Robot School: Programming for Kids

Quality
Education
Entertainment
Value
Child Friendly
Summary
Robot School gives kids a chance to rescue a stranded robot while learning basic computer programming skills and developing a better understanding of how computers work. Along the way, they will build logic skills, observation skills, attention to detail, and other important life skills.
4.6

App Info

Price: $3.99
AppStore User Rating: 3.5

Download on the App Store

Overview

Robot School: Programming for Kids teaches the steps to creating simple computer programs using icons that control a robot. Players are given progressively more difficult challenges and more sophisticated tools to solve them, and are guided into developing sequences of code to accomplish each mission.

Features include:

  • Intuitive drag-and-drop interface
  • 45 levels
  • Teaches programming logic
  • Codes displayed in Swift programming language
  • New tools unlocked as levels are completed

Quality

Robot School is a well-designed app.  The controls are very intuitive, and developers have included a hints section for many levels.  The robot predictably follows the code input by the player, no matter where it leads.  Users make the programs by dragging and dropping cards with commands into the proper places in the sequence, then test their effort by running the program to see if the robot finishes the required task.

However, I had no success with the Sharing feature.  The app claims that programs can be shared via Facebook, but I could not find the mechanism to connect my account, and when I clicked the sharing button, I was consistently dropped out of the app and had to restart it.

Education

Robot School will help children understand the basics of programming code and logic.  Each level is a simple step to add a skill or concept to the player’s repertoire, and players quickly learn to combine skills and apply them to new situations.  Run the code to see how successful the robot will be at finishing the required task.  If the task is completed, the game moves to the next level.  If not, players can modify their code or check hints to see where they are going wrong.

The program teaches many of the basics of coding that are common across the various languages, including loops, conditional statements, and more.  The working format is a visual, drag-and-drop system that allows players to sequence command cards to create the code.  After placing all the cards in sequence, players push a start button to see what happens.  If the code is correct, the robot performs the task, then the code is displayed in written format using the Swift language. This is Apple’s programming language, and is based on several versions of C. However, the translation to Swift is displayed in a very subdued fashion, and most young players are likely to overlook it.  It would be more educationally sound to display the code before running the robot, and to emphasize the translation between the cards and the code more.  As it stands, many children are not likely to see the connection between what they are creating and computer code that makes apps and programs work.

Teaching coding to young children has a number of advantages, even for students who have no intention of working in IT.  At its heart, computer programming is problem-solving within a given set of rules, and this skill is important no matter where life takes you.  Coding develops logic skills, attention to detail, and many other life skills, as well.

Entertainment

Robot School is lots of fun to use.  R-obbie the Robot is cute as robots go, and the sound effects that accompany his movements and actions are lots of fun.  He has a back story that will intrigue most kids, but this is not very clearly emphasized and really only available in the description of the app on the App Store.  You might want to read through it so you can share it with the kids.  The way that developers laid out the levels also adds to this app’s entertainment value.  New “skills” (programming steps) get added every few levels, so it’s like R-obbie is getting additional powers just often enough to intrigue young users and with just enough practice time between presentations that all of the skills get mastered before users move on.

Value

Robot School rings in at $3.99 in the App Store, and will provide your child with hours of productive puzzle-solving and programming practice.  It’s very easy to get lost in this app, striving to solve “just one more” level before putting it away.  The app also will keep track of multiple users’ progress, so it’s perfect for classrooms or family use-everyone can have their own profile.  Nice job, developers!

Child Friendliness

This app is child-friendly.  Every link I checked had a parent gate on it and a message that children must check with parents before going to outside sites.  This is wonderful, but it might be even safer to hide these options in the parents’ section or the settings so that young fingers don’t stumble onto them by accident.  Also, the parent gate involves a multiple choice multiplication problem.  Determined kids would have a one in four chance of guessing correctly if they were trying to get into unapproved territory.  A better solution would be to require adults to actually input the correct answer instead of simply choosing it.

  • NO in-app purchase
  • NO 3rd party ads
  • YES “more apps” (protected, but visible)
  • YES connections to social media (protected, but visible)
  • YES external links (protected, but visible)
  • YES app rating system (protected, but visible)

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