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Monday 2nd August 2021 02:22 AM

iRobot Acquires Root Robotics to Boost STEM Education for Kids


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In 2016, Harvard’s Wyss Institute launched Root, a robot manufactured as a useful tool for training kids how to code. Root had been under development at Harvard for a solid three years at that point, and after a significant $400,000 Kickstarter showed that they really had something, Root Robotics was spun out in 2017 to take the little coding robot business.

 

Today, iRobot is announcing the acquisition of Root Robotics, in order to “support iRobot’s plans to diversify its educational robot product offerings, further representing its commitment to make robotic technology more accessible to educators, students and parents.” This makes a lot of sense for iRobot, which has historically been a big supporter of STEM education—National Robotics Week was pretty much their idea, after all. But iRobot itself only really had the iRobot Create and Create 2 to advance STEM education straight, and those robots are actually not for beginners.

 

As of right now, iRobot is selling Root for $200, along with a partner app and integrated K-12 curriculum. We’ll take a quick look at everything this robot can do, and hear a bit from both iRobot CEO Colin Angle and Root Robotics co-founder Zee Dubrovsky on exactly what this new partnership means.

 

Root is jammed full of sensors and interactive elements, which makes it both fun and fascinating to use. But from the start, the focus of Root was education—it’s very significant to understand that Root is not a toy robot that also shows, but instead it’s an learning tool for teaching coding skills that also occurs to be a robot. Robots are usually fun to enjoy with, which is part of Root’s appeal, but the reason that Root exists is to offer a compelling focus for coding, turning abstract code into a thing that moves around and interacts with the world.

 

“We’ve recognized coding as a selected challenge, where we’re just not teaching it in schools,” iRobot CEO Colin Angle told us. “Providing a tool to aid kids code is of big interest to me personally. And the ability to use the enjoyment that is engendered by a physical robot is a excellent strategy.”

 

Having a cool robot is just one part of this strategy—the other is establishing a comprehensive set of app-based lessons that will effortlessly teach kids, growing with them as they develop their skills. Root was fashioned to be educational for children as young as 4, in some cases educating very basic coding concepts even before children know how to read. This is possible because you can set Root by dragging and dropping symbols with pictures on them into the app interface. You can only do very simple things this way, but once you’re ready for more, it’s an easy transition to a more computational interface, where the visual symbols develop to offer things like logical operations, sensor values, and adjustable variables. The final step is to switch over to full text coding in Swift, Python, or JavaScript, but being able to toggle back to the more visual interface makes the transition easy.

 

“With Root, we planned to make something that people can grow with,” says Zee Dubrovsky, co-founder of Root Robotics (and now general manager of educational robots at iRobot). “The barrier for entry is very low, you don’t even have to know how to read, so someone as young as 4 can start using the robot. And when they’re ready, they can level up [through other coding interfaces]. There’s a lot of transferable knowledge from one interface to the next.”

 

Root’s robust, versatile hardware and self-guided scalable learning have the potential to take kids through middle school and even high school, but we wanted to know what happens next, specifically if you’ve got a particularly glowing kid who wants to be able to do more. “When you reach the limit of what Root does right out of the box, what we’ll see in the future is the ability to hack Root and develop on top of it,” says Dubrovsky. “We’re also preparing on releasing SDKs for Root.” Angle adds, “we’ll be providing more capabilities to Root over time, which we’re not announcing today, but this is a beginning not an end. Root is a platform that has the scalability to add more accessories and sensors.”

 

While Root is definitely taking the iRobot STEM spotlight away from the Create platform, part of the reason that iRobot acquired Root was to allure to people interested in coding and robotics in a way that the Create was never designed to. Root and Create are for fundamentally different audiences: Create is a platform that you can build on top of, rather than learning on it, and it’s concentrated more on late high school, early college-level hardware projects. At this point, there’s no easy way to move from working with Root to working with Create, but it’s feasible that things could change in the future. In the near term, iRobot is focused on creating out Root’s introductory content, with more advanced content to gradually follow, and we’d love to see an accessible pathway that bridges that gap into a more advanced platform, especially if iRobot decides to make its newest robots (with mapping and 3D sensors) hackable as well.

 

For now, though, Root will be taking advantage of iRobot’s resources and reach to execute on more ambitious plans while scaling more rapidly. It seems like a good match, since both companies share the same fundamental vision for STEM. As Colin Angle puts it, "there is no greater investment you can make in your child’s future than helping them learn the language of coding."



