Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Oh! Ozobot

My children have been quick to remind me this week that this is the worst Spring Break ever. Everyone else gets to go somewhere and we are at home. Today, though, we spent a fair amount of time - at home - getting to know Ozobot. I am leading a coding camp for kids going into grades 4, 5, and 6 for a week this summer and the Ozobots will be featured on at least one of the days. In preparation for the camp, I compared several codable robots and Ozobot won out. Here's why.

It's plug-n-play right out of the box. My almost ten year old daughter loves art, so I knew Ozo would grab her attention because it follows lines that you can draw with ordinary markers. When the lines change color, the Ozobot's light changes color too. There are many color combinations that cause the Ozobot to spin or turn or flash and so on. Very basic coding with markers and paper. My daughter started with a colored line design, but then created a sign that Ozobot could trace. Here is the video:

Then I showed her how to use Ozoblockly (Blockly coding at the Ozobot website) to make the robot move without the colored lines. She has a little experience with Blockly from Hour of Code activities, so she was off and running in no time. After she wrote a few lines, I showed her how to touch the Ozobot to the screen and touch "load" so the program could move from the website to the robot. You can actually load three Ozobots with the same program at the same time. [An aside: While the program was loading into the 'bot, I couldn't help think of the TV show "Chuck" from a few years back. There is all this flashing and the robot is programmed. Maybe it becomes the intercept. ;) ] Then we created a maze to try to program the Ozobot through the maze. Here is the video:

My daughter is a pretty typical fourth grader and loved experimenting with Ozobot, both with the colored lines and the Blockly coding. It seemed like each time she mastered one aspect, she quickly moved on to another thing that she could try. With almost no coding experience (two "Hours of Code"), she was simultaneously challenged and inspired. A perfect combination.

And I like a couple other things about Ozobot too. First, the price is right. At only $60 ($50 with the education discount), this is a pretty affordable robot. Second, it's small. And I like that because it won't be crazy disruptive when we program it to move through mazes or whatever they dream up. The small size means we can do that on tabletops, on big sheets of paper. Finally, I love that there is an education discount, lesson plans available, and professional development and webinars available for teachers. We didn't yet explore the printables that are available on the Ozobot website, but that is another set of things to explore. 

Our Spring Break hasn't been a dream vacation, but it was nice to pull out a robot today and have some fun with it. Sure, they didn't get to go anywhere today, but the Ozobot sure did! My daughter kept talking about how much she liked Ozobot and hoped to add it to her permanent collection. I am glad this one is in my permanent collection. I am not sure yet how I will use it to teach chemistry, but when I figure that out, I'll be writing about it here! 

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