I went to the Seattle Coderdojo today as they had a session on Robotics with lots of stuff I haven’t had a chance to play around with before.
They had 4 different sessions; two of them were very hardware specific using a Sphero and the second was for Edison/Arduino.
Then another two sessions covered 3D printing and some AI python coding for a robot called Eliza in groklearning.
By far the 3D printing was the most exciting and productive session. We used a tool called tinkercad which was very quick and free to get started with; all running from personal laptops and inside the browser. The coolest part was that at the end of the class they let people print their creations for $10 with a 3D printer they had bought with them. Tinkercad was super easy to use to create stuff and can even export to minecraft (although we didn’t try that out to see what’s involved for getting the exported files into Minecraft; I’ll check that out another time!).
The arduino class was very disappointing. There was a lot of supplied hardware with external GPIO leds, LCD and such including laptops but for some reason none of the setups (bar 1 or 2) seemed to work to be able to connect to the devices even though they were supposed to have been set up the day before by the hard working volunteers. I spent a couple of hours trying to reflash and connect but it seems there were numerous problems which we ended up putting down to the combination of the linux version (mint) combined with the hardware version of Edison/arduino. Only one person was able to run something to flash the boards and all in all the class descended into kid chaos as they weren’t able to get anything working.
Sphero was fun to play with and see some stuff it could do and how it works. We used Cylon.js to connect over bluetooth to program it. The initial windows 8 devices seem to have problems as well, even though they were all set up the night before too. I bet it’s somewhat related to the sheer number of bluetooth devices all working together messing up the windows machines. I eventually just connected with my mac and was able to program it to move around and change colors and do a few other things (although right after this the instructor had told us explicitly not to do this). I think this is a great tool to quickly mess with hardware since it also has some iOS and other mobile apps that kids can use to pair with the device and get going quickly. I would suggest limiting the number of devices to about 4 for a class though.