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Teach your kids how to code with Root: a playful, programmable drawing robot

Is there a single kid out that who, at one time or other, didn’t wish their teacher was a robot? Well, thanks to a team of engineers from the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Learning at Harvard University, that geeky pipe-dream is now a reality. That’s because they’ve created a 3D-printed robot called Root, designed to teach kids how to code.

The idea behind Root is simple: the easiest way to get kids to understand something as abstract as coding is to provide a means of making it relevant in the real world. One way of doing this is to get learners to program a robot; instructing it to move about, perform tasks, and interact with its environment.

Related: Sphero unveils programmable SPRK Edition to teach kids about robotics

“Coding with robots is a dynamic experience,” lead robotics researcher Zivthan Dubrovsky tells Digital Trends. “The robots are reacting to things in the environment, people are reacting to the robot, and the code needs to compensate. There isn’t just one solution, structure, or process that works and we feel learning coding this way is more versatile. Robots are a great way to bring coding to life, and give a physical presence to both simple and complex coding problems. We believe that tactile real physical learning with robots such as Root is the push that will make coding approachable and sustainable in education.”

Here’s a video showing how it all works.

Root’s creators say they are currently in the process of developing a curriculum that will use the same Root robot in classrooms ranging from kindergarten up to college-level. As students become more adept at coding, Root’s interface becomes more complex — starting with a basic “if/then” system for younger students, while more advanced learners can graduate to fully text-based coding.

The $199 robot is currently only available on a small print run using 3D printing technology, but it is hoped that it can be mass-produced and made available to schools everywhere as early as 2017.

We’ll be first in line!