Virtual tools help explore computer science and robotics in the classroom

I am sure everyone enjoyed Computer Science Education Week and its amazing focus on enabling the students of today to create the world of tomorrow. We live in an amazing time of technological progress. Every aspect of our lives is being shaped by digital transformation. However, with transformation comes disruption. There’s growing concern over job growth, economic opportunity, and the world we are building for the next generation. So, the real question is: How can technology create more opportunity not for a few, but for all?

This week we would love to focus on how to bring applied computer science through robotics into the classroom. The skill of programming is fundamental for structured, logical thinking and enables students to bring technology to life and make it their own. Oftentimes this can be a lofty goal when resources are limited, but there is room for a grounded, everyday approach.

Code Builder for Minecraft: Education Edition is an extension that allows educators and students to explore, create, and play in an immersive Minecraft world – all by writing code. Since they can connect their work to learn-to-code packages like ScratchX, Tynker, and Microsoft MakeCode, players start with familiar tools, templates and tutorials. Minecraft: Education Edition is available free to qualified education institutions with any new Windows 10 device. You can check out our Minecraft: Education Edition sign-up page to learn how you can receive a one-year, single-user subscription for Minecraft: Education Edition for each new Windows 10 device purchased for your K-12 school.

OhBot is an educational robotics system that has been designed to stretch pupils’ computational thinking and understanding of computer science, and explore human/robot interaction through a creative robotic head that students program to speak and interact with their environment.

Another key area that we are supporting is in simulation solutions for robotics, to enable lower-cost access and better design practices in the classroom. With these programs, educators can teach robotic coding without a physical robot.

Daniel Rosenstein, a volunteer Robotics coach at the Elementary, Middle school and High school levels, firmly believes that simulation illustrates the connection between computer science and best practices in engineering design. Simulation makes the design process uniquely personal, because students are encouraged to build digital versions of their physical robot, and to try their programs in the simulator before investing in physical tools. The simulation environment, similar to a video game, creates a digital representation of the robot and its tasks, and allows for very quick learning cycles through design, programming, trial and error.

The Virtual Robotics Toolkit (VRT) is a good example. It’s an advanced simulator designed to enhance the LEGO MINDSTORMS experience. An excellent learning tool for classroom and competitive robotics, the VRT is easy to use and is approved by teachers and students.

Looks set to be another year of great new apps in the Microsoft Store and we are excited to shortly be welcoming Synthesis: An Autodesk Technology to the Store.  This app is built for design simulation and will enable students to work together to design, test and experiment with robotics, without having to touch a piece of physical hardware.

We look forward to connecting with you on this and more soon!