and gives those older students plenty of things to experience.
In addition to the sensors, Kibo also includes Repeat and If blocks that can be combined to implement some pretty complicated coding. I mentioned that Kibo was similar to coding in a real world setting. Students have the tangible nature of blocks to sequence, and then get to see the results of their ideas in real-time. There is no syncing, loading, or plugging in cords required. While the Kibo robot can be a little pricey (the deluxe model clocking in at $399), it is an awesome way to introduce each of the concepts your students will learn with Scratch and Code.org. It also takes a subject that can be a little intimidating, and simplifies it to putting blocks together.