Sphero Edu

Evolving the relationship between technology, learning, and robotics.
The Challenge

Identifying a need for an accessible, approachable, and affordable way to incorporate STEM in the classroom, we helped evolve Sphero’s robotics from high tech toys to learning tools.

The Solution

We launched Sphero Edu as an app-enabled educational programme and delivered the first visual programming language for a mobile device – creating a student/teacher social learning platform making the basics of programming easy to learn.

The Result

Over 1 million active users and 10,000 schools use this platform to teach STEM based lessons. The app’s hub continues to populate with experiments, ideas, and lessons that push the boundaries of learning through robotics.

Beyond a Toy

The core of Sphero Edu has always been about providing essential tools that empower and transform learning. Our mission was to take this to the next step.

From the first whiteboard session in Boulder, Colorado, we saw Sphero’s undeniable passion and the energy they put behind their robotics-based connected toy, Sphero. Our challenge was how we could support Sphero and propel it’s potential as a learning device – moving these robots beyond toys in the eyes of their users.

Sphero Edu Finger Food

Working in intensive collaboration with the Sphero team right from the start, our envisioning leadership quickly identified key project needs. We then set out a clear development process from minimum viable product to robust education platform – ensuring our solutions supported Sphero’s goals.

We concentrated on creating the entire experience as a mobile-first product to expand Sphero’s capabilities and to bring this product to everyone. What we heard, though, was that kids and schools around the country depend on donated, borrowed, and generational mobile devices, rather than tablets. With this consideration we incorporated the optimization of older devices into our build process, ensuring cost efficiency and accessibility for schools.

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"It was and is a pleasure working with the team at Finger Food. This has been a true collaboration from start to finish that resulted in a great product experience."

Bill Cullen
Product Manager, Sphero
Essential Skill Building Through Block Based Programming

We are proud to be the first to design and develop a mobile-first programming language interface. The code instantly relates to a physical object, which makes the learning to be tangible and dynamic. This allows Sphero users to learn programming and coding through an interactive experience which features hands-on and app-based activities.

Our block-based programming language, powered by Javascript, uses an internal colour language that helps assign values––on a visual level––to all of the blocks. We designed the coding canvas to balance aesthetics with functionality. By using shape and colour effectively, we added a visual energy to the product.

Our development team also created a suite of sample programs that introduce coding concepts. These concepts range from simple action commands like making your Sphero robot move and change colour, to complex data-derived inputs from raw motor readouts and on-device collision detection.

By making block-based programming easy to use and understand, we opened up an entire universe of skill building opportunities.

Technology

The Sphero Edu app marries a number of different technologies across three uniquely different platforms—iOS, Android, and Chrome OS (Chromebooks).

Each app is built in its native language, but shares the programming canvases which are built in Unity (block & draw canvases) and JavaScript (text canvas). Under the hood, the Sphero apps use Bluetooth and Bluetooth Low Energy APIs to talk to the different robots. On top of all that, the Sphero app is translated into nine languages. Keeping everything running smoothly is a challenge, and our QA team works tirelessly to ensure that our users have the best experience possible.

Our development team has a mix of backgrounds and experiences, which brings a lot of diverse ways of thinking to the table. The team’s ability to build things in a smart scaleable way, and solve any problem that’s been given to us has solidified a long-lasting relationship with our partners at Sphero.

“Sphero Edu has been the most interesting and rewarding project I’ve ever worked on. Teaching kids how to code using robotics means that there are new and exciting challenges almost every week.”

Jordan Hesse
Director of Engineering, Finger Food
Fostering a Generation of Peer Supported Learning

The success of Sphero Edu is the community behind it. We wanted to empower a global community of makers, teachers, learners, and innovators. Our goal was to help Sphero put the power in the hands of users and foster a new generation of peer-supported teaching and learning.

Through this product, we’ve seen firsthand the power that sharing can have on learning outcomes. Sphero Edu users can author programs, upload media, and share them to the community, instantly. When a product like this can build confidence, users feel empowered to share their growth, development, and progress with the world.

Teachers can create, assign, and develop lesson plans and activities that sync across all devices. They can track progress, review any programs created, or let kids work together to solve problems. Parents can support learning, play, and creativity. A growing list of innovators and community influencers are creating lesson plans that cover everyone from kindergarten to university.

Sphero Edu Finger Food
Giving Back

The Sphero Edu project process made it clear to us that as a company, we have a larger social responsibility. To date, we have donated over 200 Sphero Edu robots to local elementary, middle and secondary schools. But we didn’t stop there. We wanted to ensure the product was not just successfully integrated into the classroom, but also into the lives of the future thought leaders of our community. We wanted to put the power in the hands of kids, teachers, parents and schools to transform education.

We met with school board members, teachers and students to understand what barriers they face and what could hold them back from using this product. We worked together to build lesson plans that leveraged existing technology and worked coding into all aspects of classroom learning, beyond traditional computer lab time.

What we saw went beyond anything we had ever hoped for. We heard from parents who couldn’t believe the passion they saw in their kids. We listened as teachers talked about their own successes in creating female-led coding camps. We’re constantly amazed at the uses people find for this app and we are proud of this product beyond measure.

Together with Sphero Edu, we’re building a global village, driven by a shared passion for lifetime learning, technology, and robotics.

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