A student sits in front of a robot in a K-12 robotics and programming class.

The coolest K-12 robotics programs we saw at ISTE

K-12 robotics has greatly expanded with increased advocacy for coding and programming--here are some of our favorite resources for classrooms

Efforts to get kids coding have exploded in recent years, but sometimes kids need a push to discover the “why” behind learning how to code. At ISTE 2019, that push to learn coding was clear as new K-12 robotics solutions emerged.

Aside from the cool factor K-12 robotics offers, students who learn to program through robotics learn a number of skills they’ll take with them well into adulthood, including creativity, problem solving, and the ability to fail without quitting.

We’ve rounded up some of the best K-12 robotics solutions and programs we saw during the conference. Share your favorite K-12 robotics programs with us on Twitter @eschoolnews.

Related content: Designing a K-5 robotics class from the ground up

1. KinderLab Robotics started shipping KIBO‘s newest product, the Advanced Coding Extension Set, and an accompanying curriculum guide, Ask and Imagine. The Advanced Coding Extension Set supports children who are experienced with KIBO’s core concepts and offers them the next step along their computer science pathways. The Advanced Coding Extension Set creates a bridge between KIBO’s core pre-K to 2nd-grade curriculum and the computer science and engineering work students will do in upper elementary and beyond. Children can explore advanced computer science concepts such as subroutines, randomness, and conditionals, while staying rooted in KIBO’s screen-free, hands-on coding environment.

The Advanced Coding Set allows children—and their teachers—to extend this exploration to computer science concepts that in the past were only accessible by older children. The new programming blocks unlock new powerful ideas: modularity and reusability with subroutines, complex conditional behavior, and randomness.

2. Boxlight Corporation unveiled its new Mimio MyBot educational robotic system bundle. Consisting of packs of 10 or 20 MyBot robotic kits and the Mimio MicroCloud server, the system bundle establishes a local wireless classroom community that facilitates the development of core skills in programming, engineering and robotics. The Mimio MyBot system kits, which are set to start shipping in July, contain the components needed to build a robot: a wifi-enabled Fusion robotic controller with a Raspberry Pi 3 processing core, rechargeable battery, battery charger, motors, sensors, metal building components, tools, and fasteners. These building components can be used to create mobile and stationary mechanical systems that explore engineering principles from simple machines to advanced mechanisms. Educators can expand the kits’ capacities for advanced students and so create more sophisticated robotic structures by adding building components, sensors, servos, joysticks and cameras.

The MyBot removes common obstacles to STEM education such as the requirement for network infrastructure changes or expensive workstations. There is no software to install and no cable connections to the robot. All the software, programming languages and documentation are built into the Fusion controller, so students just need is a browser in order to start learning. An intuitive interface allows students to start in a simple drag-and-drop environment and grow into a powerful coding environment as their skills develop.

Related content: Why we love our coding and robotics tools

3. Eduscape acquired the rights to bring the Photon coding robot to the United States, Canada, and China. Designed by educators and psychologists, Photon has helped schools throughout Europe, Australia, and South-East Asia implement STEM much faster and achieve better results with students. Photon’s five visual apps allow even non-readers to begin to learn coding and develop computational thinking skills as early as five years old. The robot is designed to grow with students and teaches coding as early as preK to middle school and beyond.

4. DFRobot showcased its hands-on learning resources, including the full suite of Boson Kits, micro:Maqueen, Max:bot, LattePanda, Mind+, Gravity and its Internet of Things Kits. DFRobot is committed to reshaping contemporary education and strives to make STEM subjects more easily accessible to teachers, students, and parents through its range of comprehensive learning kits. DFRobot creates comprehensive learning kits for students to engage with in the classroom. The robotics kits, created using Arduino/micro:bit/Raspberry Pi and DIY robots, offer a coding-free method of developing skills associated with STEM subjects and effectively bridge the gap between theoretical and practical coding and electronics knowledge. Complete with activities cards, instructional YouTube videos, and compatible with other play-based resources such as LEGO and magnets, the kits allow students to also strengthen their creativity, problem-solving, and collaboration skills.

