It Happened Here: Robotics Petting Zoo

July 22, 2019 | Teen Blogger

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On May 28, 2019, Malvern Branch hosted a robotics petting zoo with Sphero, Dot and Dash. A member of the Malvern Branch Youth Advisory Group, Janneza, went to the program and shared their experience with us.

What happened?

At the program, the youth were invited to experiment and complete challenges with the Spheros and Dot & Dash robots. These challenges consisted of knocking over stacked cups, throwing balls into cups, and chasing the Spheros bot with a Dot & Dash bot. We were able to control the robots with two methods, one being block coding and the other being touch-screen controls on the iPad.

Tablet with robot controls

What did you learn?

I learned how to control robots using block code. Block coding is an elementary and more straightforward method of coding where most of the code is already created for you. All you are required to do is input the desired codes (move forward, turn left, launch, etc.) and parameters (speed, distance, angle, etc.). The order you place the codes in is important as the robot follows each code starting from top to bottom. For example, if you would want the robot to turn before moving, you have to place the turning code before the moving code.

Using block code

What was the most interesting/memorable part?

The most interesting part was chasing the Spheros bot with a Dot & Dash bot. I chased the Spheros under chairs, tables, and through peoples’ legs. It was difficult as the Spheros bot was slightly faster, and the difficulty of the controls were no help but, after adjusting to them, I was able to catch up to the Spheros. I enjoyed having an intense yet light-hearted competition between nice students who were enjoying the activity.

Was there anything funny that happened?

I found that the beginning where we experimented was entertaining as the robots would continuously go in circles, have choppy movements and crash into other items, fortunately, causing no damage. This was funny because most of these movements were unintentional and it made the robots seem goofy.

Sphero dot and dash

Would you recommend this program to a friend? Why?

Yes, I would recommend this program to a friend because it is an enjoyable and informative experience. It helps you learn the basics of coding with the coding blocks. Also, completing the challenges requires you to use your problem-solving skills such as trial and error and analysis. This is because you need to test out which parameters work the best and which ones don’t. It is also a delightful way to interact with other students who have the same curiosity and interest in robotics.

Sphero charging

Do you have any suggestions to make this program better?

A suggestion I have to make this program better is to have more accessories on the Dot & Dash robot. An entertaining accessory would be the xylophone as it would allow the coder to produce music with the robot. With this accessory, there could be a challenge where the students have to create the nicest sounding song. Another interesting accessory would be the Sketch Kit which allows the coder to program a Dot & Dash bot to draw an image. With this accessory, there could be a drawing contest, too!


Are you a fan of robots? Check out some of our free robotics programs across the city!