6 Best Coding and Robotics Classes

Ryan Barone
February 17, 2023

Most kids are naturally-drawn to robotics. There is something about feeling the ability to power, move, and guide another thing that appeals to the young mind. 

What many of them don't understand, though, is that true robots are so much more than toys being driven by a handheld controller. They might be exposed to such creations the older they get, and the more TV or YouTube they watch, but even at that point there might be little thought that goes into "how is all of this happening?"

So, it really isn't until coding is introduced to the conversation that light bulbs really start going off. "Wait, so these robots aren't really thinking for themselves?" (Well, not yet, but that's an entirely different conversation). 

Given that, to fully explain robotics and get kids interested in learning more, coding should be talked about right along with it. 

Relationship Between Coding & Robotics

In basic terms, coding is the process of creating instructions that a computer - or robot - can follow, while robotics is creating machines that can complete tasks without the direct help of a person. 

Thus, in the world of robotics, coding is an essential aspect because it is where the robot receives its instruction and how its behavior is programmed. Meaning, the code provides the robot with that important set of instructions that tell it what to do, how to move, and how to respond to different situations.

Without coding, a robot would not be able to function as it would not have any instructions to follow.

Bringing it back to the kids, for anyone who is interested in robotics, learning to code is a crucial step as it enables them to not only think about what they want their robot to do, but also what it's going to take to program and control their behavior and actions. 

Together, coding and robotics offer an excellent opportunity for children to develop problem-solving skills, creativity, and critical thinking; developing important skills that can greatly benefit them in the future.

Best Coding & Robotics Classes

Given the above, coding and robotics provide a natural educational fit, and any parent trying to get their child involved in or the other might have luck with the following courses that feature both disciplines. 

1. Virtual Robotics and Scratch

Ages: 7-9
Tools: Scratch, VEXCode
Concepts: Coding and Robotics
Learn more: How to Share a Project on Scratch

We've talked about coding and robotics, but how about a little plug for code and art—the best thing about bringing code and art together is that if you can dream it up, you can make it real with a little bit of practice!

That's where Scratch really sets itself apart—using visual coding blocks to code your own stories and games! (Block coding is type of programming language where the instructions to the computer are displayed as blocks.)

In this course, kids can code a sprite to move with Motion blocks or change appearance with Looks blocks and bring them to life. 

And then, of course, robotics!

With the VEXcode VR website, kids can learn how to program a virtual robot, teach it how to move and guide itself with sensors, and can even print their findings to a console on their screen. The cool thing is, even with a similar block-based interface like Scratch, learning how to program the virtual robot will be a whole new experience.

Navigate a virtual 3D playground, search and destroy, and more!

2. Robotics Algorithms and AI with Sphero RVR

Ages: 10-19
Tools: Sphero RVR, JavaScript
Concepts: Coding & Robotics
Learn more: What is Sphero?

This course is primarily a robotics course, but one where kids can learn to program their own Sphero RVR which uses block coding (as mentioned above) and JavaScript (which is Text coding uses letters, numbers, and punctuation to create lines of code and programs) as a base.

In addition to block-based coding, students can learn basic text coding in the Sphero EDU app. 

Powered by coding, the Sphero RVR can drive, turn corners, go up ramps, and even change the colors of its LEDs! Here is an intro to RVR by Sphero:

Why both coding versions?  Text coding allows for more freedom for the programmer, and importantly, it is what professional programmers use. And as for JavaScript specifically, it is used in 95% of websites and can be used for programming phones, robots, and more. 

3. Machine Learning Academy: Coding Deep Neural Networks

Ages: 13-18
Tools: Python
Concepts: Coding and Robotics
Learn more: Machine Learning for Kids

For more advanced students, a course in coding deep neural networks will start with an intro to python, and will take students through a few different machine learning projects.

Along the way, students will learn how to prepare data, build networks, train networks, and analyze their effectiveness.

From there, students will learn about and then construct a few different kinds of neural networks, and be able to analyze their strengths and weaknesses, as well as put data through them and test their feasibility. (In this course, students will be doing most of their projects in Jupyter Notebooks.)

Students will also have the opportunity to test out different networks and put data into them to have them do different things. Text data especially can be changed to have networks generate different text. 

4. Academy NEXT: Advanced Laboratory for Emerging Technologies

Ages: 13-18
Tools: Python
Concepts: Coding & Robotics
Learn more: Machine Learning Tutors

Neural networks are a powerful machine learning method for classifying data. By combining the simple classifications of single neurons into a larger model using weights, even very complex datasets can be classified efficiently.

Real data scientists make notes and compare models by examining the loss of each model. Because machine learning always has some randomness, models are run multiple times, and the average results are compared.

In this course, students will understand the basics of classification, while learning about how a neural network models real-world data, and apply a neural network model to classify a dataset.

From there, they can create a machine learning model that can recognize rock, paper and scissors by collecting data for each hand pose, using that data to train a model, and then, based on results, collect more data and refine the dataset.

To round things out, the trained model can be exported from Teachable Machine, and then Python code can be added to run the model to a Google Colab notebook. 

With all of the great class options above, it's summer after all! Check out our list of robotics camps held at prestigious locations nationwide. 

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