Starting a Coding Club at Your Library (4)

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In this installment of CodeDak, we’re going to look at some robots, books, and games you can incorporate in your library’s coding club to help make computer programming more approachable, concrete, and fun. Even if you’re not running a coding club (though you should be!), everything mentioned here could still be used in a variety of engaging educational programs at your library. As a side note, the State Library intends to develop circulating kits around many of the interactive ‘bots below, though these aren’t anticipated to be in circulation until early 2018. We’ll provide more details as plans gel!

Robots and games, no computer required:

Circuit Maze: A single player game that teaches logic and sequential reasoning in an electrical engineering framework. Play pieces on the game board within the constraints of a challenge card, complete the circuit, and light things up: http://www.thinkfun.com/products/circuit-maze/

Code & Go Robot Mouse Activity Set: Tap instructions into the back of a plastic robot mouse to steer it through a maze you build yourself. Appropriate for even very tiny people. Good times! https://smile.amazon.com/Learning-Resources-Robot-Activity-Pieces/dp/B01A5YMCH4/

Cubelets: Intelligent cubes that stick together with magnets. Different color cubes have different sensors, behaviors, and capabilities. The cubes you choose and how you piece them together determine what the thing you build will do. These are honestly a bit difficult to describe, but they’re super cool so you should go here to see them in action:  http://www.modrobotics.com/cubelets/ Did I mention that you can incorporate LEGO with these? Oh, and if you have a computer and you’re ready for some next-level stuff, you can even reprogram the cubes.

Khet 2.0: An abstract strategy board came with lasers and mirrors. Supposedly, it’s like chess, but with lasers and mirrors. What’s not to love? http://khet.com/

Ozobots: Small self-propelled robots with a sensor to discern colors. Different color patterns provide it with different instructions. In other words, they’re tiny robots you program by drawing lines with markers. Cool! Of course, there are also ways to program them with a tablet, though doing so may cause seizures: http://ozobot.com/

Robots requiring a computer, tablet, or smartphone:

Codeybot: When a company’s motto is “Coding Begins with Having Fun” you can expect great things. Codeybot is a darling little wedge on wheels with a configurable display, internal speaker, and pre-programmed dance moves. Oh, and apparently you can outfit it with a laser, because what good is a fully-programmable robot that can’t shoot you with a laser? http://www.codeybot.com/

Dash and Dot: A pair of rugged companion robots that are uber-kid friendly and have some colorful interactive bits and bobs including a xylophone and a catapult: https://www.makewonder.com/

Finch: Ever want to program a flightless bird? I’ve got just the thing for you! Meet the Finch robot: http://www.finchrobot.com/

LEGO WeDo 2.0: Look, you can never really have enough LEGO. WeDo is a LEGO robotics kit that allows kids to build their own programmable robots, combining engineering with computer science. The only drawback is that the kit includes 280 bricks, which can mean a whole lot of parts to keep track of: https://education.lego.com/en-us/elementary/shop/wedo-2

Sphero: A lovable programmable robotic ball with sensors and lights. Notably, it’s one of the few robots dogs can fetch (please don’t do this, though). Sphero also makes robots that tie-in to popular franchises such as Spider-Man, Pixar’s Cars, and Star Wars, so they can be a way to entice reluctant coders: http://www.sphero.com/

Books:

Look, there’s simply tons of great books out there geared towards inspiring kids and teens learn to code and which feature young coders as relatable inspirational characters. This is only a taste, but it’ll get you started:

  1. Code your Own Games!: 20 Games to Create with Scratch by Max Wainewright
  2. Coding Games in Scratch by Jon Woodcock
  3. Computer Coding for Kids by Carol Vorderman
  4. Computational Fairy Tales by Jeremy Kubica
  5. Electronics for Kids: Play with Simple Circuits and Experiment with Electricity! By Oyvind Nydal Dahl
  6. Girl Code: Gaming, Going Viral, and Getting it Done by Andrea Gonzales and Sophie Houser
  7. Invent your Own Games with Python, 4th by Al Sweigart
  8. Hello Ruby: Adventures in Coding by Linda Liukas
  9. Hello Ruby: Journey Inside the Computer by Linda Liukas
  10. How to Code in 10 Easy Lessons by Sean McManus
  11. Kids Get Coding series by Heather Lyons
  12. Little Brother by Cory Doctorow
  13. Secret Coders series by Gene Luen Yang and Mike Holmes
  14. Ruby Wizardry: An Introduction to Programming for Kids by Eric Weinstein
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