Ozobot’s pocket-sized, color-coding robot has been a valuable tool for engaging students of all ages in STEM learning for quite a few years now – even in distance learning. As many of us continue to teach and learn in remote settings, STEM resources that can be accessed at home have become a treasured necessity. When we think about robotics, we often picture students tinkering and experimenting with physical robots to create programs and code. Though it’s ideal, having a physical robot is not always an option for every student who is learning outside of the classroom, however, and that’s why virtual resources have become so important. Among those virtual resources is the Shape Tracer game from Ozobot, a cool, Web-based platform students can use to keep their coding skills sharp and learn new ones over time!
The Shape Tracer tool was introduced back around the time distance learning began for many students and we tried it out for an Eduporium Experiment back then. We explored how it can be used in a remote learning environment since it enables students to complete virtual coding challenges from their own device while staying safe at home. It’s a pretty cool interface that makes use of some of the classic Ozobot coding blocks, helping familiarize kids with what it’s like to program an Ozobot or, equally as important, helping them to remember things they may have learned while trying coding in the classroom.
When you open the Shape Tracer tool, which can be accessed through the OzoBlockly program, you will see a familiar block coding platform and the digital Ozobot on the right side of the screen. New since the onset of remote learning, the digital display of the Ozobot allows students to create programs using the virtual bot and eliminates the need for a physical one if they can’t access an Ozobot. On the left of your screen, you have your Movement and Lights blocks (there are just two types of blocks within the Shape Tracer environment). At the top, you will see challenges numbered from 1 to 10 (the green circles), which progress in difficulty from simple to more advanced and allow students to try different programming techniques as they explore the virtual environment.
Your virtual Ozobot is found on a grid made up of 5 x 5 blocks (on a larger 4 x 4 board) and you can see the pattern you’re challenged to create for each level on the right of the screen. Using the blocks, you can build a program that helps achieve the goal, which is displayed at the center of the screen at the top. Clicking on the green ‘Goal’ button reveals in detail what each challenge entails and the colors displayed on the grid are also important to note. These features help make it very much possible that students can use the Shape Tracer independently in asynchronous lessons if they’d prefer that route.
The first challenge in the series requires you to move the virtual Ozobot a total of 10 blocks forward. Not only do you need to trace the line, you also need to program the Ozobot to light up in the same color as the line shown. The line for Challenge 1 is green, so we first dragged a “Set Light Color” block from the Light Effects section to the dashboard and changed the color from red to green. The fact that students need to get the program correct is valuable experience for them, helping them to push through trials and errors and explore different debugging techniques at home.
We then dragged the movement block to the dashboard and set the Ozobot to move forward. The block is originally set at one step forward, so we changed the number of steps to 10. You are also able to change the speed if you want to get the Ozobot to move at a faster speed. The speed at which the Ozobot moves can be slow, medium, fast, or very fast. Also, the direction that the Ozobot moves can be set to forward or backward and the number of steps per block can be set anywhere from 1-10. You can see how the information is displayed in the image below (this is actually Challenge 3).
If you believe that you have the code correct, click the “Run” button underneath the virtual Ozobot. If your code is incorrect, the virtual Ozobot will flash red and make a noise. When you have successfully corrected and run your code, a pop-up message will appear congratulating you and directing you to the next task. It also shows you how to then load that program onto a physical Ozobot robot if you happen to have one at home. If you have the chance to do this, the physical Ozobot would then run the same program displayed within the Shape Tracer environment.
Within the 10 Ozobot lessons, which are viable in remote learning, students are challenged to create different shapes and patterns as well as account for color changes during the run. These challenges progress in difficulty as students learn more about coding and get more comfortable with the Shape Tracer platform and they’re the perfect transition from color coding to block coding. When using the Shape Tracer, students really have to pay attention to make sure they’re programming a virtual Ozobot to light up in the correct color at the right time and count the exact number of steps that should be a part of each block they include.
Though educators may not be teaching in their traditional classrooms, STEM learning can still engage students in a remote environment. The Ozobot team has helped make this a lot easier with their free Shape Tracer tool that anyone with a device can access. If you are interested trying out Ozobot’s Shape Tracer or any of their other learning solutions and would like to learn more, the Eduporium team is here to help. You can also explore all Ozobot products on our store! And, don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and Instagram for more updates and helpful content when it comes to innovating with technology in your classroom!