Introduction to Block Programming with Sphero Robotics

Document Type


Journal/Book Title/Conference

Association for Educational Communications & Technology Conference


Las Vegas, NV

Publication Date



Myriad gadgets, kits, and activities help students embrace science, technology, engineering, and mathematics concepts. Yet, resources are often expensive and provide minimal guidance for K-12 integration. For over three years, elementary and middle school students in Albany County, Wyoming completed an elective course focused on basic programming through Sphero robotics. During nine-week sessions, groups of 5-15 students programmed Sphero robots to solve various challenges. Students began the class by familiarizing themselves with the robots. They learned how to connect them to tablets or smartphones. They also learned how to control them with block programming commands. First, learners programmed robots to create basic shape patterns of increasing difficulty (e.g., squares, rectangles, triangles, stars, hearts). Following these tasks, they were introduced to loops, variables, and functions and presented with unique challenges. Students programmed hot potato games, self-navigating robots, robots that changed color when tossed, and more. They also designed pictures and programmed robots to paint them with diluted finger-paints or through high-exposure photography. This session will recreate a selection of these activities as attendees explore basic block programming and robotics. During this hands-on session, attendees will receive an introductory course about how to use block programming with Sphero robots; how to create basic shapes using roll, delay, and change color commands; and how to use simple loop commands and variables. To personalize their programs, attendees will explore audio, spin, and raw motor commands. Time permitting, attendees will also create a simple hot potato game. Additionally, all lessons developed for the nine-week elective course will be made available to attendees—allowing further exploration of block programming beyond this session and providing support for developing related programs in their own teaching settings. Although emphasis will be placed on hands-on exploration, presenters will share their perspectives of the experience, focusing on lessons learned. Indeed, student learning is only half of the story. How do teachers teach new technologies when they have minimal prior experience using them? How tech savvy should teachers be prior to enacting STEAM-based activities? Where can teachers turn for help when there is no available expert? How do they locate and develop effective support communities? The purpose of this presentation is to play with robotics while introducing our story, sharing advice, and brainstorming ideas. During the session, attendees (either alone or in small groups) will use one of 15 Sphero Bolt Robots. However, they should come to the session having downloaded the most recent version of the “Sphero Edu” app on their smartphone, tablet, or computer (available as a free download from Google Play, App Store, Microsoft Store, Mac App Store).

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