5 Reasons to Get Kids into Robotics

Leon Sterling, Professor emeritus, Swinburne University of Technology is an advocate for the teaching of robotics in schools and here’s why:

  1. Children find it fun – the two most engaging ways to introduce IT into the curriculum are robotics and computer game design.
  2. It is an effective way of introducing programming to students:
    • Programming can be too abstract for some students to grasp. Robotics provides a physical robot to control that allows the students to see what what works and what’s going wrong. It helps them understand the need for precise instructions.
    • Robotics also teaches students about science, engineering and maths and it helps them understand how these subjects link together.
  3. It provides skills that will be useful for future employment – the future may not be set and we may not know what tomorrow brings, but there is little doubt that there will be a need for people to be involved in programming mechanical devices, at least in the foreseeable future.
  4. It is suitable for children with a range of abilities – the evidence supports the use of robots for engaging children on the autism spectrum.
    • ASK NAO is a suite of games that have been developed for the NAO robots to teach autistic children.
    • Milo is a robot developed by US startup Robokind to help autistic children.
  5. Demystifies a complex technology – there is a lot of media concerning robots that are incite fear and misunderstanding. It is only through understanding what machines can and can’t do that we can address these concerns.

Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with Prof Sterling, one thing is certain – robotics is fun, and here are 5 ways you can introduce your kids to robotics…

Robotics Kits to Get Children Started

Lego Mindstorms

This is the ultimate set for engineers and programmers-in-training. Create and command robots that walk, talk, think and do anything you can imagine. Follow the step-by-step 3D building instructions to bring your creation to life with an easy, intuitive and icon-based programming interface.

  • Intelligent EV3 Brick with powerful ARM9 processor, Wi-Fi USB port and Internet connectivity, Micro SD card reader, back-lit buttons and 4 motor ports
  • 3 interactive servo motors, remote control, imp. and redesigned color sensor, redesigned touch sensor, infrared sensor, 550+ LEGO Technic elements
  • Control your robot via the infrared sensor system; intuitive software (PC and Mac) with icon-based drag-and-drop programming interface
  • Building instructions for 1 robot included.Download 4 more building instructions plus bonus building instructions developed by real fans and endrosed by LEGO at LEGO.com/mindstorms
  • Control and command your robot with the enclosed remote control or download the free app for your smart device

Sphero (SPRK) robotic ball

  • Teach Your Robot Combine simple commands like roll, flip, spin, and color change to create more complex instructions for your robot to follow.
  • Text-Based Code Viewer After combining commands, see the code and use this as a foundation to learn more about programming.
  • Accessible for all Ages The SPRK app is designed to appeal to everyone – approachable for beginners yet sophisticated enough to challenge seasoned programmers.
  • Visual Block-Based Programming Transform ideas into code by using visual blocks that represent our C-based language, OVAL.

See also: Ollie 2-wheeled robot

Star Wars BB-8 Droid

For all the Star Wars fans out there, you can now own and program your very own BB-8 droid. Thanks to smart technology from Sphero, BB-8 is unlike any other robot – it has an adaptive personality that changes as you play. Based on your interactions, BB-8 will show a range of expressions and even perk up when you give voice commands. Set it to patrol and watch your Droid explore autonomously, make up your own adventure and guide BB-8 yourself, or create and view holographic recordings.

  • Authentic Movement: Guide your BB-8 with a smartphone or tablet
  • Listens & Responds: BB-8 recognizes and reacts to your voice
  • Holographic Messaging: Record and view virtual holographic videos with BB-8
  • Autonomous Behavior: BB-8 has a mind of its own – explore the Star Wars galaxy together
  • Adaptive Personality: Your BB-8’s unique attitude and actions evolve as you interact
  • Authentic Movement: Guide your BB-8 with a smartphone or tablet
  • iOS & Android compatible BB-8 recognizes and reacts to your voice
  • Holographic Communication: Record and view virtual holographic videos with BB-8
  • Autonomous Behavior: BB-8 has a mind of its own – explore the Star Wars galaxy together
  • Adaptive Personality: Your BB-8’s unique attitude and actions evolve as you interact

Dash and Dot by Wonder Workshop

Dash is your child’s first real robot friend. Packed with sensors and capabilities, Dash will race, dance, sing, and even respond to a child’s voice and become a loyal partner in fun. Ready to play right of out of the box, Dash can speed around the house, lights blinking, wheels squealing with the apps Go and Path. With Blockly and Wonder, Dash transforms into the responsive robot pet or friendly coding companion a child has always wanted. Wonder Workshop apps will teach your child to code while they’re having fun adventures with Dash. Dash brings the power of robotics and coding to your child without all of the hours of assembly or the cost of robot camps.

Dot is the best way to learn coding for kids because Dot is the brain, the smarts of a robot. Using the free apps Blockly and Wonder, kids can use their smart phone or tablet to code Dot to become a lively alarm-bot, a blinking nightlight, a lightsword, or hundreds of other fun games and activities. With the new app Wonder, you can download games to Dot for play away from your device. With lights, sounds, sensors, accelerometer, microphone, and robot brain, Dot can be any gadget or game a kid can imagine. Dot opens your kid’s eyes to what coding can do.

  • Playtime just got smarter with Dash & Dot. Learn to code as you play with your new robot friends.
  • The robots arrive fully assembled and ready to play.
  • Use a supported iPad (iPad 3+, Mini, Air) or Android tablet (see list of devices below) to access free Wonder Workshop apps that control Dash & Dot.
  • Dash & Dot interact with the world using sensors. They can hear sounds, detect objects, and know if you are moving them.
  • Program Dash & Dot to do anything you imagine. Deliver a message to a friend, have a dance party, and even navigate through an obstacle course.
  • Recommended for: 8 years and up.


The VEX IQ Robotics Construction Kit is loaded with advanced robotics technology, including a brain with 12 self-configuring input/output ports, as well as 750+ pieces that include four smart motors, one color sensor, one bumper switch sensor, one touch LED sensor, and built in rotational sensors on the motors. This technology is accessible enough to jump right in and snap these robots together using the intuitive, tool-less pieces. Follow simple step by step instructions to build your first robot, and then take advantage of the unmatched versatility of the VEX IQ system to build anything you can imagine! It comes with a video game style remote control with a rechargeable lithium ion battery, and with two programming software options – Modkit for VEX or ROBOTC, as well as VEX IQ Curriculum that is free for all users!

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of Figur8.net (a website on parenting, education, child development) and RightBrainChild.com (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

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