The magic of teaching coding to kids | Lego Spike | mBot Robotics

Based on a Eurostat report, over 50% of the companies in the European Union have difficulty recruiting IT colleagues due to the shortage of skilled professionals. And according to the European Software Skills Alliance (ESSA), among all software-related roles, the demand for developers is the highest.

Photos: Vivita Estonia

At Vivita, we do not train children to be skilled professionals … yet ;)

But we try to demystify what “Code” is? Is it the code to get out of the Matrix? Is it the Da Vinci Code? or Maybe the Caesar Code?

Well, as you can imagine, this is none of the above.

Coding is actually not difficult. It is the translation of a set of commands into computer language. Actually, Coding is as difficult as speaking another language, with its grammar, its word, and its semantics. The hardest part of coding is actually, saying out loud, in our own language the set of commands that you want the computer to follow. Because these commands follow some “logic rules”.

It has been proved that when people learn to code, they learn important strategies for solving problems, designing projects, and communicating ideas.

So we recently did multiple workshops around “Coding”.

And we worked with 2 sets of equipments :
- mBot2 from MakeBlock

Each equipment is different:
- mBot2 is a moving robot that can be connected to a multitude of sensors thanks to the included Cyber Pi Computer (The robot itself is an “extension” of the Cyber Pi which is based on the Raspberry Pi technology)
- LEGO SPIKE are the famous LEGO blocks (More Technic Blocks actually) where you can add motors and sensors, so that your construction can become alive and starts moving.

Both equipment hardwares are totally different. But the language to program them is actually similar. It’s based on Scratch.

It is a coding language with a simple visual interface that allows young people to create digital stories, games, and animations. Thanks to this Scratch interface, we can also communicate with all the robot sensors and motors.

Instead of using programming language with text and difficult syntaxes, kids can now learn to program / code with simple blocks mimicking the same logic.

Photos: Vivita Estonia

For instance, you will have blocks that will make the motors move, some that will activate the lights, others that will measure the distance in front of the sensors … and so on. But the most important blocks, at least from the logic perspective are the loop blocks. And this is generally what is the hardest part for the kids (and adults) to grasp.

Loops are fundamentals: Because the computer generally needs to do the “same” (or different tasks) multiple times. But they need to have a “START” and “STOP”. So loops require conditions (most popular are IF …. THEN … ELSE). Without these conditions, the loop could last indefinitely, or would never start.

So before each task, children were asked to explain with their own words the exact sequence of tasks that the robot was supposed to be doing. Once the sequence was written with their own language, we would start the translation process, and replace words with logic, and with blocks.

As we previously said, Coding is just learning another language. You have to understand how to structure the sentence, you have to understand the words, the interaction between the different blocks of the sentence. So that kids can become translators, translating words / blocks into real physical actions!

Call it translation, call it coding, call it magic … who knows.

But for sure, you can see the milky way in the kids eyes when their robot/construction starts moving.

Photos: Vivita Estonia

PS: We would like to thank once more our partner Insplay for lending us this material and allowing your kids to gain even more knowledge and confidence in coding.

Text and photos: Vivita Estonia Creativity Accelerator for Children and Youth