Sphero – a programmable robotic sphere that is not only fun to play with but also an excellent access point for students of any age to explore coding. Sphero can be paired with a smartphone, ipad or tablet and coded using ‘visual programming blocks’. While the apps that help power Sphero are free, the Sphero itself is not inexpensive. I’ve also been experimenting with ozobots that offer some of the same functionality at a lower price and can be coded with visual blocks, java script and python allowing for differentiated coding opportunities!
“Sphero engages students in a hands-on learning experience that can challenge students at different levels. The remote robot provides an interactive platform to develop competencies in planning, problem solving, testing, and making. Students have the opportunity to collaborate to programme Sphero to follow certain paths. By using Sphero students become familiar with using block coding, angles, measurement, time, distance, and speed.
With a variety of control methods, Sphero can be used for a variety of ages and classes. Sphero can enhance student learning in physics, math, computer and technology, and robotics classes. It is a great introduction to coding where students can see the results of their work right away as they take on different challenges.” (Bryce Kicia, Secondary TC BEd 2017 who used Sphero on practicum)
Consider creating a ‘design challenge’ using Sphero as the motor (The Sphero website has an example of a chariot challenge... how can you take this to the next level? Perhaps open up the challenge to include any type of vehicle (yes, the sphere is also waterproof!). Students can work together to use the iterative design process to create their own land or water vehicles using various found materials and then use the Sphero to test their prototypes. Once satisfied with the vehicle, they can then program a path using drag and drop programming (use of such programming language is included in Grades 6 – 9 of the BC ADST curriculum and can be incorporated even in the early primary years)
Once you’ve purchased a Sphero, download one of the free apps (itunes or google play). I recommend ‘draw and drive’ as a good starting place – to get used to how sphero moves. From there, I like ‘lightning lab’ to begin coding!
Be sure to visit the Sphero Edu website for access to a wealth of resources you can use to plan, prepare and teach.
Video Tutorial (Vimeo has several tutorials for Sphero):