Check out the May 16, 2016 New Yorker for the article A Whole New Ball Game: The Rolling Robot That Teaches Kids to Code. Author D.T. Max, describes how Ian Bernstein and Adam Wilson invented the Sphero robot, and he explains how the ideas were conceived, how Sphero was designed, and the long process of promotion and sales. The article also includes explanations about how Sphero and other coding toys aim to help children develop 21st Century skills.
The comments from Sphero creators and from Paul Barberian, who became the first Sphero CEO, provide first-hand descriptions about working with and expanding ideas, connecting with a business incubator, and eventually starting a viable business. Max reminds readers about the Silicon Valley process — empathize, define, ideate, prototype, test — and how this process is crucial to the success of new inventions and in the schools where students use robot toys to solve problems. The article also includes thoughts from Barberian about how the business is considering expansion ideas, especially thinking about robots that develop personal attachments with their owners — what’s called adaptive personality.
D.T. Max visits classrooms, talks with teachers and students, and reviews how Sphero is used in a range of curricular lessons. More importantly, he describes in some detail how the kids go about using the robot to learn and use code, interacting with the children and letting them tell what they are doing.
This is a readable and down-to-earth piece that clearly explains how the tinkering, creating, and problem-solving goals change in the business and educational worlds. Max’s narrative will be especially useful to share with faculty and parents in any school that is experimenting with and expanding makerspaces and coding activities.