An Easy Way to Teach Your Child Robotics (Heartfelt Recommendations from an Engineer Mom) ~ Trendy Mom Reviews
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Sunday, December 31, 2017

An Easy Way to Teach Your Child Robotics (Heartfelt Recommendations from an Engineer Mom)

In today's post, I'll share tips for teaching your child about robotics. In particular, I will tell you about Wonder Workshop products and resources that make it fun and easy to teach your children about robotics.

Let's start with some background on why I am passionate about children learning robotics. As a mom and an engineer, I have appreciated many perks that come with my career in the tech sector. I've spent 20+ years working on many fun projects that inspired me and made me feel like I was making a difference. Once I had children, I was able to find flexible jobs that allowed me to either (a) work from home or (b) go into the office during school hours and then finish the rest of my hours at home in the evenings. It's nice to be in a field where I have been able to find the flexibility to balance work and life as a mom. 


I love helping other parents that want to give their children the opportunity to learn about STEM. However, I understand when parents feel overwhelmed because STEM is outside of their area of expertise. I completely understand the intimidation factor which is why I am sharing this post today.  I want to share easy ways to teach your child robotics. In particular, I'll tell you about our favorite robots and sets - Dash & Dot Wonder Pack, Dot Creativity Pack, and the Cue robot.  These products stand out to me because they have been accessible and fun for my own child and his friends.  I also know that value is important, so I tracked the past 75 days of usage to compute the "price per hour of play".  The cost for each of these came out to cheaper than the cost of a babysitter, robotics classes, or other camps that I have used for my son. The "price per hour of play" in the first 75 days for each of these products ended up being between $.80-cents to $1.53 per hour of play.  I felt that this was a good value as my son was learning while having fun. I also tracked his frustration levels and only noticed frustration a few times when he misaligned a mallet for the xylophone or was trying to launch balls.  The frustration was not related to coding, but rather adjusting the mallet or launcher with his hands. They were things that I felt parents could easily help to correct without debugging code.


The Overview (with value measurements)  Name: Dash & Dot Wonder Pack

Price: On sale for $229.99
Level: Easy/Moderate (Rated for our 8 year old)
Engagement: 10/10 (Our child never was thoroughly engaged!)
Number of robots: 2
Number of accessory pieces: 18
Days studied: 75
Number of consecutive days played with by my child's choice without a break: 75
Number of hours played: 172
Current ratio of price to hours of entertainment: $1.34/hour  (Calculated as ($229.99/172) = $1.34/hour during the first 75 days. This set is still in use and we anticipate more hours of fun.)

Name: Dot Creativity Pack

Price: On sale for $69.99
Level: Easy/Moderate (Rated for our 8 year old)
Engagement: 10/10 (Our child never was thoroughly engaged!)
Number of robots: 1
Number of accessory pieces: 30+
Days studied: 75
Number of consecutive days played with by my child's choice without a break: 75
Number of hours played: 88
Current ratio of price to hours of entertainment: $0.80-cents/hour  (Calculated as ($69.99/88) = $0.80/hour during the first 75 days. This set is still in use and we anticipate more hours of fun.)

Name: Cue

Price: On sale for $169.99
Level: Easy/Moderate (Rated for our 8 year old)
Engagement: 10/10 (Our child never was thoroughly engaged!)
Number of robots: 1
Number of accessory pieces: 2
Days studied: 75
Number of consecutive days played with by my child's choice without a break: 75
Number of hours played: 111
Current ratio of price to hours of entertainment: $1.53-cents/hour  (Calculated as ($169.99/111) = $1.53/hour during the first 75 days. This set is still in use and we anticipate more hours of fun.)

Now that I have covered basics and how we measured the value, let me share examples of things that our son has done with these sets.




