New library robots teach coding to youngsters
At Wilton library, coding and programming aren’t just for teenagers anymore.
Thanks to a STEM grant from the Amadeo family, the children’s library has added two robots to its staff list, Dash and Dot, and residents can learn about them during an April 13 demonstration session.
“They are toys, but they are educational toys,” Andrea Falkner, the children’s library’s director, told The Bulletin. “They were made to be toys that kids could also learn from. Specifically to learn computer coding.”
Dash, a locomotive robot, and Dot, a stationary robot, are controlled by four iPad apps that are designed with children of different ages in mind. There are simple programs for first and second graders, as well as more advanced applications for older kids.
“We took Dash out one day when we had a couple of families in the library, and the two 9-year-olds immediately came over and said, ‘What’s that?’ One of the little boys said it’s so neat because it’s not just on the computer. He’s right here, and we can make him do something,” Ms. Falkner said.
Dash and Dot can respond to different stimuli, like voices, and they have visual sensors which can detect motion and other objects.
“If I tell Dot that when she looks up she should moo like a cow, then when I throw her up in the air” she’ll moo like a cow. “They can make sounds.”
One of the apps, Blockly, is made for third and fourth graders and uses color-coded templates to control the robot’s movements, actions, and reactions. It teaches the basics of computer programming, Ms. Falkner said, using “if-then” style commands.
While the toys make “funny noises and stuff” to keep kids entertained, Ms. Falkner said Dash and Dot will still play an important role introducing youngsters to the library’s Innovation Station.
“The first step of any kind of coding is being able to organize what you want to do, and then put those pieces together like a puzzle. You need to know what needs to happen first to make the second step happen before the third step happens,” she said.
“The next step after this would be learning to write code.”
For now, use of the robots will be restricted to predetermined class times beginning in June, Ms. Falkner said. Each class will have openings for six kids, and children new to the program will have priority over those who have already taken the classes.
The program on Monday, April 13, however, is open to anyone who comes. It begins at 4 and ends at 4:45.
“It will give kids a chance to take the iPad and see if they can get the robots to do certain mini-challenges,” Ms. Falkner said. “Over the summer, when we have small group classes, we will give the kids a real challenge and help them figure out how to make the robots accomplish the challenge.”
Dash and Dot are products of Wonder Workshop Inc. in California.
For information on the library’s event, visit wiltonlibrary.org/events.
For more information on Dash and Dot, visit makewonder.com.