Sphero is a ball shaped robot that can helps teachers teach basic math and science concepts. The robot can be programmed to travel across a surface with a single line of code. With this  single line of code, students can learn a variety of science and math concepts. In science, we can teach velocity, acceleration, and force. Students can take measurements in U.S. Standard or in the Metric system. Students can also learn to use formulas to solve problems. This is a lesson taken from my book "Sphero: Coding for STEM".

Teaching Velocity

Velocity is the measure of how fast something is going in terms of distance per time. Velocity is measured in terms of miles per hour or feet per second when talking about Sphero. To calculate the velocity of Sphero we need to know two things. We need to know the time and the distance. We know the time because that has been configured in the code parameter.

The distance needs to be measured. This can be done with a yard stick or measuring tape. It can also be done with string. Students can mark the start and end points of the string. They can then take that string to a meter sick or yard stick that is placed on the wall or other surface. Teachers can help students take the measurement from the string. This can be much easier than trying to measure with rulers and yardsticks if measuring tapes are not available.

Let’s look at an example. To keep things simple let’s say that Sphero travels 6 feet in 3 seconds. In the formula for velocity, we divide distance by time. Divide the distance 6 feet by 3 seconds to get 2 feet per second. This provides a teachable opportunity to discover how velocity changes with the amount of energy provided to Sphero. Change the Speed variable and measure the distance.

velocity formula

sphero stemSphero for STEM

Sphero is a mechanized sphere that can be controlled like a remote controlled car, airplane, boat, or drone. It can also be programmed to perform actions. This is what makes Sphero a robot. It can be programmed and it can react to the environment. Sphero has sensors that provide information about its orientation in the environment.

Sphero is programmed with a block coding language. Block-based coding is a way to teach coding skills without the need to know the text-based equivalent. You begin with block-based coding and go on to learn the actual text behind the blocks of code.

The coding blocks are designed to interact with Sphero. The code blocks go beyond basic actions and provide the tools to develop elaborate programs for Sphero. These elaborate programs use the same programming principals as programs like C and Java. The programming language used to program Sphero is called OVAL. It is based on the C programming language. This programming language is used by my developers.