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Ozobot Creative Robot

In addition to littleBits (see previous post), another clever approach like to making STEM interesting for kids is the Ozobot Creative Robot.

This appears so simple -- it's just a small pocket-size (1 1/4 inch) rolling robot, first released in 2014.

The brilliance of its design is that you can play with it at many different levels. Start out with only pen and paper -- just draw lines to have it follow paths and randomly pick directions at intersections.

The next step is to add simple commands -- just by drawing patterns of colored dots (or using stickers) -- to have the Ozobot change speed, move in a direction, pause, count down until change, and perform pre-defined moves.

Then use the color commands to create activities for the Ozobot to perform, including race tracks, obstacle courses, mazes, puzzles, and other games.

And you can share these online, and download and print designs to try out. The company calls this "screen-free coding" -- you're thinking about programming logic by drawing colors on paper.

You also can bridge the physical and digital worlds by having the Ozobot explore different activities on a tablet. The Ozobot website has a Playground section with a variety of play ideas and printable games, plus interactive games you can play using a web browser with the Ozobot on the tablet screen.

All this physical fun can then transition into programming using the OzoBlockly programming tool, which also runs in the browser.

OzoBlockly is based on Google Blockly, and can grow with you to step through five levels of sophistication. You start with simply dragging and dropping to link icon-based code blocks, with the same kind of logic that you have already done using colored pens. And then you can progress to advanced programming with logic statements.

You transfer the program to the Ozobot by simply holding it up to a circle on the computer or tablet screen, which blinks a sequence of colors to transmit the program -- without requiring connecting any wires or setting up any wireless connection.

There are now two Ozobots available. The original Ozobot Bit ($59) works as described above, and is designed for beginner coding for ages 6 and up.

The new Ozobot Evo ($99) is designed for ages 9 and up, to grow into advanced coding. It adds more lights to flash, proximity sensors for detecting obstacles, a built-in speaker, and a Bluetooth connection.

You can use the Evo app to play games, write code, and connect with others online. The Evo also has a few built-in tricks that it performs out of the box using the proximity sensors, to follow or run away from your hand, or to play musical notes as you touch the different sensors.

There are also DIY (do it yourself) packs for decorating your Ozobot ($10), and Marvel Avengers Action Skins to turn your Evo into a superhero like the Hulk and program its actions ($15 each).

The Ozobot is cleverly designed so that kids can have fun playing, while actually doing creative drawing, problem solving, and group challenges. It teaches concepts like code language, robotic behavior, and deductive reasoning, without books and outside of school.

Ozobot has sold over 750,000 robots, which are used in over 10,000 classrooms across the U.S., from grade 3 to grade 12. For example, they have been used to demonstrate a planetary orbit model with multiple Ozobots following orbit lines.

- See full Holiday Tech 2018 presentation for my local talks in the Princeton area
- See companion article in U.S. 1 Newspaper, Nov. 14, 2018

Find the Ozobot Evo on Amazon

Manifest Tech Site