The Best Robot for Kids?

June 28, 2016

Is the Ozobot the Best Robot for Kids?

Whether you’re looking for the best robot for kids on the market today or just looking for some cool toys for kids as a gift idea, you’ll be hard pressed to find something better than the Ozobot in terms of value as both a toy AND an awesome educational tool.

Full disclaimer. I am a big believer when it comes to all things STEM 1 so when I heard about the Ozobot a while back, I won’t lie, I got a little excited for a few reasons:

  1. I’m a high school math teacher with a great interest in all things science and programming
  2. I’m an unabashed technophile
  3. I, for one welcome our future robot overlords

Okay, so I’m slightly kidding about reason #3 2 but whenever I get a chance to make learning fun and trick them into learning, I say why the heck not? I bring up this point because traditionally, the world of robotics in education has really been hit or miss, as it turns out, it’s really hard to make a good robot for kids. On one of the spectrum, you have your super technical robot kits where you literally have a bag of random parts that you have to manually solder together. (The biggest problem with these kits is the fact that you lose 99% of your students in this phase alone before you even get to teach them about robots in the first place.) On the other end of the spectrum, you have a kit that is almost more “toy” than it is “robot”. That last part isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but there’s nothing worse than having a room full of bored students after they’ve played with a toy for 5 minutes with 50 minutes to go.

Enter the Ozobot

For me as a teacher, the Ozobot is a robot for kids that hits that happy medium between the spectrum describe above. The Ozobot comes fully assembled out of the box with some accessories (depending on which package you purchase) and it’s pretty much ready to go. In fact, that no-assembly-required aspect of it perplexed me so much at first that I didn’t quite know what to do with myself it first. It was just so foreign to not have to do anything out of the box I sat there for a bit with the Ozobot in hand while I tried to figure out if I missed something in the box or had to somehow program the thing before I could start playing with it.

The reality was, I didn’t have to do anything.

The Secret Sauce

Ozobot internals

What’s inside an Ozobot?

The secret sauce behind the Ozobot lies in its simplicity as it is literally a tiny CPU on wheels. It doesn’t have articulating arms or humanoid legs. In fact, it doesn’t really do much of anything except scoot around on flat surfaces. However, that’s where it’s beauty lies. It’s simple to use and so intuitive right out of the box, I have third and fourth grade students 3 who were able to understand the basic idea behind it and get up and running in a matter of minutes after being introduced to the basic ideas behind it.

So what is it’s basic idea? Without getting into too technical a description, the Ozobot has a little sensor that senses the ground beneath it. What it is looking for is a thick black line to that serves as a “road” for it to follow. The amazing thing is that if you wanted, you could literally draw a road for the Ozobot with a thick black marker by hand (and in fact, the company behind the Ozobot sells a marker set for this very reason).

As it follows the thick black line, it is also looking for specific bands of colors that are pre-programmed into the Ozobot. For example, here are a few “ozocodes” that you can use to tell the Ozobot where to go:

Ozocodes

As I mentioned earlier, you could literally draw this combination with a black, green, blue, and red marker to make your Ozobot “go left” or whatever other direction or movement4 you have at your disposal. And here’s the mind blowing thing about what kids are learning without realizing it: they are being introduced to the basics of programming.

Without getting too simplistic, that’s what programming essentially is: a series of commands that are structured to do more complex tasks.

Yes, one could make the argument that kids are not “programming” in the traditional text-on-a-computer-screen sense, but after seeing both third graders as well as middle school students engrossed in an Ozobot lesson for 40-50 minutes at a stretch with minimal supervision or instruction on my part, you can’t tell me that this robot is worth it’s weight in gold 100 times over (you know, since it’s as small and as light as it is). Although I haven’t done it yet, I would even venture to say that it would serve as a great introductory lesson into a programming course for elementary school kids. Why not?

Tips & Recommendations

Tip #1: The makers of the Ozobot know what they’re doing and who their primary customers are. If you check out their main website (click HERE for a direct link) they have PAGES dedicated to games you can play with the Ozobot as well as a TON of well designed Lesson Plans ready to go for the classroom. If you can get your school to fund it, I highly recommend getting the Ozobot Classroom Kit as it comes with 18 Ozobots ready to go pre-packaged with Ozocodes, lessons, games, a charging station as well as a bucket to house them all in.

Tip #2: I haven’t had any direct interaction with the Ozobot team, but they have a GREAT social media presence on Twitter and they’re always sharing pictures of great classroom action as well as lesson inspiration for teachers. Check them out HERE if you’re interested in following them.

Tip #3: I made the mistake of buying the regular Ozobot which is fine and works well. However, apparently, there’s a different Ozobot called the Ozobot Bit that you can use a visual editor called “Ozoblockly” to program even more complex commands than you can with a regular Ozobot. After I found out about this on the Ozobot website, imagine my disappointment when I realized I had the wrong Ozobot. Perhaps I’ll do an updated review one of these days if I get the Ozobot Bit, but for now, my regular Ozobots suit my purposes just fine.

T4T Buy Rating: Strong Recommendation

PROs:

  • No assembly required. Ready to go right out of the box
  • Simple & Intuitive
  • Teaches kids the basics of programming
  • Ozobot website has a plethora of resources for teachers to incorporate the Ozobot into a lesson
  • Best robot for kids in my opinion

CONs:

  • $50 for one Ozobot can be quite steep especially on a teacher’s budget
  • Only one kind of Ozobot (the Ozobot Bit) allows you to use the Ozoblockly program
Hi, I'm Matt. I'm a High School Math Teacher, Husband, Father of 2, lover of all things Pizza. I'm a big believer in incorporating technology into as many of my lessons as possible. Need to get in touch? You should contact me on Twitter @mathmattics or on my blog.

  1. For those of you unfamiliar with that term, STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, and currently one of the hottest movements and buzzwords in Education today.

  2. not really…

  3. I moonlight as an after school tutor. My students LOVE the Ozobot.

  4. as well as speed up, slow down, or other complex movements