STEMpressive Find Friday - Programming Products and Coding

In continuation of our series exploring and reviewing products relating to science, technology, engineering, and math, today we will make a quick dive into the world of computer programming and learning to code!  With “STEM” becoming a highly sought-after buzzword, there are so many products advertising its membership in the exclusive world of STEM. But do they really belong? We will help you navigate the stores and internet to find products that live up to their STEM claims.

 Computer Science Education Week is upon us!!! 

“What?!”, you say? Next week, December 7-13th, 2015, is dedicated to spreading the word about the importance of computer science for our future and to educate you, your parents, your kids, your students, and everyone in between how you/they can learn to code!  To make the most of your involvement in next week’s observance, participate in the Hour of Code. This “is a one-hour introduction to computer science, designed to demystify code and show that anybody can learn the basics." You can organize an Hour of Code event for your school or community, or just try it yourself by going to the website for the event.

Why is Computer Science and Programming (Learning how to code) so important?

A computer programmer creates the code for software applications and operating systems. After a software developer or computer software engineer designs a computer program, the programmer writes code that converts that design into a set of instructions a computer can follow. Programmers develop code on everything from iPhone apps, video games, industrial robots that build cars, and so much more. Our modern world runs on computers. Think of how many things you touch every day that has some sort of “brain” of its own to make it work. Somewhere there was a programmer that designed it! The next great design or leap in technology could come from you!

So, What STEMpressive finds have been found for coding?

Robot Turtles by Thinkfun



Robot Turtles is a board game for ages 4 years old and up that claims to be “The Game for Little Programmers”.  In this game, each player has a turtle that moves across the board based on the illustrated instructions of the “code cards” showing the turtle going straight, or turning right or left. As the kids (“turtle masters”) put down the code cards, a grown up moves their turtles accordingly.  In essence, this is meant to mimic coding by showing that each line of code (“code card”) results in a sequential outcome (or movement of the turtle).  Conceptually, this game does a fantastic job of being entertaining while children improve their skills in logic and sequence by directing their turtle’s movements across the board.  It does a great job of instructing how to facilitate a child’s understanding of how to get the turtle to move in a desired manner as well as offering different levels of playing the game based on the child’s age and maturity—such as obstacle cards that can be added for more complicated maneuvering. Making mistakes is part of the fun too, which is a big winner in my book, such that if the player wants a do-over if their turtle turns a different way than was wanted, the player taps a “bug tile” and shouts “Bug!” as many times as needed during a turn. After all, debugging is a necessary and sometimes welcome challenge in the life of a computer programmer.

 There is one issue I have with this game—it isn’t really programming. I know, I know; it is intended to teach the basics of programming and not do actual programming. But although I get what they (ThinkFun) is trying to accomplish and I appreciate their efforts in providing a great game that somewhat resembles having logical steps that are also required in coding….. kids don’t get that….. unless they have done actual programming.  

Is Robot Turtles STEMpressive?

Science – not so much

Technology – Has the basic concepts needed for understanding how to code including sequencing steps.

Engineering- Same as above. Strengthens logic skills.

Math – Not really

I will say it is the best board game I’ve seen, especially for the recommended age range, at teaching basic STEM concepts, and it is a well-executed and entertaining game… and for that, I say YES; Robot Turtles is STEMpressive.

 Want to really learn the basics of programming?

Check out this little robot -  Ozobot bit

This tiny robot can detect color changes as it moves across a surface and interprets those color variances and intersecting shapes as codes. Following lines, colors, or programs created through the Ozoblocky simple web-based visual editor, makes this little robot easy to maneuver and exciting to manipulate.  

The Ozobot bit can be used to create games, play with using Ozobot apps, or used in a classroom setting using curriculum developed for off-screen time STEM inspired lessons.

Find out more about the Ozobot here.

There are many other tinker robots at reasonable prices available from companies such as 4M that can do things like move and doodle. Let me know if you have found any other tinker robot gems that you would recommend!


What can you do right now to have fun and learn to code? 


Create your own version of Flappy Birds!  It takes only a few minutes of instruction on event handles and how visual coding works, then you are free to create and share your game!  Check it out here.

What to see your product reviewed on our blog?

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