Orbotix's education initiative bright SPRK gets the ball rolling

After just a month and a half, Orbotix's education initiative using Sphero to teach children programming is gathering serious momentum.

Schools, Parents, Robots, Kids: these are behind SPRK, the education initiative launched in April by Orbotix, the company that designed Sphero. It uses the robotic ball -- which can be controlled over Bluetooth using smartphone apps -- to teach basic programming via an eight-week course, which include YouTube videos and two apps: orbBasic, in which you write your own programs, and MacroLab, which allows you to create presets to execute basic commands.

And teachers and kids, Orbotic co-founder Ian Bernstein said, are loving it. He dropped by CNET's offices to show off Ollie, the upcoming new toy -- a cylinder designed for trick driving -- and to give a demonstration of the Macrolab app.

Schools themselves aren't all on board yet -- although the number is increasing -- but Orbotix is finding that teachers are going out themselves and purchasing Sphero for their classrooms. And, speaking in Australia at the Vivid Sydney festival, Bernstein was recognised by excited kids who have been following the program.

It's only in its early days yet, but Bernstein told CNET that SPRK definitely has long-term legs. "We'll be releasing new updates all the time, so they'll have a reason to keep coming back.

Check out the video above for a demonstration of Ollie, which is due out in October this year, and to see how Macrolab teaches kids about what programming actually does. You can find out more about the SPRK program on the Orbotix website.

 

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