The best way to get children excited about learning new things is by engaging them through something they find fun. Robotics like drones are perfect tools to teach kids about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). There is a reason why schools across the nation are pushing STEM based curriculum because a STEM rich education provides students with the building blocks to become successful adults. University of California San Diego Management Science graduate Hansol Hong has dedicated his career to building STEM tools to make kids excited about learning.
In 2012, Hong established Robolink in San Diego, a robotics enrichment program for children in elementary and middle schools. Robolink supplies students with kits to build drones and robots. These kits go beyond following steps to simply put pieces together for play. Robolink kits are made to encourage analytical thinking skills, something all children are capable of. But the beauty of these kits is that kids use these skills without even realizing they are completing complex programing. The skills are applied through fun and games. Robolink has shipped kits to 1,000 schools worldwide. They have 2 main learning centers in San Diego along with after school programs in 15 different nearby schools.
One of Robolink’s most popular kits is the CoDrone or the CoDrone Mini. Both of these drones teach students the basics of flying and operating a drone, but more importantly how to program a drone. Students learn how to create code for the drone to fly through patterns, do tricks and flips, and manipulate light sequences. The CoDrone is 5.2inches square, has an 8 minute flight time at 65 ft flight range, is Bluetooth enabled, and weighs just over 1 ounce. There is an option to get a buildable remote to use instead of Bluetooth communication. The CoDrone Mini is 3.15 inches square, has a 5 minute flight time at 160 ft flight range, and weighs less than an ounce. The Mini also comes with a simple remote control. Both drones are rugged and durable to absorb impact while being easy to maneuver with an added 3-axis gyroscope and accelerometer.
The whole point of these drone kits is to teach kids how to use programming code. The drone’s code is programed through Blockly, a free open-source software program from Google. It allows users to build code with a visual library of commands. Similar to the coding program Scratch, it is geared towards children as a way to code a program by stacking and linking blocks of code. The Robolink drones are the world’s first programmable, educational drones. Robolink also has a kit called Zümi that is a buildable self-driving car kit that uses AI (artificial intelligence) to encourage people to learn the importance of this ever growing technology. As explained on Robolink’s website, “Like coding, soon knowing about AI will make you better at your job no matter what kind of work you do. Knowing how to use it will be an integral skill in tomorrow’s workplace. Zümi will help make something that’s normally complicated into something approachable.”
The old saying that children are our future has never been more true. Today our economy is seeing more young adults taking over and changing fields fostered by STEM based learning. If you take a toy drone or robot and put it in a child’s hands they are going to have fun. But when you turn that same toy into a way for a child to learn about how to code and program, you are setting them up for great success. According to Robolink’s bio, “We are passionate about robotics, engineering, and education. In an increasingly technology driven world, we believe in nurturing future inventors and innovators to become passionate about science, engineering, and coding. We also believe STEM can be engaging and fun.” Robolink kits have helped more than 10,000 children and adults around the world embrace robotics, drones, coding, and AI in a positive way, a way that will help shape the future.