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Coding blues? Bring in the Blue-Bots

Blue-Bot floor robots have proved their worth for deputy head Darren Hooley. Here he explains some of their features and describes how they may be used in the classroom to add value in computing and across the curriculum.

Posted on Tuesday 31st January 2017

The Blue-Bot is a small floor robot which can be easily controlled using a simple keypad on it’s outer shell. Using four arrows and a Go button, children as young as four can program its movements and watch as their simple algorithm is put into action.

Used with a premade or custom grid, children can enjoy simple coding with independence, applying ad-hoc debugging skills as they go.

Blue-Bot coding

It is rechargeable and fits on to a six-place docking station. Alternatively you can charge the Blue-Bot via a short USB cable.

However, these are all features which were already available on the Blue-Bot’s predecessor, Bee-Bot. Being the next generation of programmable floor robot, the true value of the Blue-Bot comes with the innovative new ways in which we can interact with it.

‘A child engaged from the beginning is half the battle won’

First, the Blue-Bot has a clear outer shell, which means that the pupils can see the inner components of the robot and begin to discuss how it works. The flashing lights and moving parts instantly excite the children when they come into contact with Blue-Bot for the first time and having a child engaged from the beginning of a session is half the battle won!

The Blue-Bot comes into its own when paired with the Blue-Bot control app, which is compatible with IOS, Android, PC and Mac devices, and links to a Blue-Bot using Bluetooth technology. The Blue-Bot is then represented on screen by a small electronic version of itself.

The app comes with the available TTS floor mats pre-installed so the pupils can match the mat they are using in the classroom with its virtual representation on screen. Seeing the physical object in the classroom and the digital version on their screen helps the pupils to make sense of the connection and reinforces their understanding of the power of programming.

The app allows the pupil to create an algorithm using the same controls as they are used to on the back of the ‘bot’, with a simple but key addition. Using the app the pupil can see the algorithm they have created appear in a bar down the left of the screen. This is absolutely brilliant for the teaching and learning of the new programming skills introduced into Key stage 1 especially.

The pupils can now follow their algorithm as it is compiled, checking and debugging as they work simply by swiping off incorrect instructions or dragging new ones into the correct place. When they press Go, the Blue-Bot on the screen moves at the same time as a connected Blue-Bot on the floor.

Blue-Bot coding

The pupils are witnessing a concrete use for the programming process and can see their own digital coding skills being used to affect a physical object. The fact that the process happens without a physical connection to the Blue-Bot adds awe and wonder to the process, and this can be used by teachers and other adults to further the pupil’s understanding of our digital world.

The app provides challenges which can be differentiated to scaffold or extend the pupil’s coding skills, as well as their problem solving ability. It also comes with the option of customising your own mats for the Blue-Bot to move over on the screen.

By taking a photo of whatever flooring or school-made mat your physical Blue-Bot will be running on, you can create a virtual mat which matches: therefore the only limit to where your Blue-bot can be travelling is your imagination. The implications of this for the Blue-Bots use across the entire breadth of the curriculum are immense.

In addition, the Blue-Bot and app allow users to create repeats within their algorithms, as well as 45-degree turns, giving further flexibility and longevity to its practical uses.

‘Practice coding and debugging skills in a practical context’

The Blue-Bot is a terrifically versatile resource for use with the new computing curriculum. The expectation that children should create simple algorithms and debug them was a cause for concern for many teachers. With the Blue-Bot and app however, this should not be a daunting prospect and we now relish the challenge of solving problems using our transparent friends.

Our pupils are excited by the Blue-Bots. The fact that they can create simple algorithms which control a stand-alone object enthuses them greatly. It also allows practice of their coding and debugging skills in a practical context.

Blue-Bot coding

Teachers love the Blue-Bot and app combination as it allows them to easily teach the children simple coding. This learning can be easily differentiated and put to use in a limitless number of practical situations and so each classroom has a resource which can be used again and again.

The Blue-Bot represents good value for money as it has the capability to handle most of a schools computing needs, as well as providing wonderful ways to deliver a variety of focuses across the curriculum.

Ratings (out of 5) Fitness for purpose 5 Ease of use 4.5 Features 4.5 Quality 5 Value for money 5

Blue-Bot, primarily used in the new 2014 computing curriculum to allow pupils to code, debug and simulate simple algorithms, also has a variety of practical uses across the breadth of key stages 1 and 2, whether Blue-Bot is used to order events from history dressed as ‘Ghandi bot’, visit characters from a story in an English lesson or travel between answers to a problem in maths. It can be controlled, via Bluetooth, with apps compatible with iOS (iPad3 and later, iPhone 4s and later), Android, PC and Mac. Powered by internal rechargeable battery charged via USB cable or docking system.

Shop the Blue-Bot range here

With thanks to Darren Hooley, deputy headteacher of Ladycross Infant School in Sandiacre, Derbyshire for writing this blog post. @HooleyMr

Watch our informative videos containing Blue-Bot and Bee-Bot:

Read how Blue-Bot was used outside at Mapplewells Primary and Nursery School in a Forest School session where the children got involved making tracks and coding Blue-Bot into them – navigating sticks and obstacles!

Thinking of introducing programming in Early Years?

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