In our mad rush to an all-digital technologically interconnected future, the language of coding and computer programming is becoming one of the most important skills to have. But coding is a complex, confusing, and abstract concept that’s difficult to learn as an adult and particularly hard for young children to understand.
Root might be able to change that. It’s a simple machine, mechanically speaking — a small hexagonal robot that sticks to a normal classroom whiteboard and holds a marker that it can scoot around the board and draw with. Its simple design means it’s the perfect visualization to make programming changes seem real to younger students.
“By putting robots in front of kids it brings coding to life,” said Zivthan Dubrovsky, the platform lead at Harvard’s Wyss Institute.
Root syncs up through a iOS app called Square (apparently this pun is what passes for a joke at Harvard, we apologize), where students can use a simple graphical interface to program basic if-then statements into the bot, changing how it moves and writes on the board or surface that it’s on. The video shows it moving in geometric patterns and reacting to other stimuli and commands using the tablet. Older or more advanced students can directly program the bot through text-based commands, but the core of the bot’s appeal is that it makes students think about the different ways robots can interact with if-then commands and all of the possible ways they can make their bot accomplish a task.
Multiple Root bots can interact with one another, so students can program them to react in different ways around each other. They’ve got some cheery LED lights and can make different sound effects. Harvard’s Wyss Institute is still working out the details on Root, but as more classrooms look for innovative ways to bring technology into classrooms as teaching tools, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see some of these little bots on whiteboards around the country in a few years. They’re aimed at elementary students, which is probably a good thing — it’s only a matter of time until enterprising high schoolers get a hold of them and program them all to draw geometrically-perfect dick-pictures on boards.
Check out the full video below: