Tech Spotlight: Coding Adventures with the Sphero Bolt
Coding robots are an exciting and ever-expanding category of educational technology. If you’ve strolled through the halls of a tech conference recently, chances are you’ve seen them around. That’s why I was super excited when the folks at Sphero Edu offered to send me their new app-enabled Sphero Bolt.
The Sphero Bolt is a small, programmable robotic ball that students control via mobile app. It’s versatile enough for students at all skill levels, so there’s no need for any advanced tech skills or prior coding knowledge.
Getting started with the Bolt is easy: simply launch the mobile app, and drag and drop a few coding blocks into place. In just a few quick minutes, the Bolt is ready to embark on its first adventure. The color-coded blocks make it easy for students to move, rotate and spin the Bolt in various ways. Students can begin adding more advanced variables, view scientific data collected by the Bolt’s travels, and even view and edit the Scratch coding language behind the scenes.
The Sphero Edu app also allows students to view and launch activities created by other users. This is perfect for when you need a little inspiration or just want to see what else is possible. I would never have thought to program the Bolt to sing along to the tune of my favorite 90s radio jams, but someone out there did… and I’m not entirely mad about it.
Another highlight is the Bolt’s durability. With a polycarbonate outer layer, the Bolt is both lightweight and ultra-sturdy. On my first solo run, I misjudged my speed and propelled the tiny sphere straight into a cinderblock wall. Not long after, I sent the Bolt spinning wildly off the top of a table, falling hard and fast to what I assumed would be its untimely doom. But fear not, the Shero Bolt is prepared for people like me who don’t exactly follow the “measure twice, cut once” philosophy. 😉
I haven’t quite figure out a way to sneak a single Bolt into my language arts class with 25+ kids, so I invited some students to check out the Bolt during lunch. Students had a blast sending the Bolt on various adventures throughout my classroom, plotting out courses and obstacles with increasingly complex levels of difficulty.
Within just a few minutes, students were able to figure out the basic drag and drop commands on their own and were assigning more advanced tasks shortly after. The LED matrix display was a particular highlight, with students politely debating the best colors to display while it roamed the carpetside. When lunch was over, students immediately asked when they could come back to continue their coding adventures. I’ll call that a win.
There are so many features we haven’t even tapped into yet, but I’m looking forward to exploring all the possibilities. If you teach a technology class or run a coding club at your school, the Sphero Bolt would be a worthy addition to your coding arsenal. It’s moderately priced ($149) and ridiculously engaging. Having a second Bolt would also be helpful for larger groups or rotating stations.