Product Review of Robo Sellers
Made by the people at Junior Achievement, Robo Sellers is a web-based game that teaches learners some of the basics of running a profitable business. Learners play as an astronaut starting their own robot-building company. You have enough savings to buy a ship, but you must do some grunt work first — digging for and trading robot parts — before you have enough to build your own workshop. Along the way, a Helper provides some basic instructions, but learners may still need to do some trial and error to learn a basic strategy for how to win the game.
The game is played in two phases. In phase one, learners must achieve two goals: sell 20 robot parts and earn 800 units of currency. This is done by traveling among the planets without running out of fuel, and either digging for robot parts or buying them at the merchants, then selling those parts for the highest profit possible, usually on other planets. Digging costs money, and learners must quickly find a promising dig spot to maximize their return. In addition to being able to buy and sell robot parts at merchants, learners can buy fuel and game tips, although the latter may or may not be helpful. The merchant shows — with green up arrows and red down arrows — if learners can sell robot parts for a profit or a loss, and each part is marked with which planet they are from.
In phase two, learners must either earn or borrow (with interest) enough money to build a workshop in which they can build robots from the parts they get. Then they must meet two new goals, sell six complete robots, and have 1500 units in the bank. A complete robot requires head, body, arms, and legs, with each part coming from any of the planets. Learners can have fun mixing and matching robot styles for resale; complete robots sell for more than would their individual parts.
The game is over when learners complete phase two. They then get to see their game data and a printable certificate. The interface is aging a bit (and the resolution might be a bit low for some computers), but the game still has plenty of value for the right age group.
Teachers can use Robo Sellers as a student-driven lesson on basic business economics. Learners will learn to buy low and sell high, along with how to efficiently spend and conserve resources. This can be used in a math class, or even a social studies class. It can also easily be assigned as homework, since the game is freely available as a website.
While the experience is student-driven, educators should play Robo Sellers first before assigning it to learners. Then use that experience to set up a basic game overview/demo for learners, especially for those who aren’t avid players of games. Teachers should also consider whether they want to require learners to send in their completion certificates after they’re done.
When everyone is done with the game, it could be useful to host a reflective discussion. Ask learners to talk about the successful strategies they used in the game and then list them on a whiteboard. Teachers can then connect what’s listed on the board to essential financial literacy skills, and offer more practical examples. This would also be a good way to bridge into more traditional financial literacy lessons.
In Robo Sellers, learners will get introduced to some business basics — like balancing profit and expenses, investing in a company’s future, and controlling assets efficiently. They’ll need to strike a balance between saving money and investing money in acquiring more robot parts. Along the way, they learn the principles of demand and scarcity as they find that robot parts sell for more when they leave the planet they found the part on. Learners also learn to be efficient with their travels, since traveling uses fuel, which costs money, so digging more than once on a planet is often a good strategy. By regularly checking their inventory, learners can tell what planets might give them a good price for their robot parts.
The drawbacks to the game are at the beginning and at the end. There’s not a great onboarding process. The Helper’s tips do give some context, but there’s still too much thrown at the player too quickly, and it takes some trial and error just to understand the buttons, menus, and basic mechanics. It would benefit from a slower rollout of these things and what players do in the game. At the end, once learners work out how to make money regularly, play can get tedious. While this drives home the learning, it might bore learners.
Overall User Consensus About the App
Despite some vague instructions, it’s quick to pick up, and searching the galaxy for robot parts is a fun way to learn about business and profit. Learners will enjoy having control over which planets to visit and robot parts to use.
Curriculum and Instruction
It covers the basics of managing income and expenses, and buying low and selling high. Learners learn to watch their fuel and cash levels, and must strategize balancing their funds while building a business.
There are contextual tips from the Helper, but accidentally minimizing this screen can send learners adrift. Also, the instructions aren’t thorough enough, leading to some frustration. Many languages are supported, however.