A robot monkey made out of bright orange and yellow plastic blocks claps its hands. A train constructed of the same yellow, orange, and red blocks follows a hand-drawn track on a piece of paper. And a clear green alligator with yellow teeth gently chomps down on a child’s fingers, eliciting delighted squeals from the other nearby kids.
But the thrill doesn’t come from the imagined danger. These students are excited because they built these creatures, programmed them, and brought them to life via the Sony KOOV.
“It’s a springboard to spark [kids’] creativity,” said Carly Olsen, who spoke with Parentology during the FutureTechLive! event at this year’s Comic-Con International in San Diego. The Sony KOOV kit combines STEAM education with a child’s imagination, allowing them to create robots no matter their skill level or understanding of coding and robotics. “It’s so approachable and intuitive. And it’s fun. Kids immediately get it.”
STEAM education is the same as STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math — but with “Art” thrown in for good measure. The KOOV Educator Kit contains more than 300 of those plastic building blocks, which come in different shapes, sizes, and colors. There are sensors, motors, LEDs, and controllers that bring the robots to life via a USB or Bluetooth-synced app, which contains more than 45 “Robot Recipes.” These step-by-step instructions show students how to create pre-coded designs, and when combined with the more than 50 hours of educational content in the kit, students can easily progress from basic components to programming logic, structure, and processes.
That’s impressive in itself, but then Sony KOOV takes things to the next level. Once students understand the basics, they can use the skills they learn along the way to create original robots. They can then share their creations and the instructions with the larger KOOV community (known as “Koovers”). So while the Robot Recipes get things started, it’s the students that improve KOOV for everyone.
“It is a safe environment,” explains Naasira Wahid, Marketing Program Manager for Sony Electronics on the Sony KOOV promotional video. “It is not accessible to the entire web. Any uploads that go onto it, when they put up their advice, there is a physical person who watches it from the Global Education [team]. They make sure that everything is checked before it goes up.”
Priced at nearly $520, the SONY KOOV is currently aimed at schools and learning centers in the United States. One kit can be used by four to five children at a time, ages seven and older. Even better for cash-strapped school districts, there’s no need for continual updates.
“There’s no licensing for our software. One purchase gets you everything,” said Nick Tjarksen, Sales and Marketing Specialist at KOOV told Parentology during the FutureTechLive! event. “We are not charging for future robot updates, and we are cloud-based, so there’s no I.T. space required.” The company website offers simple instructions for teachers to set up their account and access tons of support and learning materials. They even offer online and human phone support during regular school/business hours.
STEM and STEAM-based careers are continually growing, and the US is sadly lagging behind the rest of the world. But it doesn’t have to be that way. With creative learning tools like the Sony KOOV, students can get a leg up and have fun while doing it.
As Wahid notes, “This is not a toy. It’s a tool to lead your child into steps toward their future.”