iRobot Roots For Root Robot
Written by Lucy Black   
Sunday, 30 June 2019

To further its role in STEM education, iRobot has acquired Root, the educational robot originally developed by the Wyss Institute at Harvard and then launched as a commercial product after a successful Kickstarter.

From the outset Root, and its programming environment, was intended as an educational tool that would engage students with coding from an early age and retain their interest.

root2

As explained in this video by co-creators  Radhika Nagpal and Zivthan Dubrovsky, Root is a robot that operates on a vertical surface magnetically and can be operated from a whiteboard as it responds to lines drawn and erased using dry-erase markers. This ability to interact with the robot simply by drawing, opens up potential for a broad range of unique instructional activities and games.

The Root Coding App, which currently runs under iOS only with Android in development has three levels. The first, intended for ages 4+ offers Graphical Coding, making it accessible to pre-readers who code it for drawing, playing music and playing games. The skills learned at this level are: 

  • Events
  • Sequences
  • Priorities
  • Functions
  • Loops
  • States
  • Timing
  • Program Stepping

The second level, Hybrid Coding, for ages 7+, gives kids more control of the code with a more detailed interface. and the new skills introduced are: 

  • Variables
  • Flow Control
  • Sensor Values
  • Units
  • Operations
  • Timing
  • Parallelism

rotlevel2

 

The final level, Full Text Coding, is for ages 12+ and introduces the syntax and structure of professional coding languages. At the moment the language is Swift but Python and JavaScript are billed as coming soon.

iRobot is already actively engaged in promoting robots in education as one of the organizers of National Robotics Week, whose mission, since 2010 when it began, is to inspire students in STEM-related fields and to share the excitement of robotics with audiences of all ages. It also has its own educational product, the Create programmable robot which is based on the Roomba, the domestic vacuum cleaner product for which iRobot is best know. This was introduced in 2007 and the second generation Create 2 arrived in 2014. Rather than teach coding, however, Create's role is to teach the fundamentals of robotics, computer science and engineering by letting users, in particular "advanced hobbyists"  program behaviors, sounds and movements and attach sensors, electronics, cameras, grippers and more to the device. The Create Platform also allows users to build something on top of it, giving it a very different role to that of Root. 

Root is already in more than 500 schools in North America and in many homes and iRobot's marketing is likely to extend its reach. This recent video with the iRobot badge is decidedly a promo:

A single Root  costs $199 and there are Classroom Packs with 6, 12, and 30 Roots costing $1,119, $2,399 and $5,995 respectively. A 1-year license to Root Academy costs $60 and offers new coding content every month that augments the Root Coding App. At the moment it seems to be available only in the USA and Canada.

 rootsq2

More Information

Root on iRobot

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