Crashing through castles and other robot adventures



Rolling spherical robots through a challenging obstacle course provided entertainment for participants of the ASU Homecoming Block Party. Some of the younger robot-drivers chose to knock down bowling pins rather than take on the course created from repurposed materials. Still others had fun simply propelling their Sphero SPRK+ ‘bots across the wooden dance floor, which was the perfect surface for speedy drivers.

An Educational Technology Champion helps a girl run a Sphero robot

Representatives from Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College’s IgnitED Labs created the event to showcase one of the emerging technologies available in the new labs. Educational Technology Champions, who work in the labs, were on hand to teach participants of all ages how to connect the Sphero EDU application and the SPRK+ robots through iPads. Once connected, drivers had to learn how to aim their robots to be able to control their paths. Drivers also learned how to increase or decrease the speed and rotate through a multitude of LED colors. After a quick training session, funseekers were ready for action. Several players took the time to teach newcomers the basics and share their iPads and robots with excited, new learners. 

Spheros robots have vast educational potential, which makes them a prime example of the technologies available in the IgnitED Labs, which will soon be hosting creativity, construction, and and play at ASU Polytechnic Campus, West Campus, and Tempe Campus. Spheros provide learners with three levels of engagement. Learners can play by driving the robots, use block coding to program the devices, or write programs in three different languages. Learners can also use JavaScript to program the versatile devices that can traverse water and land. Fun and computational thinking fit well in a variety of classroom settings and content areas, such as science, math, language arts, art, and music. Innovative teachers are using these devices in various ways to engage and teach students across multiple disciplines and grade levels. The IgnitED Labs will offer opportunities for Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College students and faculty and ASU community members to create and test experiences incorporating SPRK+ robots and programming. Additionally, lab visitors will learn and create with virtual reality, augmented reality, podcasting, 3D printers, laser engravers, artificial intelligence, and other cutting-edge technologies.

Learning always has a first step, a ground level. For thrill-seekers at the Block Party, that first step was crashing swiftly moving robot balls through cardboard castles and plastic bowling pins. Indeed, that was the perfect activity for a sunny Saturday morning.