With a huge STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) skills shortage in the UK, companies are taking the matter into their own hands, attempting to bring coding to the classroom with modular robots that attempt to teach children how to build and programme their own devices.
Ranging from cheap-as-chips cardboard ‘bots, to more advanced modular beings with a whole range of integrated sensors, there’s something for every age group and school budget.
Here we round up the best educational robots around.
Craft robot is a cardboard-based robot that costs just £5 to build. It’s based around a 3D printed Fizzbit circuit board and can be charged via USB for the ultimate in ease and cost saving.
Although it’s still teaching children to code, Crafty Robot puts a lot of focus on building the entire robot, encouraging children to decide how their robot looks as well as what it actually does.
“What will always remain useful is understanding how to use technology creatively. How to shape it to your needs and desires through experimentation and iteration. Inventing Crafty Robots with the Fizzbit make this process accessible, immediate, tangible and fun dramatically lowering the entry point,” Crafty Robot said.
Lego has built its very own educational robot, which can be built using lego parts to transform some brightly coloured bricks into something much more intelligent.
The company has made creating robots into a game, setting challenges to help students learn how to build something super-intelligent. Educators are given lesson plans to help them teach children how to programme their creations, showing how powerful engineering can be as a career path.
Codie is a wooden rolling robot, with a super-simple UI to help kids create their own programmes for the tank-like ‘bot. There’s an accelerometer, gyroscope, compass, microphone, ultrasound and a light sensor all embedded to help children make something fun and innovative.
“We created our own programming language to teach kids coding, our application bridges the gap between kids’ imagination and the algorithmic thinking,” the company said.
“It’s made possible by using the colourful blocks, and connecting them together with arrows showing the direction of execution. Children can learn the basics of coding using real programming patterns, like if-else structures, variables or loops.”
Cubetto takes a slightly different approach to coding, rather concentrating on the process of coding rather than making a robot to control via a smartphone.
Its basis is a wooden board, with pieces children can add to make the robot do certain things and it works straight out of the box – kids just need to add the pieces in the sequence they like the look of, then press go and the robot will start moving.
“We want to invest in our children’s futures. Starting children early gives them the best chance of learning a skill which sticks with them in life, but current tools make children consumers, and not creators of technology,” the company said.
Similar to Lego’s education robot, Robot Wunderkind is a kit that helps children understand putting elements together to make the robot carry out certain actions.
Each building block teaches the children about a different element of programming, although they can also adds extras, such as wheels, wings or a face to make them more functional.
“We created a programming language that is very easy to understand for children. They don’t need to write codes, they just need to drag and drop blocks,”co-founder and CEO Rustem Akishbekov told TechCrunch.