Product Review of Blue-Bot
Blue-Bot is a simple robot that can operate on its own or via Bluetooth controlled by an Android, iOS, Mac, or Windows device. Blue-Bot is transparent so that learners can see all of the parts that make it work. Switch the Blue-Bot on and it will light up. Place it on the ground and choose from the movement commands: forward, backward (which will move about 15 centimeters depending on the surface), left, and right (90-degree turns). A one-second pause command can be used as well. Blue-Bot will make noises as it moves, which can be turned off by a switch on the bottom. The Blue-Bot can hold 200 commands, which should allow learners to explore the limits of any physical space. Once learners have entered in all of their commands, they hit “GO” and observe what happens. The “X” button will allow learners to clear out their commands and start again. The battery is said to last about six hours. After five minutes of inactivity, Blue-Bot will enter into sleep mode to help preserve power.
The Blue-Bot app has the same buttons as the Blue-Bot, which learners use to control an on-screen Blue-Bot moving along the screen. The app is available only in English, but does allow educators to record a voice-over for the main buttons (forward, backward, etc.) that will play when a student hits them. This would at least provide an opportunity for different languages to be used. Another benefit of the app is that learners can see their commands sequentially and can re-arrange them without having to clear them out. The app has additional buttons to allow Blue-Bot to make 45-degree turns.
Teachers can use Blue-Bot to help teach Pre-K through second-grade learners logic and sequential thinking. First, hand learners a Blue-Bot and let them discover how it works. Challenge learners to see if they can get Blue-Bot to go around a corner or some simple obstacle. Once they’re comfortable, create an obstacle course on the ground with chalk or painter’s tape and have learners navigate through it. Emphasize directional movements such as left, right, forward, backward, reverse, etc. Students can create their own obstacle courses and challenge each other. When the Blue-Bot doesn’t move as a student expects, seize the opportunity to teach them to “debug” and discover what went wrong. As student commands get more complex, encourage simple note-taking to record what movements they’ve done, or the solution for an obstacle course. Take advantage of other learning opportunities as they come up. For example, when learners notice that a Blue-Bot doesn’t seem to move as far on one surface as it does on another, take the opportunity to experiment and measure differences.
There are floor mats available for purchase, such as a simple road in a town, shapes, or an alphabet grid. These are essentially obstacle courses and mirror what’s available on the free app. The app has several different activities, such as getting from point A to point B, obstacle courses, fewer buttons, and random instructions.
Blue-Bot is a great opportunity for the youngest learners to learn programming skills. Teachers may be surprised by the depth that they’re able to take learning with this simple robot, but it will certainly depend on them to provide that experience. There’s a downloadable teacher’s guide that gives educators plenty of ideas to get started and activities that center around each of Blue-Bot’s features. It’s probably best to introduce the app only once learners are very comfortable with Blue-Bot’s functions. It doesn’t do a great job of providing support for learners who have limited English reading ability. Overall, while the app does add some functionality, it isn’t essential and may even detract from the experience for some learners.
Overall User Consensus About the App
Students will love programming Blue-Bot to move through teacher, peer, and self-made obstacle courses.
Curriculum and Instruction
The user manual provides activities for getting started, but be ready for learning opportunities to arise — such as measuring how far Blue-Bot moves on different surfaces.
The manual and teacher guide explain all of the functions that Blue-Bot has to offer. The app, which isn’t required to use Blue-Bot, doesn’t offer enough support for learners to fully use it unassisted.