Sphero’s New Rolling Robot Improves on Original

(Photo: 9 to 5 Toys)

(Photo: 9 to 5 Toys)

Sphero has announced the launch of the second edition of its educational Spark robot, the Sphero Spark Plus (SPRK+). Like the original, the robot is a rolling ball that can be controlled through the use of a mobile app. However, the new edition features a tougher, more scratch-resistant skin, as well as a more advanced version of Bluetooth that makes it easier to pair with multiple users in a classroom setting.

The original robot launched in 2011 has been a popular teaching device in use in over 1,000 schools across the US and Canada as an educational assistant that helps students learn about robotics and computer programming. Aside from the new features, the updated version is the same in terms of size, battery life, and capability. Sphero Spark+ works with the Lightning Lab app to teach children coding through play and witnessing the impact in a real physical space. Users can program sequences of actions through the use of drag-and-drop commands. Older students can also take a look at the actual code with just a click, writes Ben Popper for The Verge.

The update was created for all students to use from kindergarten through college. Younger students can drag and drop puzzle pieces in various patterns that make Sphero change colors, roll, or perform a number of other simple tasks. Meanwhile, those with more experience will be able to make use of the robot's gyroscope, motor, processor, Bluetooth module, and LEDs, writes John DiPietro for NHVoice.

A collection of predesigned codes are included in the app. While some of these are designed by the creators of the app, others are offered by members of the community. A section for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) challenges is also included in the app. While the robot stays quiet most of the time, new programmable sounds have been added to the app that allow the device to make beeping sounds.

SPRK+ is also water resistant, offering some protection if the robot ends up in the pool. In addition, the body is now shockproof, allowing the device to be saved when played with a little too roughly. The Bluetooth function has also been improved upon to offer easier connectivity with a tablet or smartphone. The update was made in an effort to allow several Sphero to be connected to a tablet in order to demonstrate a program to a class.

Android, iOS, or Amazon Fire tablets are all capable of being used as remotes for the device to spin the motors at different speeds and in various directions.

A report published in Wired revealed, "The company just updated the SPRK edition designed specifically for tinkering. The Sphero SPRK+ features a more scratch-resistant transparent body so youngsters can see what's inside. Pairing the ball to a phone is simpler; you can just tap the two together to sync them up. A revamped app also helps teachers hone their students' programming skills."

In addition, the Lightning App now allows students and teachers to create and share programs with anyone. A news feed is also included that lets users to stay up to date with new projects available for use.

The robot comes at a base price of $129, although accessories, such as the chariot that allows Lego figures to be built and attached, come at an extra cost.

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