Ozobot Bit 2.0 (part 1)


The Ozobot is a tiny robot–almost as big as a golf ball.  While the Ozobot is tiny, the collection of education material designed for it is huge.  I’m going to start with initial impressions, list the types of activities (to be explored later), and give a wish list.

The two pack came with a white/clear and a black Ozobot, 2 USB charging cables (no batteries to buy), 2 mini carrying cases, 4 plastic helmets, an instruction pamphlet, and some cards.  All of that is contained in a clear box about the size of a recipe card box so that it stores nicely when not in use.

The included cards are small, starter tracks for the line-following feature of the Ozobot.  The Ozobot website has additional maps (make sure to choose landscape) for printing.  The included pamphlet contains the line-following codes, but they can also be printed from the website if needed.  More line maps can be printed from the education section of the website as well.

One simple activity is to start the Ozobots on identical maps.  The first to reach the finish wins.  The Ozobot can be controlled with the line codes to speed up or slow down, turn right or left, and other actions.  Line code stickers can be purchased, or address labels can be used to draw your own.  Winning just changed from random chance to giving the robot directions.

It takes a little practice to get the line width right when drawing on paper, but once you get a feel for it, you can fit a fairly complex maze on a sheet of paper.  Ozobot will change colors with the color of the line, and line codes are given with a series of colored marks.  Huge paper makes creating maps much more fun.

What Can I Do With It?

  • Line following:  draw mazes, download mazes
  • line codes:  modify how Ozobot travels the maze-both drawn and printed, learning to control the path develops thinking skills.
  • Ozobot app (iPad and Android)
    • line drawing on tablet
    • static and flash codes for controlling Ozobot
    • playground:  preexisting mazes that can be modified
    • challenges:  maze with a start and finish, use codes to get there
  • OzoGroove App
    • programmed dance with music
    • dance editor:  design a sequence of moves and adjust timing to go with music
    • move editor
    • dance editor
  • Ozobot.com
    • printable materials
    • instructional videos
    • web games
    • educational lessons and activities
    • classroom applications
    • workshops
  • Ozoblockly.com
    • 2 existing games
    • visual programming editor to control Ozobot (without lines)
      • examples
      • reference
      • challenges

These little robots have a lot to offer.  The small size and easy charging make them great for an academic environment.  They aren’t the most exciting of the robot options, but that’s a good thing for school.

I did some looking before I decided on the 2.0 version.  The starter kit costs slightly less and comes with more stuff.  The starter kit can be upgraded, for a cost, to run the programming software, but I’ve read unhappy reviews that users have to do extra steps to make it work after the upgrade.  This rules out the starter kit.  It would be nice to be able to purchase the starter kit extras to go with the 2.0.  The only way to get the extras is to buy the older robot.  I’ve also read that it doesn’t take much to weigh the little guys down when making costumes.  One user suggested only using a paper costume instead of sequins and feathers that her kids were enjoying.  It might be worth designing a template sheet.




Roger von Oech’s Magnetic Toys

whack ballsCreative Whack makes several types of magnetic balls.  Each ball comes with a booklet to extend the use of the ball.

The booklets contain three sections.  The first section encourages playing with the ball and provides additional figures to create.

The second section is titled “Creativity” and does contain some good exercises in pattern exploration and encourages extended thinking. However, it is heavily wrapped in touchy-feely, mindfulness, use it as a metaphor type language.  I skipped it twice before deciding I had to read it to be fair.

The third section in the booklet covers the inspiration and math behind the shapes.  The math behind the different sets allows them to be combined for extended play.

My reaction to each of the sets (I have the x-ball, y-ball, and ball of whacks) was pretty much the same.  Initially, you have to discover the polarity of the pieces to see which ends attract and which repel.  The next stage is to start trying to puzzle out a pattern to make the ball.  At about half way, the pattern is clear, and the magnets are pretty much pulling pieces into the proper place.

These are cool toys, but I think it would have been a waste had I purchased them for my children when they were young.  They didn’t hold my interest long enough for me to complete more than a few of the patterns.  In a home, where it is competing with other toys, it wouldn’t be a winner.  However, in an environment with limited options for entertainment (at a grandparent’s, at a vacation home, tossed in a bag on a camping trip), they do allow for extended play.  They are also the kind of item I love to have available in my classroom.  It’s a perfect activity for a student who finishes a test early.  Due to the number of pieces, I wouldn’t leave it out.

The x-ball had a more interesting pattern, but I still was more drawn to the y-ball for play.  The Ball of Whacks was the best of the bunch and inspired more free play before I started looking at the booklet than the others.

Verdict:  They go to school for the students.  If they were less expensive, I’d go ahead and buy the rest of them.  They’re a little pricey for a sponge activity for school.

Available at Fat Brain Toys and Amazon.


SCRATCH programming

I purchased Coding Games in SCRATCH from Amazon.  SCRATCH is a visual programming language that is available for free from MIT.  I learned programming in the dinosaur days before mice and GUI, so this was brand new to me–and exciting!

While SCRATCH is meant for kids (from 8 to 80), I’ve found a lot to be excited about.

Using code blocks lets me focus on flow control and logical sequences rather that syntax.  The built-in library of sprites and backgrounds meant nearly instant cha-cha when I started the first activity.  That is so much more exciting than “Hello World.”

I have 2 chapters left in the book, and scanning ahead, it appears to do a pretty good job covering the features of SCRATCH.  Once you get the MIT SCRATCH site, you will find plenty of free activities that will cover the same knowledge that’s in the book, but I’m old enough to like holding a book when I’m learning something new.  This one is well written, with clear coding examples and lots of explanations as to why you are doing things.

I’ve already got some great ideas for turning some of the games in the book into instructional activities (and probably removing most of the fun).  I can see the maze game converted into a piecewise function activity.  There’s also a game in the book that launched a monkey at bananas.  It’s similar to the Angry Birds game.  My brain just saw PROJECTILE MOTION–PARABOLAS.  I enjoy quadratics, so I’m full of ideas for this one.

My coding from college is so outdated, I didn’t expect to see anything I knew.  It was exciting to find how much of it I either remembered or just slipped in naturally next to what I already know.  It’s triggering lots of long buried memories and knowledge.  Modifying the code in the monkey launch game to use a quadratic rather than simulated gravity reminded me that I see math differently when I code it than I do when processing by hand.  I like it.  I look at all the math from an entirely new perspective when I do–and understand the connections even better.

Next Learning Goals:
1.  Finish my SCRATCH book.
2.  Learn to embed a SCRATCH game into a web page.
3.  Work through the SCRATCH book that teaches all the mathy drawings.
4.  Figure out how to do an exponent in SCRATCH.  I’m not sure if it’s repeated multiplication or something simple like a carrot “^.”
5.  Check out SNAP.
6.  Decide how serious I am about a career change.  I could have a lot of fun making little, learning games (that I’ll never be able to use in my classroom) and stay where I am.  Or I can get serious about real coding and leaving education.  Which language do I choose?