8 Robots That Aim to Teach Your Kids to Code in 2019

Main photo: Fischertechnik models displayed at a University Engineering department event.

I recently read an article about educational robots displayed at the 2018 CES electronics show.

In 2019, here are some robots which are still relevant and in the market. Here’s an overview at eight of them with one cool product highlight from each company.

1. littleBits

If you think girls can’t code, think again. Founder and CEO Ms. Ayah Bdeir founded this company in 2011 and successfully acquired $65 million plus worth of funding, 20,000 school partnerships worldwide, and key partnerships with some large brands such as Disney, Pearson, Nasa and many more. Talk about girl power.

Infact, the company has not stopped innovating since its launch. According to its website, it owns more than 1 million inventions. Some of it’s latest line of products which include the Avengers Hero Inventor Kit and Star Wars Droid Inventor Kit.

Pros: No messy screws or bolts required. Magnetic parts snap on and off easily. Drag and drop programming with Star Wars theme for the Star Wars Droid Inventor Kit.

Cons: There seems to be glitch reports especially with the bluetooth and iOS version compatibility issues. The company has a fair return policy so even if you are not satisfied with the product or service, you can return it to the seller according to their policy.

2. Kano

Back in 2012, the team was trying to solve a problem for a 6-year-old, how to provide Micah with a computer he can build himself. In 2013, the founders Alex and Yonatan create 200 kit prototypes then test them with children.

The team managed to raise $1.5 million despite only initially targeting for $100,000 on Kickstarter. They then delivered 18,000 kits to customers in 86 countries. Kano computer is easily identifiable because of its orange designed keyboards. One was spotted being used by children in the white house in 2015.

The Harry Potter Coding kit is a spin-off from its make a computer-based core idea. If you are not heavily into making a computer, making a magical wand may interest you.

Pros: You can build your own wand that responds to movement with the Harry Potter Coding kit. 70+ step-by-step creative challenges designed to help you to learn to code while having fun in a Harry Potter style magical theme. No prior coding experience required.

Cons: Mixed reviews especially on the software and bluetooth compatibility. Make sure you check it out via this link to ensure you have the required hardware and software before making your purchase.

3. Makeblock

Joining the robotics education industry in 2013, Makeblock is no stranger to many Asian countries as the company’s headquarters is based in Shenzhen, China. The company also has offices across the globe in Hong Kong, Japan, Europe and America.

The company has produced a wide range of educational robots from land roving vehicles to flying drones. Makeblock’s products are used in more than 25,000 schools around the world, as well as by families, for STEAM education.

For starters and young learners, the Makeblock Codey Rocky Programmable Robot is a great Fun Toy Gift to Learn AI, Python, Remote Control, Available for Windows, Mac OS, Chromebook, iOS, and Android, STEM Education for Ages 6 and above.

Pros: The Makeblock Codey Rockey Robot includes 10 programmable electronic sensors, one of which allows you to control your TV according to their promo video. Its display shows emotions which is an easy way for children to interact with and view the results of their programming. Able to connect lego blocks to this device.

Cons: There have been some negative reviews on the product’s documentation. Most positive reviews seem to geared towards beginner level users while advanced users might be looking for more solid programming documentation.

4. Sphero

For those who are unfamiliar with this Colorado-based company, they have actually been around since 2010 where the founders met at the TechStars event.

In 2014, they launched their education program after years of hosting meetup groups where they taught kids how to code.

The team has been working closely with Disney and schools since then, they have been called “the best day of school”.

Pros: The Sphero Sprk+ is great for learning physics. You can learn about distance, velocity and acceleration with Sphero. Waterproof and scratch resistant.

Cons: Like most wireless devices, there have been reports of connectivity and compatibility issues. It’s advised to try not to connect via bluetooth while Sphero is in water. Check out whether your device or operating system is compatible via this link.

5. Ubtech

Unlike most education-focused companies, Ubtech started with humanoid robot research and development back in 2008. The company was then officially established in 2012. It is currently headquartered in Shenzhen China and has an office in Los Angeles, America.

