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Beep…boop…whirrrr

May 22, 2019

Robots were on the move Tuesday morning, but before they took off, they needed to know where to go. That’s where eighth graders from St. Mary school in Sterling stepped in when they took a class during a STEAM day at Morrison Institute of Technology. They plotted a course on the ground, programmed the little robot, and watched it go. And if it didn’t go where they wanted, they tweaked the code to ensure the proper path was followed.The small Sphero SPRK+ robot can be programmed in three ways, each more advanced than the last. A simple drawn line can be followed, or a series of Scratch blocks can be dropped in sequence using an app on a phone or tablet. These blocks are pre-made blocks of computer code that students can add some variables to customize. For example, one block is “On Start Program,” which is used to begin any program. Then, a “Roll” block can be used with variables for time, distance and angle. A block also can set the color of the robot, tell the robot to stop, and more. The challenge for the students was to get the robot to follow lines, make turns and stop at pre-determined points along the path. Once students learned the blocks, they could learn how to program the robot with JavaScript, which allows for infinite possibilities and precise adjustments the blocks do not provide.