Parents who want to help their kids learn about coding and STEM have a lot of educational robot kits to choose from. However, most of these products are either built for older children, or are cute toys without a lot of learning value. Enter KUBO, a small robot that kids as young as three years old can program by using a set of jigsaw pieces.
Available on Indiegogo starting Jan. 11th for $169, KUBO comes with one of three sets of TagTiles, each of which teaches different skills. The robot, which is about 6 inches tall and has a pair of small blue wheels, reads commands by rolling over the tiles, each of which has an RFID chip on its bottom.
The basic programming kit has a series of commands such as turning and moving for the robot to execute. Kids can enclose those commands in blue tiles so that the entire sequence is stored as a function that KUBO can repeat again and again. Building functions is a key element of coding in every programming language.
During a brief demo I witnessed, KUBO CEO Tommy Otzen rolled the robot over a series of tiles with arrows on them so that it could read a function into memory. Then, when he placed the device on top of a play tile, KUBO repeated all the steps it had read.
At launch, there will be two expansion sets with different TagTiles and different heads for the robot (changing the head allows it to follow different commands). The spelling kit comes with a series of letter and symbol tiles. You place an image tile on the left and then spell out the word it signifies by aligning the letter pieces next to it.
When Otzen placed a picture of house next to the letters "houe," the robot rolled over the first three letters but stopped at the "e" and displayed a red light around its neck to show that there was a spelling error. There will also be a music kit with tiles that play different sounds.
If the final version of KUBO functions like the prototype I saw, this robot could be a great tool for helping children in nursery school and kindergarten learn serious programming principles before they can even read and write.