- On Tuesday, LegoEducation introduced SPIKE Prime, a new robotics kit to teach middle school students how to code. It’s up for preorder now for about $US330, and shipping in August.
- With SPIKE Prime, students build robots and use an app to program the robots in Scratch – a drag-and-drop programming language that’s popular as a teaching tool.
- Lego is also planning to release support for the very popular Python programming language.
- Lego Education worked to make this kit welcoming to young girls, as well.
Lego Group’s Lillan Spiertz says that when she talks to young girls, many of them think machines and robots are something that only boys play with.
She wants to change that perception, and instead urge them to learn to code. With this in mind, she helped launch SPIKE Prime, a new toolkit from Lego Education to teach middle school students how to program. It will ship to customers in August, and you can pre-order it now for about $US330.
“One of the most important things is to see how we are finally embracing the girls and creating an environment where especially girls as well can feel safe in trying new things out and trying technology,” Spiertz, Lego Group’s product owner for SPIKE Prime, told Business Insider. “When you speak to girls about robotics, many of them think of machines as something that boys are playing around with.”
With SPIKE Prime, students can use the Scratch programming language to build toys that can move around based on their program. Scratch is a drag-and-drop language that is often used as a tool to teach students the fundamentals of code. This app includes lessons for students that can be completed within a 45-minute class period.
Right now, SPIKE Prime only supports Scratch, but Lego plans to release a Python programming platform as well. Python is one of the most popular programming languages in the world, and is used frequently by professional developers in real-world settings.
Spiertz says the kit is designed to be inclusive. It’s simple to use, includes bright colours that will appeal to children of all ages, and allows students to build characters that can be personalised.
For example, students can learn to build a “Rain or Shine” model, where they get data from a weather service and program the toy to move its umbrella based on whether it’s raining or not. Similarly, students can build a tiny robot that can dance on their desks.
“We’ve been focused on making sure the themes are appealing to the girls as well,” Spiertz said. “It’s something that’s ridiculous to me, being a woman in tech, growing up in this world where there was not anything appealing to girls at that point in time. It’s amazing to see those girls see robotics are not only for boys and see themselves playing around with it and actually feel comfortable.”
Lego also focused on making sure the toolbox is easy to use for both students and teachers to understand by providing lesson plans. While designing this toolkit, Spiertz says the team spoke to many teachers who said they did not feel comfortable about teaching technology in the classroom.
“For teachers, it can be frightening to teach technology in the classroom and to make sure it engages every student in the classroom,” Spiertz said.
Previously, Lego Education has created similar toolkits for elementary school and preschool students. Lego also has a product called Mindstorms that teaches children about robotics.
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