This Adorable Robot Can Help Children to Program

By Jamie Condliffe on at

Getting kids to code is a great idea—but it’s not always easy. Now a team of researchers from Harvard has developed this little robot, called Root, that’s designed to make writing code a more tangible experience.

Wired reports that that the team from the Wyss Institute at Harvard have been working on the project for almost three years. The team claims that the hexagonal ‘bot is “designed to instruct anyone from a 5-year-old to an intermediate programmer.”

What does it do, exactly? It’s actually pretty versatile, allowing the user to program it with either graphical icons, a simple language like MIT’s Scratch, or ever grown-up code like Javascript.

Regardless of how it’s programmed, it’s stuffed with hardware that allows whoever’s controlling it to have some fun. It’s got position and direction sensors to know where it’s headed, magnetic panels so it can drive on vertical metal walls and whiteboards, colour sensors along its undercarriage, light and sounds sensors and ouputs, and a touch-sensitive bumper around its edge. Oh, and it can pop a pen out from its belly and draw on the surface below.

So it can be programmed to draw pretty patterns on a whiteboards, race against other Roots, or learn how to traverse a room by hitting walls and bouncing right off them. But as with anything like this, the joy is in the fact that the a little imagination can create more applications than the guys that designed it will have ever considered. Just look at the Raspberry Pi.

The robot isn’t yet commercially available, but the team is trying to find partners to introduce it into schools. We hope they succeed.

[Wyss Institute via WIRED]