Jun 12, 2016 | By Tess

As our world becomes an increasingly digital one, more and more coding and computer programming jobs are popping up, requiring more and more people to become versed in coding language. This advanced computer literacy will become even more important for the next generation, as by 2024, over 1 million more programming jobs are expected to emerge. In an effort to promote coding and programming education within schools and to begin to teach students the basics of computer programming from a young age, a team from the Wyss Institute  for Biologically Inspired Learning at Harvard University have developed Root, a small 3D printed robot designed for the classroom.

The robot, which has been designed to accommodate a range of ages, from kindergarten to college, essentially moves around on the classroom’s whiteboard, following instructions and commands sent to it from Square, an easy to use app designed specifically for Root. Not only can the robot move around on the whiteboard (staying attached through magnets), but it can also draw, erase, and react to a number of different elements, such as light and color.

The small, hexagonal shaped robot, was designed with accessibility in mind. As the researchers behind the innovative device have said, nearly every classroom is equipped with a whiteboard, so the robot can be easily integrated into the classroom context. With a simple and customizable design (note the googly eyes attached to the Root above), the researchers hope that their robot will help to engage students and get them excited about learning the basics of coding.

Of course, there are different levels of difficulty for programming Root: younger students can work with simple graphical blocks and an intuitive “if/then” system to make the robot move and perform tasks, slightly more advanced students can operate the robot by using more sophisticated interconnections, while the most advanced can program the robot using full text coding. In this way, Root is designed to be adapted into almost any classroom setting and can be used for many years.

Coding, which for many of us is an incomprehensible language, is quite abstract, and can be difficult  or at the very least complicated to teach to children. As Zivthan Dubrovsky, Platform lead from the Wyss Institute explains, having a physical robot that can be interacted with is the easiest way to make programming accessible to young minds. He says, “By putting robots in front of kids, it brings coding to life.” Paired with a tablet equipped with the user friendly Square app, Root has the potential to bring computer programming into schools in a unique, fun, and engaging way.

Additionally, the 3D printed robot is expected to retail for only about $199, making it an affordable addition to the classroom. While for the moment, the robot is being manufactured on a small scale using 3D printing technologies, the researchers hope that they will be able to mass-produce the small robot and have it available for schools by as early as 2017. Preorders for the classroom friendly robot can already be placed through Root’s website. Ultimately, the team behind Root is hoping to make the technology as accessible as possible, stating their goal of having a robot in every classroom around the world. While this may be a bit of a stretch, the ambition is certainly there.

In addition to making the educational robot as widespread as possible, Dubrovsky explains that they are also hoping to broaden the robot’s scope. He says, “Our real vision is to unify the coding movement. We don’t want [our software] to be the only way to program the robot. I don’t want the world to think we’ve solved the only way to learn coding—we want the robot to work with whatever coding platform exists out there. Simple, elegant hardware can unify all of those [coding experiences] into something wonderful.”



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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