Today’s generation of kids are growing up in a learning environment much different than it was 15–20 years ago. While the fundamentals of math, science, English and social studies are still at the core of learning, the various technologies surrounding nearly every aspect of everyone’s lives is unavoidable. As such, education tech has ramped up its offerings over the last five to 10 years on what young students are learning.
One company helping to lead the charge is coding startup Ozobot. Through utilizing paper and markers, students can work offline to draw a route for a miniature robot to follow. Each marker color is used to draw on the paper telling the Ozobot robot to move in different directions. There’s also an associated mobile application where kids can learn to write programs and save them for later to share with friends. This California startup located just outside of Los Angeles was founded by entrepreneur Nader Hamda.
As a father deeply interested in the future of his own daughter’s learning, Hamda wanted to figure out a way to enhance education tech toys. Hamda said: “I came with the idea to create Ozobot from watching my daughters be immersed in digital technology. I wanted to find a way to get them, and other kids, playing again with a physical toy instead of passively consuming technology and looking at their screens.”
Too much screen time is a valid concern that most parents today express at one time or another. How much is too much, and what are our children really learning through gargantuan amounts of screen time? This very concern is why Hamda made sure there was a programmable option that involved little to no screen time. Students wanting to learn with Ozobot offline have the opportunity to do so by picking up a piece of paper and a marker. As such, young kids can code with the robot in many ways to learn in different subjects.
Hamda said: “Ozobots have always been used outside of coding. The robot is used in classrooms all around the world, whether it’s for art, English, history, math or science. We’ve seen kids commanding the robot to follow routes on a map to learn the state capitals, go through the digestive system, travel through India and more. We’re currently in 3,000 classrooms across the U.S. and reach about 1 million kids through Ozobot.”
Outside of the classroom, the Ozobot is available on its website, as well as retail outlets that include Barnes & Noble and Toys”R”Us. Within the next few weeks, the company plans to also make the programming toy available through Best Buy. By adding up the sales of the original Ozobot, Bit and newer Evo edition Ozobots, the company has effectively sold over 500,000 units.
With a reported $3 million in recent funds raised, Ozobot is set to have a big year ahead in 2017. Hamda said: “This year, we’ll be officially releasing a rose gold robot, which is part of our larger initiative to get girls to code. For every 100 rose gold Evos sold, we will donate an Ozobot classroom kit to a partner organization. We will also be launching level five of OzoBlockly (based off of Google’s Blockly), which will give players full command of the color language. You will be able to reprogram the color commands to have different meanings, which gives you more programming possibilities than ever before with Ozobot. You will also be able to create your very own Ozojis to send to friends, taking the social features of Evo to the next level.”
In terms of expanding via partnerships, Ozobot has teamed up with Disney to help propel the world of education tech forward with a unique vision.
Hamda said: “We have a licensed partnership with Disney’s Marvel, and we decided to work together because of our aligned focus on education. Our partnership is another way for Marvel to bring their story to life and adds an affordable retail presence with their other collectibles. If you already own the Evo, our second generation robot, you can essentially buy a smart action figure for just $29.95. When you add an Avengers skin, such as Captain America or Iron Man, to your Ozobot Evo, the Evo will then display characteristics of each superhero from the popular films and speak in its character’s voice. It comes with a separate Avengers app packed with missions and more.”
Incorporating superheroes via Disney’s Marvel characters will help learning to program code begin at a much earlier age. With children learning to code via companies like Ozobot, there’s no telling how education will evolve.
Hamda said: “With more products, new features and the creation of even more missions and games, we’re excited for what’s to come. Nielsen says we spend about 12 hours a day consuming digital media. We will continue working toward cutting screen time in half, getting kids and adults like playing again and turning consumers of technology into creators.”