Ubtech offers a wide range of robots from the Jimu range that caters to children’s education, Star Wars first order trooper for movie fans who’d like to own a humanoid Star Wars trooper for entertainment, to it’s Walker range that is a life size Intelligent Humanoid Service Robot.

Pros: Strong in AI and humanoid-type robots. The Ubtech Jimu Robot Builderbot series seems to sync seamlessly with the iPad. You can also view all angles while building with the 3D, 360° animated building instructions that help walk you through the steps.

Cons: No paper-based manual and components might feel like cheaply made lego copies.

6. Raspberry Pi

The raspberry pi may sound like an edible fruit but it’s actually a very affordable tiny computer compared to the desktops and laptops we use today.

The raspberry pi is brought to you by a United Kingdom-based charity, the raspberry pi foundation. This foundation aims to bring digital making to the hands of everyone in the world. It’s so affordable, it sold 19 million units in 201 and was hailed as the 3rd best general purpose computer in the world.

The latest Raspberry Pi 3B B+ kit does not come with any external hardware besides the core computer. Hence for those who are interested in learning robotics, I’d suggest trying a starter kit like the OSOYOO Robot Car Kit Starter Learning Kit for Raspberry Pi 3B B+ Zero that comes with an Android/iOS APP, WiFi connectivity and 1280×720 Megapixel Wireless Webcam (with Raspberry Pi 3B+ Board).

Pros: Great entry price computer for all ages. All you need is a monitor, keyboard and mouse to get started. The Osoyoo Robot car kit also includes a detailed CD manual on how to build and program step by step.

Cons: Unlike most for-profit companies where the charges include service, open source projects and products mean that you will need to be prepared to search for solutions posted by the community by yourself.

7. Lego

Almost everyone on earth has heard about this worldwide brand. In fact, according to Forbes, it’s so famous that it grabbed the title as the most powerful brand in the world in 2017 overtaking Disney and Google.

The company originates from Denmark and has a long history of producing interlocking toy bricks dating as far back as 1949. That’s about 70 years back. An interesting fact though is that Lego did not initially start off producing plastic bricks, the founder Ole Kirk Christiansen first made wooden toys back in 1932. The company started from humble beginnings and have gone through its fair share of rough times. A youtube animation in summarizes this.

Fast forward to 2018, the company not only produces plastic bricks but has also expanded into the movie, games, competition, theme park and STEM education industry. While Lego is still widely known for fun to play with quality interlocking bricks, their LEGO Boost Creative Toolbox is a great Building and Coding Kit that comes with a programmable unit, interactive motor, colour and distance sensors, and 840 pieces of quality lego bricks.

Pros: Quality bricks, simple coding can be done with the LEGO Boost Creative set which is compatible with most devices. You won’t need a computer to do the coding as long as you have an Android or iOS device that is compatible with the LEGO app.

Cons: Sturdy high-quality LEGO bricks also equals to a very painful experience when accidentally stepping on them. Also, 6 x AAA batteries are required but not included in the LEGO Boost Creative set. It would be nice if a built-in rechargeable battery was provided.

8. Fischertechnik

A German company with a long history, Fischertechnik’s history dates back to 1966. However, unlike most toy manufacturers, they started with manufacturing fasteners.

Back in the 1960s, ham was a very common Christmas gift. Instead of presenting ham, the company decided to provide Fischertechnik sets as an alternative. The sets were so popular they started to sell it in retail and the rest was history.

Unlike Lego where bricks stack up to each other, Fischertechnik basic building blocks mainly slide to latch onto each other. The touch and feel of the products may seem familiar to some. This is because the founder is also the inventor of the S-plug, the thing we use in walls to hold screws tight. Hence, I suspect that parts of the hard plastic ingredients would be used in their education products too.

Pros: All of the Fischertechnik parts are made in Germany, the TXT Smart Home set comes with a TXT Controller which has a colour screen touch display. Can be used for all ages, even corporate institutions use Fischertechnik products for industrial training.

Cons: Limited software platform support, currently seems only to work on Windows platforms. There may be wifi and Bluetooth connectivity issues, manufacturer updates but without fixed timelines.

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