Sphero, that cute robotic ball that proves that BB-8’s underlying physics work, is more than a toy. It’s a great way of teaching children how to code. Kids have made everything from sea vessels to modern art with the little ball-bot.
The company just updated the SPRK edition designed specifically for tinkering. The Sphero SPRK+ features a more scratch-resistant transparent body so youngsters can see what’s inside. Pairing the ball to a phone is simpler; you can just tap the two together to sync them up. A revamped app also helps teachers hone their students’ programming skills.
The Lightning App allows students and teachers to create and share programs with anyone (think of it as GitHub for rolling robots) so they can do things like power a Strandbeest. The update adds sound effects to the list of programmable features, and there’s also a news feed to keep them posted about new projects to play around with.
Sphero says it designed the $130 SPRK+ and its OVAL programming language for kindergartners and college students alike. Youngsters can drag and drop puzzle pieces into various sequences to make Sphero change colors, roll in a given direction, or perform other simple tasks. More sophisticated programmers can dive right into the code to take advantage of the robot’s gyroscope, motor, processor, Bluetooth module, and LEDs.