The Dash & Dot Wonder Pack offers unlimited options for creative children.  A major perk of the Dash & Dot products are that they offer a free robotics competition where they release "challenges" for kids to work on. Our son has been on a Wonder League team for two years and has enjoyed working with his friends on problem sets.  The free challenges are epic in the world of children's robotics, especially since many competing products are set up so that you have to buy various add-ons if you want to use their latest problem sets.  The Wonder League challenges don't require you to buy extra products from them.  In the case that extras have been required, they have been things that we had around the house like plastic cups for them to launch and catch balls or random art supplies to decorate his robot. For instance, they are currently creating parade floats with Dash & Dot by using old wrapping paper and art supplies!  (Thanks to Wonder Workshop for having such extensive resources and not pushing expensive accessories on us!)




The Dot Creativity Pack is the cutest set and actually includes a Dot robot!  As mentioned above, this set rocked our son's world. The ability to transform his robot into different animals and characters was a lot of fun.  The characters also inspired his creativity to program them to do different things related to the animals.  (This set came out to $0.80-cents/hour when we divided the price by the number of hours that he played. It was such an amazing deal!)


Here are a few examples of Dot dressed in different costumes.




There are so many fun ways to interact with Dot!




Finally, Cue is the latest release from Wonder Workshop.  Cue extends upon the popular Dash robot.  He's the funniest robot that we've ever met! We really like him for older kids, especially our son who has been with Dash & Dot for the past few years.  Again, Cue makes it fun and easy to work on computational thinking skills. My son would stay up all night with Cue if we let him!

Now that I've discussed the value that we achieved over the past 75 days, let me share example missions that we worked on.


Example Missions

We played through the free Wonder App Scroll Quest and Blockly App Puzzles, which helped demonstrate the different Dash and Dot capabilities and how to program them. In the Wonder App, the Scroll Quest led us through several challenges, each broken into easy to manage steps. Let me share some examples.



We began with a simple "Hello World" program to make Dash say "Hi".


The challenges build upon each other until you will be prepared to program fairly sophisticated behavior with ease. The Blockly app helps children to practice computational thinking and to build their programming skills with both Dash and Dot.


For example, the Robot Puppy Training Puzzle had us program Dash to behave like a puppy.


We built upon the following program to create our own puppy robot in the Blockly app.



Our other favorite past time is to use the Go app for Dash and the Cue app for Cue to stage Roman games: gladiator battles, chariot racing, and theatrical performances.  The Go app allows remote control over both Dash and Dot, including driving, head movement, noises, and lights.





The Cue app has a similar ability to remotely control Cue.  



We used the LEGO adapters to build and attach lances, swords, whips, shields, and helmets to outfit our gladiators.  We used the tow attachment to design chariots and the audio recording features of the apps for theatrics.  We even programmed Dot to provide dramatic sound and lighting with recorded sounds and custom light patterns.

We have also been working through the Cue app with its many interesting features.  Cue bridges the cyber and physical worlds as both a chatbot and mobile robot.  Cue has four personalities that you can adopt to take on a series of missions and tutorial challenges.




The missions follow an interactive galactic story of epic proportions that involve you in the story.





In addition to the missions, the Cue app has a tutorial that is similar to the Blockly and Wonder apps for Dash.  It takes you through several programming challenges to learn about programming Cue.




We are still exploring all that Cue has to offer, but the enhanced sensors and larger than life personality make Cue a great addition to our expanding robot family.

Wonder Workshop is amazing. Their robotics products, accessories, and missions provide fantastic opportunities for children to build a good foundation in computational thinking and robotics. 


In summary, I wish that every child had the opportunity to experience robots during their childhood.  However, at the same time, I realize that robots are expensive and many parents are intimidated by technology.  Dash, Dot, and Cue were designed in a user-friendly way that makes it easy for me to recommend them to parents of all skill levels.   If you want to learn more, visit Wonder Workshop here.  


Finally, if you live in the Southlake/Westlake/Trophy Club area and would like me to put together a little introductory robotics class for you and your children, please feel welcome to contact me.  I'm happy to volunteer to give my time to help parents and little ones to learn about robotics! (Of course, if you don't live in our area, you'll find fabulous resources on the Wonder Workshop website and Youtube too.)



This is a sponsored post, but all opinions are our own.


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