Ozobots and Computer Programming Concepts

Black Ozobot with color-reading sensors.

Black Ozobot with color-reading sensors.

Earlier this year I came across this new and interesting line-following robot, Ozobot. After looking over some general reviews (here and here), I decided to order four of them for my summer camps. In the past few months, I have used them with a number of children and I have noticed that they have a definite appeal with the younger set — kids who are younger than age ten. I think here’s something about using a marker and making the robot do what you say. It’s very empowering for young children. They all know how to draw with a marker!

Ozobots follow thick lines drawn on paper. They user sensors to detect the line.

Ozobots follow thick lines drawn on paper. They user sensors to detect the line.

Most of the students I’ve worked with have had some experience with the notion of computer programming and sensors. Using these robots is another way to stress the concept of “talking” to a computer through it’s language. Ozobots have their own color-coded language which sometimes works…and sometimes doesn’t. Just like “real” computer programming.

At first, I found this annoying, but eventually realized that this was the best way of learning. Yes, even adults need reminders to have a growth mindset.

While working together, we have to figure out why the coding didn’t work…was it that particular color of marker? Did it have too much white in it? Did we remember to calibrate the Ozobot? All of these questions mimic the questions a computer programmer needs to consider when trying to find the bugs in his or her program. Once the kids understood this concept, they were remarkably understanding. They were very willing to try and figure out the problem…and quite accepting of the fact that they might have to start over.

Next week, I’ll lay out my “plans” of introducing Ozobots to children. Stay tuned!