Learning to code can be as fun as driving a drone
Drone usage is on the rise. Various industries and business have started incorporating them in their workplace culture. Routine and scheduled repetitive tasks can be automated and achieved faster, more effectively and efficiently by use of a drone.
Some areas in which drones are currently being used include: monitoring agricultural farms, delivering small packages, transport of people, video recordings, and of course as a toy.
For many industries, the innovation processes can be challenging. The cost of implementing new technology is expensive and the industry has low investment, traditional methods are providing good results and/or the system has always worked in that way to why change it…
The era of the Internet brought many new and different learning concepts to the table leaving the traditional teaching methods in the past. Which is why, even in an industry as traditional as education, drones can be extremely beneficial.
Google, MIT, and Berkeley have been developing open source libraries and visual programming languages to teach young children the logical process behind solving problems. Instead of writing the code from zero, these visual programming languages allow the student to drag and drop boxes that represent a certain action or logical decision. By chaining several of them together they are able to achieve their objective.
Google’s library, Blockly, allows programmers to create their own kind of blocks for their particular problem and exports the blocks to several popular languages such as:
Blocky’s approach of translating a block into some of these languages is very convenient. Especially when working a specific drone API.
Drones are currently being used at well- known institutions to facilitate the process of sequential and logical thinking so, how can we teach kids to code with drones?
At Wolox we developed Dronit, an educational platform that allows players to control the movement of the Drones using block programming. We aimed to mix the game spirit without losing the teaching approach.
Dronit is a web app where the player drags and drops boxes with drone commands (forward/backward, turn right/left, go up/down, etc), logical conditions and add loops.For those who are unable to access a drone, you can run the finished block code on the web app simulator (Dronit platform). Those who have access to a drone can perform the same routine on the physical drone through Bluetooth.
- Large colored shapes: 4 rectangles, 4 triangles, and 4 circles scattered all over the floor (One of each color).
- A deck of cards with the same shapes
- Parrot MiniDrone
- Dronit Web app
How the game works
The player chooses 3 cards from the deck in a specific order. The drone is then placed on the floor, the player must drag and drop Actions and Logical blocks in a sequential order aiming to direct the drone to the corresponding shapes that match the cards he/she took from the deck.
What makes Dronit unique is that every child that plays has a different solution for the same problem, depending on the cards they chose. Some may decide first to move the drone backward and afterward to the right, others may choose to turn the drone on the same axis so that it can move forward and afterward changing direction. Every child picks cards in a different order from the shuffled deck, providing many alternatives.
Depending on the student’s age and previous knowledge more complex scenarios can be developed. For example, there are blocks (as shown in the image above) where one can make loops. In other words, repeat the exact same sequence a certain number of times or add conditions according to the selected shapes.
If you happen to choose a blue card you should repeat the flow 5 times. This challenges the player to use the sequence created by the blocks to determine whether they should or should not use a loop or just repeat the sequence once.
The idea behind Dronit is to create a simple and fun approach to teaching children new technologies, allowing them to understand that with an easy logical sequence and a few instructions they can learn to automate tasks and control a drone. The combinations and different possible applications of these tools are vast; with creativity and imagination playing a huge role.
Learning at a young age logical thinking processes will help not only future engineers and mathematicians but allow children to acquire lifelong skills.
We teach the basics, they construct the future.