Maker/Development
Root programming robot helps STEM knowledge branch out

editors-choice-300x96With the world becoming increasingly modernized, the importance of having children engage in the principles of programming as early
as possible has skyrocketed. And while it’s easy to see the financial benefits of that exposure, what’s more important is the analytical and critical thinking it develops in those young minds. This is why the Root was created.

Root is a Roomba-looking robot that focuses on teaching both kids and adults valuable programming skills. The robot itself can attach itself and navigate walls or just wander about on the floor and is equipped with a variety sensors for coders to play with. The Root’s companion app has three levels. The first has a graphical interface that non-readers can use to learn basic concepts of events, sequences, loops, states, functions, priorities, timing, program stepping and debugging.

The second introduces control flow statements like when, repeat, and if-then-else while also teaching variables, sensor values, units, arithmetic, operations, recursions, parallelism. The third is a full text-based interface to code in Python, Javascript and Swift. Throughout these three levels, coders can program Root to move, turn, draw, erase, scan colors, play music, light up, sense touch, feel bumps, detect magnetic surfaces, perceive light, and respond to sensors in their phone or tablet.

Combined with its ability to understand shapes drawn on paper (eliminating the need to build robots to test commands) and anyone can get started learning with a lot faster than other educational kits. $195 gets backers a Root to their doorstep by June 2016 should its Kickstarter campaign raise $250,000 by November 30th, 2016.

If it wasn’t already obvious, Root boasts lots of features perfect for any aspiring coder. Aesthetically, having a robot glide across a whiteboard is a satisfying sight and the engineering involved with that is impressive. Overall, the way it guides users through three levels of programming difficulty all the way to widely-used languages like Python makes it worth a purchase. The Kamibot is another good alternative that combinines papercraft and robotics — even if it isn’t as versatile as Root.

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