Coding and robotics, a bridge too far?

Technology is becoming an increasingly important part of our daily lives. Among the fastest growing branches of technology is robotics, which deals with design, construction, and robotics operations. A robot is a machine that mimics a human being and can simulate certain human gestures and functions using computer instructions. 

According to O’Regan (2015), George Devol was the first industrial robot developer and the founder of the first robotics company, Unimation. Since then, robotics use has grown because of its applicability in the surgery, manufacturing, and transportation industries.

On 9th July 2022, Edu tab Africa organized a day-long open robotics event for 8-12-year-old children in partnership with Africana Yard Cottages in Kitale, Kenya to introduce robotics and coding concepts to curious minds.

The first session was playing the robot game using resources drawn from one of our partners’ Education Above All’s Internet Free Education Resource Bank (IFERB). This game used unplugged STEAM activities to teach basic programming concepts through gameplay activities. The children worked in small groups to enhance social interactions and collaboration while writing instructions on how to command a robot. They learned basic programming concepts, such as sequencing and repetition in a maze.

We then showed a robotics video clip to the children to help them build background knowledge on robotics and their applications in Africa and to help them visualize the application of robots in health in Rwanda during the COVID-19 pandemic. These robots measured temperatures and provided directions to various locations in the hospital, reducing direct contact between doctors and patients.

After watching, it was time to pause, reflect, and talk about what they had seen in small groups of four.

Following the game and the video, it was time to dive into Lego robots, which are effective ways to introduce children to coding principles and ideas such as logic and engineering elements through robotics.

Children made “wow!” faces as soon as they started interacting with building blocks from Lego Spike. It was the first time some of them were interacting with robots. Each group chose eight primary tools—three motor blocks, four tires, and sensors—to create something they could call a robot, limited only by their imagination. The blocks, sensors, and motors challenged the children to improve their motor, coordination, and creativity skills.

It was interesting to observe children delegating tasks such as who would be in charge of putting the pieces together and discussing what the end product should resemble.

After building the robots, the children began coding them using the visual drag-and-drop programming tool LEGO Education Spike Prime. It was an excellent opportunity for the kids to learn that robots do not and cannot think for themselves. They logically programmed their robots to move in different directions, make sounds, and turn lights on and off using color sensors. Some challenges arose while programming the robots, resulting in complaints or frustration. This frustration transformed into innovation and problem solving as seen by what the robots did at the end.

The children then presented their creations in front of an eager audience. You could observe joyous learning experiences as they displayed their robots in ways that showed the acquisition of vital soft skills and pride in their imaginations in the learning process.

Some parents remained back to observe and learn about robotics. Parental engagement in children’s education has been key to Edutab Africa while implementing programs and in research. When schools and other education stakeholders look at parents from a strong point lens, parents become partners with whom we can work together to support and improve learning and development, thus improving learner achievement in STEAM. Therefore, this event was an excellent opportunity for parents to learn how they can assist their children in making the most of emerging technologies and learning methodologies today and in the future. That said, we must strive to support parents who conquer informational and social barriers to be firm bases in children’s learning.

The day ended with a reflective moment, with parents pointing out important issues such as parental involvement in education and the importance of community STEAM programs. 

“My child asked me when this event was going to happen again because she had a good time,” parent.

“I was pleased to see children use the computer program to connect objects and make them move,” parent. 

We thank everyone who helped make the event a success, especially the parents who brought their children to the session and Afrikana Yard Cottages for hosting this event.

Please let us know if you are keen on bringing our STEAM camps or after-school programs to your school or community.


O’Regan, G. (2015). Unimation. In Pillars of Computing (pp. 219-223).

Springer, Cham.Mikami, H., Ide, K., Shimizu, Y., Senoo, M., & Seki, H. (2011). Historical evolution of motor technology. Hitachi Review, 60(1), 39.