“Coding should be taught as a fundamental skill, just as reading, writing, and math are,” says Wonder Workshop founder and CEO Vikas Gupta. “We can’t even imagine what coders in 10, 15 years will be capable of, just as we couldn’t imagine what the internet would become when it was created.”
Gupta and his team brought along 10 of its Cue robots to a hands-on workshop Wednesday during the Fast Company Innovation Festival to demonstrate how to get kids hooked on the crucial skill. The Cue CleverBots are specified for ages 11 and up, but even adults at the demo found them engaging. Cue is the STEM educational company’s newest robot, and follows its much-lauded Dash and Dot bots geared toward kids ages 6 and up.
Cue is controlled through a companion app that works either on a smartphone or an iPad. It uses a visual drag-and-drop block programming language called Blockly to control the robot to do various actions, such as rolling forward and backward at specific distances, avoiding obstacles, singing, flashing with several colored light combinations, spinning its head, and telling stories.
By using a fun, interactive robot to teach kids programming, Wonder Workshops take the tedium out of the early stages of learning how to code. Kids can get instant reactions out of the robot, and get exciting feedback as they learn to unlock the various levels in the coding palette.
One avenue Wonder Workshop uses to reach as many kids possible is through the Wonder League, a partnership hub that connects a worldwide community of more than 12,000 educators and students. And the company is also sponsoring a robotics competition, where kids work in programming teams on three missions over a five-month period to possibly become eligible for next spring’s Invitational Round. The robotics competition allows kids to design solutions to real-world science and tech challenges by using Wonder Workshop’s original robots, Dash and Dot.
At the festival workshop, attendees became focused and engaged as Gupta and his team taught everyone to move through the various coding parameters of Cue. It became clear that even adults can have fun as they learn to code.
“Kids today have far more access to technology than we did growing up, and tech at the pace it’s moving now,” says Gupta. “And in that world, in the 21st century, how can we help our kids to grow up to become the innovators and inventors of the future? That was the reason we founded the Wonder Workshop and the fundamental reason we wanted to teach kids to code at a young age.”