Tuesday, April 25, 2017
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Root Robot Aims to Grow With Students

A new robot designed to teach students to code has exceeded it’s $250,000 goal on Kickstarter. Scheduled to start shipping in May of 2017, Root aims to grow with its users, enabling students to move from one level of coding ability to the next. The makers of the Root robot explain that many early tools for teaching coding end up on the shelf once the student outgrows the basic programming interface and is ready to move on to more sophisticated programming. The app through which the student interacts with Root enables the learner to move through three different levels, progressing from an easy-to-understand graphical interface to a text-based environment that can be used with common programming languages.

Level 1’s graphical interface uses colored blocks to build simple “if/then” sequences. This graphical presentation is easily understood by beginners of any age. This level teaches events, sequences, loops, states, functions, priorities, timing, program stepping, and debugging.

Level 2 is where advanced flow control statements are introduced. In this level, students advance to statements like when, repeat, and if-then-else. Variables, sensor values, units, arithmetic operations, recursion, and parallelism are introduced in this level.

Level 3 presents a text-based interface that enables students to experiment with programming languages like Python, JavaScript, and Swift. In this level, the text equivalent of code from the previous levels is introduced, allowing students to build more powerful programs.

The team behind Root spent four years developing the product, testing it with students in schools and homes.

The hexagonal robot has sensors for light, touch, and color, to interact with its environment. It has a gyroscope,  accelerometer, and wheel encoders to drive accurate distances
and angles. Root is also magnetic so it can drive vertically on a metal-backed whiteboard. You can add your own camera or other accessories through Root’s USB port.

A hole in the center of the robot will hold a marker for which can be lifted or dropped for drawing. The robot can draw a pattern or it can follow one. Multi-colored LEDs and music enable Root to communicate while it performs its tasks.

Sample activity.

The robot can be programmed to follow a line or execute a particular function when it encounters a specified color while traveling along a paper or white board surface. The robot even has an eraser, handy for covering its tracks when drawing on a white board! Several activities are suggested on the Kickstarter page but the system’s flexibility ensures that the possibilities with this robot will be nearly endless.

Root is available for pre-order at http://www.codewithroot.com/store with a price of $195 for one robot.

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