Tag Archives: coding

Can I get a library robot?

Sphero SPRK. I’ve been looking into possible STEM and STEAM programs recently, and I’d really like to lead some introductory coding programs for teens and tweens. There are plenty of free places to start, such as Scratch, Code.org, Code Academy, and Khan Academy. If you’re unfamiliar with these platforms, and are thinking about hosting a coding program, I recommend checking them out on your own. I had a lot of fun making Angry Birds blow up pigs in a Code.org hour of code and making cats dance with Scratch. All you’d need to use any of these for a program is a computer for every student.

However, I’d really like to bring robotics into a coding program, which brings me to Sphero. If you’re unfamiliar with Sphero, check out this video. There are several free apps for Sphero — the one I have my eye on is the Tickle app, which lets you write code for Sphero using blocks similar to Scratch. One of the things I like most about Sphero is that it can be used in programs for any age — younger kids can drive the robot without needing to write any code, kids can team up with peers or parents and learn to code together, teens can program the robot to navigate obstacle courses (and race to see who figures it out the fastest). I have so many things I’d love to try with Sphero, like a Maze Runner movie tie-in program, a challenge to create the most difficult obstacle course (and the code to navigate it), or a family game night with robot races. Seeing their code come to life in 3D, and not just on a screen, will be more engaging and encouraging for young coders.

And who doesn’t want a library robot?

I don’t have any first-hand experience with Sphero, but I hope to change that soon. Have any of you used Sphero before? What did you think of it? What other tech would you recommend for coding/robotics programs?

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National Day of Civic Hacking

Hackers have a bad rap.  Thanks to a handful of cyber criminals, the term “hack” has come to be associated in many circles with nefarious activities — at best, invasion of privacy, and at worst, theft of identities and classified information.
It’s a shame that these individuals have tainted the name of a skill that can be used for good just as easily as it can be abused or exploited.  The National Day of Civic Hacking on June 1-2 encourages hackers to use their skills to help better people’s lives by making publicly-available data more manageable.  Imagine an application that helps local food shelters redistribute resources by identifying shortages and excesses in different neighborhoods.  Or how about an app that will consolidate the best resources for local after-school child care options based on an individual’s location, schedule, and budget?
If you’re a programmer, software developer, or hacker by any other name, I highly encourage you to participate.  And don’t worry about getting a bad rap — the National Day of Civic Hacking has 19 government partners and the support of numerous corporate sponsors and contributors.  This is not a scheme to encourage criminal activity; it’s a collaboration of civic-minded and tech-savvy individuals trying to make Big Data more manageable for the little guy.  Even the Institute of Museum and Library Services will be participating; if librarians are involved, you know it’s legit.