This article is originally posted on IEEESPECTRUM.com


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Posted on : Monday 2nd August 2021 02:22 AM

iRobot Acquires Root Robotics to Boost STEM Education for Kids


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Posted by  Tronserve admin
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In 2016, Harvard’s Wyss Institute launched Root, a robot manufactured as a useful tool for training kids how to code. Root had been under development at Harvard for a solid three years at that point, and after a significant $400,000 Kickstarter showed that they really had something, Root Robotics was spun out in 2017 to take the little coding robot business.

 

Today, iRobot is announcing the acquisition of Root Robotics, in order to “support iRobot’s plans to diversify its educational robot product offerings, further representing its commitment to make robotic technology more accessible to educators, students and parents.” This makes a lot of sense for iRobot, which has historically been a big supporter of STEM education—National Robotics Week was pretty much their idea, after all. But iRobot itself only really had the iRobot Create and Create 2 to advance STEM education straight, and those robots are actually not for beginners.

 

As of right now, iRobot is selling Root for $200, along with a partner app and integrated K-12 curriculum. We’ll take a quick look at everything this robot can do, and hear a bit from both iRobot CEO Colin Angle and Root Robotics co-founder Zee Dubrovsky on exactly what this new partnership means.

 

Root is jammed full of sensors and interactive elements, which makes it both fun and fascinating to use. But from the start, the focus of Root was education—it’s very significant to understand that Root is not a toy robot that also shows, but instead it’s an learning tool for teaching coding skills that also occurs to be a robot. Robots are usually fun to enjoy with, which is part of Root’s appeal, but the reason that Root exists is to offer a compelling focus for coding, turning abstract code into a thing that moves around and interacts with the world.

 

“We’ve recognized coding as a selected challenge, where we’re just not teaching it in schools,” iRobot CEO Colin Angle told us. “Providing a tool to aid kids code is of big interest to me personally. And the ability to use the enjoyment that is engendered by a physical robot is a excellent strategy.”

 

Having a cool robot is just one part of this strategy—the other is establishing a comprehensive set of app-based lessons that will effortlessly teach kids, growing with them as they develop their skills. Root was fashioned to be educational for children as young as 4, in some cases educating very basic coding concepts even before children know how to read. This is possible because you can set Root by dragging and dropping symbols with pictures on them into the app interface. You can only do very simple things this way, but once you’re ready for more, it’s an easy transition to a more computational interface, where the visual symbols develop to offer things like logical operations, sensor values, and adjustable variables. The final step is to switch over to full text coding in Swift, Python, or JavaScript, but being able to toggle back to the more visual interface makes the transition easy.

 

“With Root, we planned to make something that people can grow with,” says Zee Dubrovsky, co-founder of Root Robotics (and now general manager of educational robots at iRobot). “The barrier for entry is very low, you don’t even have to know how to read, so someone as young as 4 can start using the robot. And when they’re ready, they can level up [through other coding interfaces]. There’s a lot of transferable knowledge from one interface to the next.”

 

Root’s robust, versatile hardware and self-guided scalable learning have the potential to take kids through middle school and even high school, but we wanted to know what happens next, specifically if you’ve got a particularly glowing kid who wants to be able to do more. “When you reach the limit of what Root does right out of the box, what we’ll see in the future is the ability to hack Root and develop on top of it,” says Dubrovsky. “We’re also preparing on releasing SDKs for Root.” Angle adds, “we’ll be providing more capabilities to Root over time, which we’re not announcing today, but this is a beginning not an end. Root is a platform that has the scalability to add more accessories and sensors.”

 

While Root is definitely taking the iRobot STEM spotlight away from the Create platform, part of the reason that iRobot acquired Root was to allure to people interested in coding and robotics in a way that the Create was never designed to. Root and Create are for fundamentally different audiences: Create is a platform that you can build on top of, rather than learning on it, and it’s concentrated more on late high school, early college-level hardware projects. At this point, there’s no easy way to move from working with Root to working with Create, but it’s feasible that things could change in the future. In the near term, iRobot is focused on creating out Root’s introductory content, with more advanced content to gradually follow, and we’d love to see an accessible pathway that bridges that gap into a more advanced platform, especially if iRobot decides to make its newest robots (with mapping and 3D sensors) hackable as well.

 

For now, though, Root will be taking advantage of iRobot’s resources and reach to execute on more ambitious plans while scaling more rapidly. It seems like a good match, since both companies share the same fundamental vision for STEM. As Colin Angle puts it, "there is no greater investment you can make in your child’s future than helping them learn the language of coding."



This article is originally posted on IEEESPECTRUM.com

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irobots harrvad wyss institue stem education