Learning to code was made fun at the Waseca Public Library this week.

Kids attended an event at the library to learn how to code utilizing the Sphero Star Maps program.

“I think it’s really cool teaching kids to code, especially with today’s technology,” parent Skylar Retterath said.

This event allowed kids to use their own Sphero provided by the library, which is an app-enabled robotic ball that takes commands through codes that kids are able to put in using an iPad. The iPad sends a signal to direct the Sphero.

At the beginning the kids were able to drive the Sphero around the room to get a feel of how to use it before having to code it with specific directions.

“I like it; it’s fun,” participant Piper Fiebiger said. “I would say ‘Yes (it’s a challenge), but not too hard.’”

Once they had the hang of how to drive the Sphero, they were told to find a planet on the floor to start at. The kids were able to code the Sphero with commands to tell it how many degrees to turn, at what speed to move and for how many seconds to move.

In order to give it directions, the kids had to locate which side was the front and which side was the back by finding the blue light. Once they knew which side was the back they were able to move Sphero forward or turn it the correct direction. In order to go straight, the Sphero needs to be set at 0 degrees.

“I like to drive, but I think the programming is cool,” Fiebiger said.

The goal was to move from one plant to the next in order on the floor. If the child was able to move to a few planets Children’s Librarian Brianna Bleeker gave them challenge cards to make the task more difficult. These challenges included adding a sound during the movement that would come from the iPad or making the sphero change colors while it moved.

There was also an option for a few kids at a time to maneuver their Spheros through a maze that was drawn on a sheet set out on the floor. This required the kids to make a chain of code, fine tuned to make the Sphero move through the maze without touching anything.

“It was really good; I’ve done something like this before and it was really cool,” participant Collin England said.

The Waseca Library received a grant in 2017 that allowed for them to purchase the Spheros. These Spheros are versatile learning tools that allow kids to do activities using coding.

The Spheros are waterproof, so the library has done events in the past working with them in water. The Spheros can also be used to paint a marble pattern in a more controlled manner using code to tell it where to roll the paint next.

Reach Reporter Bailey Grubish at 507-837-5451 or follow her on Twitter @wcnbailey.

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