It is officially summer now (of course, it has already been over 100° where I live) and that means bored kids and wasted time. But it doesn’t have to be that way. It has become common wisdom that STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) is a necessary set of skills to be mastered for the future. What is less clear is exactly how you can bring kids along for the ride. How about building a robot and learn coding in the process? Makeblock might be able to help.
Makeblock has been called the “Lego for adults” but, while clever, it does not actually work particularly well as a description. It would be better to call their robot kits “erector sets with brains.” And these brains are supplied by Arduino and fully programmable.
The Arduino (known as Genuino outside the US), like the more famous Raspberry Pi, is an open-source computing board that is specifically designed as an educational tool “aimed at students without a background in electronics and programming.” And because it is open-source there is a large community and community based projects to choose from. With the Arduino board, you will have no trouble finding a project to catch your or your child’s interest.
Makeblock’s Mblock Coding
With computer hardware covered, we can move into the software and programming. Makeblock has designed it’s robots to be programmed using the coding language mBlock, based on Scratch. Scratch is a coding platform designed by MIT to allow students (designed for ages 8 – 16) to get their foot in the door when it comes to programming. It accomplishes this by offering a graphical interface. Users are able to “write” the code by linking pre-created blocks of action. This allows the students to learn the logical relationships necessary in programming without being bogged down in the symbolic language. Students are then able to see how things hang together first and then learn the specific details of the language.
Makeblock Robot Kits
Makeblock has a number of different ways to get started, but the easiest is one of their robot kits. The benefit is that it provides a specific plan to be followed out of the box. Once this is mastered, you can just begin adding on varies modules that Makeblock also has available, or you can tear it all down and build your own robot. Again, the open-source quality of the enterprise allows for many community supplied projects.
Of course, you might be feeling especially adventurous and need to commit completely. If that is your tastes, then Makeblock also has the Ultimate Robot Kit. With it, you could make a giant robot to torment siblings or do your bidding. Or it could broken down into many different robots if variety is more of your desire.
Robots have captured our imagination for thousands of years. The ancient Greeks admired Daedulus for his ability to make statues walk. Now, this is no longer a myth and robotics is both the present and the future. Makeblock has figured out a way to teach the core of STEM through the fun of these formally mythical objects.