by Katie Vetro
Technology Integrator K-5
Meet Dash and Dot! Created by Wonder Workshop, they are a robotic duo that help students at Buxton Center Elementary School learn about the fundamentals of computer coding. They arrived at school in the fall, and their presence has been greeted with excitement and engagement since that time.
Dash is the big guy, and has the wheels to prove it. He can be programmed to do a variety of tasks, including driving, dancing, delivering messages, and even playing the xylophone. Dot, his sidekick, sits in a chair. This makes him stationary, but you can pop him out and roll him around. He can be programmed to sing, light up like a disco ball, and he will try to predict the future like an old-school Magic 8 ball.
With lessons from me in the lab or with their teacher in the classroom, students use Dash and Dot to learn coding basics. There is a suite of apps available to us from Wonder Workshop. Students start by experimenting with manual controls in the Wonder app. By using a controller, students can learn about the range of movements and possible activities Dash and Dot can participate in.
From there, students learn basic commands using block coding in the Blockly app. Further lessons include the purpose of and how to code loops, functions, and if/then/else statements. Students put these skills to good use by programming the robots for a dance party or to deliver messages in the building. If students demonstrate a desire to dig even deeper, they can then check out the Swift Playground app from Apple, which takes their basic block coding knowledge and grows it through tutorials and practice with Swift coding.
Connor (left) and Jaden from Ms. Earley’s class
code their Dash for a dance party.
Students have been eager to learn and engage with the robots. As students become familiar with the coding, it can be used for a variety of purposes, such as sharing and demonstrating character traits from a book a student is reading, to assist in a presentation, and more. I have been particularly impressed with the students’ willingness to try, “debug,” and retry as necessary and with lots of excitement.