Case in point: Root the robot. Don’t think of it as child’s play — it’s really just a user-friendly, encouraging teaching method that makes understanding the subject easy… and even fun.
Roots grabs your attention right off the bat. It shows how coding works by drawing, playing music, feeling bumps, sensing light and responding to your phone or tablet’s sensors. There’s no easing into it, by the way: You are thrown right in and start to learn in an immediate, interactive way.
You can stick the Root robot on a magnetic white board or even just a piece of paper. And this simple setup allows children — and yes, you too! — to share coding activities with friends anywhere around the globe.
Root uses magnetism to defy gravity and drives around on the white board to make activities more social… and cool. Want to race cars? No problem. Just program Root to draw a racetrack, mark the start and finish, and rev up those virtual engines. Mazes are also a fun, interactive way to play and learn.
Kids can harness their creativity and imagination using Root, inventing their own games to play and share, and swapping code with friends.
The tech team at Harvard that came up with Root explained why they designed the robot to be controlled by phones or other devices:
“The interface may look simple, but it is powerful, allowing you to experiment in real time with loops, events and complex robot behaviors. We’ve tested the app with kids of all ages (and adults too) to make it the smoothest introduction to programming with robots.”
The Root teaches you coding through three levels. The first is a graphical interface for beginners of all ages, and even children who are too young to read can understand, thanks to the colorful images on screen: Bright colored blocks teach sequences, loops, functions, priorities, timing, program stepping and debugging, but you probably wouldn’t know it. And that’s the beauty of it.
The second level guides you into computational fluency, letting you experiment using advanced flow-control statements such as “when,” “repeat” and “if-then-else” in your programming. “It teaches variables, sensor values, units, arithmetic operations, recursion and parallelism,” says the Root team. Again, you might not realize you’ve been learning.
The Roots website suggests activities for you to try with the robot and also promises to share its software development kit so you can keep expanding the programming languages you’re proficient in. The system grows with you, no matter what your age.