5. Robo Wunderkind is designed to support the basic developmental needs of K-5-aged children in experiencing the world around them. It focuses on cognitive stimulation and can be implemented at the very start of cognitive awareness. The combination of easy-to-use physical hardware, intuitive software, and professional curriculum makes Robo Wunderkind a solid option for K-5 education. Children construct and program a simple robotic tool, while simultaneously being preparing for a job market that will be increasingly STEM-demanding and STEM-oriented. The kit can be used as a tool for teaching disciplines like language, mathematics, art, and more. The curriculum, largely based on constructivism, offers 70+ hours of play-centered educational content delivered through story-telling. It refers to experiential, cooperative, and play-based learning and encourages children to think about their work and the purpose behind it. The more advanced users can write their own code for Robo through Python API. Robo Wunderkind offers its educators an onboarding program and ongoing support to make sure they make the best out of their robotic kit.

6. Ozobot, creator of coding robots for kids, demonstrated its latest learning tool, Ozobot Classroom, launching this fall. Ozobot Classroom is a STEAM learning management system that offers teachers a more effective path to introducing coding skills to their students and creates more opportunity for collaboration in the classroom. Additionally, it is the first platform that allows teachers to track screen-free coding activities happening in their classrooms. Using Ozobot’s 2 Ways to Code, this platform will bring coding into lessons on any subject and at any grade level. Once a teacher has signed up for Ozobot Classroom, he or she will learn how to code through Bot Camp. In this training program, educators have access to a variety of tools and resources to guide their students through lessons. Once students have started interacting with their robots, Ozobot Classroom will then provide lesson recommendations and build a curriculum based on the individualized student data.

7. Pitsco Education, in collaboration with SmartGurlz, announced the launch of Smart Buddies–the newest addition to its K-12 coding and robotics continuum. Smart Buddies is a new coding solution accompanied by a curriculum that focuses on increasing diversity awareness for third- to fifth-grade students throughout the US and Canada. The introduction of Smart Buddies coincides with data showing a lack of diversity within the STEM workforce and education: women and minorities make up only 20 percent of the STEM workforce; while over a third of black, Latino, and Native American students enter college with an interest in studying STEM, only 16 percent go on to obtain bachelor’s degrees in these fields; and gender gap in STEM interest is reported to begin as early as the fourth grade and continues at various milestones throughout a girl’s school trajectory. By high school, only 9 percent of girls are interested in STEM.

8. CoderZ kicked off registration for the third annual Cyber Robotics Coding Competition (CRCC). The CRCC is an online coding and robotics tournament for students in grades 5-8 that enables schools, districts, and after-school programs and clubs to engage students in STEM learning by using game-based competitions that are both safe and fun. Neither teachers or students need prior coding or robotics knowledge. Just like last year, students will compete on the CoderZ, Cyber Robotics Learning Environment, a cloud-based platform featuring a graphical simulation of LEGO Mindstorms EV3 robots. The innovative, online platform has a coding interface where users can activate a virtual robot, or “cyber-robot,” and watch the results in a real-time simulation. Teachers and schools can sign up to join the event any time before October 7, which is the start date for the boot camps.

9. As part of UBTECH Education’s commitment to equity in robotics and engineering instruction, the organization launched a competitive grant to provide two years of free robotics kits, curriculum, and professional development to K–12 schools systems interested in integrating robotics instruction into STEM programs. The Early Innovator grant program will award a cohort of geographically and demographically diverse school systems that can make a two-year commitment to implementing the company’s award-winning UKIT solution in their classrooms. The UKIT was developed by experts who helped write the NGSS. It immerses students in hands-on learning by merging modular robotics construction with engineering, math, and language arts, as well as physical and life sciences.

10. Lego Education showcased SPIKE Prime, a STEAM learning solution for middle school that combines LEGO bricks, coding language based on Scratch, and a programmable multi-port Hub to help every learner become a confident learner. Students can build and program their first model in minutes, and teachers can complete a full lesson, including building and coding, in 45 minutes.

11. A new partnership between Vernier and Makeblock opens up new robotics opportunities for students. With Makeblock robots coupled with exclusive STEM activities from Vernier, students learn entry-level coding skills that extend beyond the screen as they program robots to interact with the physical world. This helps students learn how to organize, express, and share their ideas in a whole new way through coding.

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