The Science Technology Engineering Art and Math (STEAM) movement within the toy industry has taken off in recent years, and—if you’ll excuse the pun—has gone full steam ahead. Up until now, the major players in the world of classroom robotics were companies like LittleBits, Sam Labs, Ubtech, and Modular Robotics. Now, one of the biggest electronic commercial retailers is entering the game, with Sony announcing its Koov Educator Kit.
The kit is designed to introduce kids immediately into programming with 23 preset robot recipes, lowering the learning curve significantly. Each kit is designed for a team of five students and is intended for a classroom setting. There are more than 30 hours of learning course content for educators to use with students. It is ideal for children ages 7 and up.
Koov is set to be released at the end of March and is currently available for pre-order. Inside the kit is everything a child needs to start creating their own robots. There are more than 300 building blocks in the form of cubes, prisms, beams, and other rectangular interlocking shapes. The kit includes several different sensors and actuators such as LEDs, infrared photo reflectors, buzzers, light sensors, accelerometers, push switches, and a servo motor. It also has a microcontroller that connects to the robot for coding. The microcontroller is based on the open source Arduino platform. To program the robots, the Koov app uses open source Scratch programming language for kids to program easily with drag-and-drop block features.
Sony’s approach is to focus on the creativity side of STEAM education. The visual learning provided by the kit will engage young students to create their own designs.
The educational model setup by Sony encourages creativity. The students start by using the robot recipes but are encouraged to design their own original creations. The Koov app has virtual robot buddies to help students along the way, providing tips and guidance. As the student progress in their skills, they start to collect badges to record their achievements.
Sony’s approach here is to expand on the “Art” section of STEAM education. Sometimes left out of the discussion, art is an important tool in developing STEAM subjects. Children are visual learners, and introducing complicated science subjects via simplified art objects provides them with context. This angle also sets Sony apart from some of the other robot kits available on the market today. Several of the current kits are fixed in their shape and more focused on the robotic function. Allowing children to build their robots pushes the creative side of the student.