Robotics and coding are intertwined, and are a fascinating field of Computer Science. Robotics is a great way to introduce your child to STEM-based learning at an early age. Before getting into robotics and coding, it's important to know about robots.
A robot is an autonomous machine that is able to perform certain tasks based on the inputs taken by sensors. Also, a robot is merely a mechanical piece, until it's programmed.
We live in an era where many human tasks are now automated as a result of robotics. Because artificial intelligence and machine learning are key aspects of robotics, intelligent robots are more accurate and precise than humans.
You might even be surprised to discover that there is now a robot that is officially a citizen of Saudi Arabia! In October of 2017, Sophia became the first robot to receive citizenship of any country. Also, Sophia was named the United Nations Development Programme's first-ever Innovation Champion, and was the first non-human to be given any United Nations title.
Explore robotics and coding
Find out why coding is critical when it comes to robots, and which coding language to select for robotics. And discover the best tools and programs for your child to start learning robotics.
Why is coding important?
Coding is important because we live in an increasingly digital world. Education is not about remembering the facts. With information readily available at our fingertips, we need to teach our kids how to think rather than what to think. One of the best ways to do that is to give kids tools through which they can figure out the best possible solutions, and coding is one of those tools.
What is a good age to start coding?
A good age to start coding is while a child is still young - often in elementary school. Coding is essential now more than ever to prepare students for the future. When students learn the basics of coding, it opens up a whole new world full of exciting opportunities for them. Learning has no age bar, but we believe young minds are more active and can learn new things easily. Around the time that children start learning to read and write is a great age to start coding.
Does robotics need coding?
Yes, robotics definitely needs coding. Coding is an essential set of instructions that a robot can read and execute. Robotics combines the use of electronics, mechanics, and coding software to program robots to do particular jobs. Robots can easily perform those tasks that humans are not able to perform.
What coding is used for robotics?
Both block-based coding and text-based coding are used for robotics. Coding is the way to communicate with computers. In other words, coding is a set of instructions with certain rules. There are numerous programming languages available: C/C++, Python, Java, Fortran, etc. Python is a popular language for robotics due to its use in machine learning.
- Block-based coding: Block-based coding is an excellent approach to kick-start learners' interest in coding. Block-based coding uses a stack of different shapes of blocks which can be easily connected to each other. Debugging errors is much easier in block-based coding. Scratch, Blockly, and VEXcode Vr are a few examples of block-based coding.
- Text-based coding: Text-based coding is based on predefined syntax: a list of codes readable by a particular language. Chances of error is higher as you have to type each and every line of code. Which also means it takes much more time than block-based coding. C/C++, Python, Java are a few examples.
What skills do robotics and coding teach students?
Children who learn robotics and coding will pick up many skills including strong critical thinking skills. There are different ways to solve problems, and those who learn robotics learn how to choose the optimal solution for the problem. Also, hands-on learning activities increase students' concentration and attention levels. Other skills include:
- Preparedness: Technology is changing every day, and students need to be more prepared for technological changes.
- Teamwork: Kids work in teams to adapt their robots to compete in different dynamic challenges.
- Programming skills: Beyond learning to program lines of code, your child will discover new ways to solve problems.
- Analytical thinking: For huge robotics problems, students have to breakdown the problem into segments, and then find the solution.
- Improve the written and verbal communication skills: Communication is an absolutely essential skill throughout life.
Robotics programming for beginners: 8 steps to get started
VEXcode VR empowers children to code a virtual robot on different virtual 3D playgrounds. Here's what you can expect with VEXcode VR:
- Virtual robots: Using a pre-built robot, users can program drivetrains to navigate, sensors to detect surroundings, pen features to make some creative drawing, and electromagnet to interact with game objects in challenges.
- Virtual playgrounds: Students can select from different virtual 3D playgrounds to try their virtual robot’s features. point of view control as the robot runs code, visual data on the playgrounds' dashboard, playgrounds which includes grid Map, Art canvas, Coral Reef cleaner, etc. are the additional features.
- Web-based: No software installation is required. And VEXcode VR easily runs on all kinds of desktop and tablet browsers.
- Convert block coding into Python: Students can see their code in the Python programming language at any point in time by clicking on the code viewer console.
- Challenges and activities: Activities are based on the playgrounds available. And each playground has different challenges.
VEXcode is a block-based interface, which allows those who are new to robotics to more easily get their robot up and moving. VEXcode VR has different blocks in terms of shapes and colors, which makes it more understandable. And the shape of each block has a specific meaning. Let's give it a try together in a few simple steps!
1. Launch VEXcode VR
Open VEXcode VR on a web browser to code for robots.
2. Start a new project
To create a new project after VEXcode VR has already started, open the File menu and select “New Blocks Project.”
3. Explore different playgrounds
Click on the playground which is on your right-hand upper corner.
4. Choose a virtual playground for the robot
Select the playground you'd like to use.
5. Drag the code blocks
The code blocks are on the left side of the screen. Drag the action block you'd like to use into the center, and attach it to the “when started” block.
6. Run your code
Just hit the play button to run the code and watch your robot move.
7. Watch from different angles
Control your point of view as the robot runs the code.
8. Check out your virtual robot
While you don't need a physical robot, let's take a close look at the virtual robot we're using. Our robot has different sensors which include placements on its: bumper, front eye, electromagnet, and under the eye. Also this virtual robot has one pen that is connected to its center.
Explore robotics and coding courses
If your child interested in learning more about how robots work, or how to use sensors to solve a maze, check out online robotics and coding courses. At Create & Learn our robotics for kids program makes it easy to get started, without any expensive hardware. Our curriculum is created by MIT and Stanford experts to set your child up for success, and they can learn on their own schedule, from the comfort of home. In our Vex vr program, students learn how to navigate robots through virtual worlds and gain a deeper understanding of how robots can be used to solve problems of real-world applications.
More robotics and coding resources
Learn all about STEM robotics: See what STEM robotics is, why it’s important, and where it falls in a STEM education. We'll also reveal some great robotics programs, kits, and competitions so you can jump right into the fun!
Check out cool robotics competitions to enter: Review some of the best robotics competitions for kids, sharing different options for different ages and interests. Some even offer cool prizes!
Discover the history of robotics: Robots, an automated machine that can perform tasks with an understanding of its environment, have come a long way. “Gear up” for a fun story that continues to be written!
Get the best robot kits for kids: Look at the best robot kits for all skill levels, from brand new beginners to seasoned experts. We rate eight of our favorite robotic kits, break down their pros and cons, and help you figure out where to buy these fun and educational kits.
Take the next step in your robotics and coding adventure
To take your coding adventure to the next level, join our Vex iq robotics series of classes to gain a deeper understanding of how robots can be used to solve more complicated tasks such as line tracking and distance sensing. Up next, learn more about how to code mobile games for free.
Written by Apoorva Rastogi, a Create & Learn instructor who has worked as a coding instructor for more than 6 years. Apoorva has a Bachelor's Degree in Mathematics and a Master's Degree in Computer Applications.