About this project
Root is the best way to fall in love with coding.
It takes the BS out of roBotS.
Other coding robots are one experience for one age group and toys like these sit on a shelf after a few weeks. Root is the only robot in the world that can be used effectively to teach coding from Kindergarten to College. Learning opportunities with Root will last years, not days.
Coding with Root is a dynamic and creative experience: Root reacts to things in the environment, people react to Root and the interplay is orchestrated with code. You can program Root to move, turn, draw, erase, scan colors, play music, light up, sense touches, feel bumps, detect magnetic surfaces, perceive light, and respond to sensors in your phone or tablet.
This is real coding for ages 4 to 99.
Root’s app supports coders of all ages and backgrounds. The interface may look simple, but it is powerful, allowing you to experiment in real time with loops, events, and complex robot behaviors. We’ve tested the app with kids of all ages (and adults too) to make it the smoothest introduction to programming with robots.
As coding skills improve, Root’s multi-level app translates programs written in one level to the next, helping growing programmers take each step.
- Level 1 is a graphical interface that beginners of any age (even non-readers) can understand. Colored blocks reinforce its basic "if this, then that" framework. It teaches events, sequences, loops, states, functions, priorities, timing, program stepping, and debugging.
- Level 2 introduces advanced flow control statements like when, repeat, and if-then-else, in order to foster computational fluency. It teaches variables, sensor values, units, arithmetic operations, recursion, and parallelism.
Root's multi-level interface offers learning opportunities to last years, providing a unique continuum of coding experiences. Once all the levels are complete, the transition to any other modern programming language is easy and programming can continue through Root's SDK (software development kit).
We are always coming up with activities for using Root, but we are more curious what you will come up with. Here is a fun list to give you some inspiration. Just like a pen and paper, you are only limited by your imagination. And keep in mind, all of the samples below can be created with Level 1!
Start with paper.
Root drives on any flat, horizontal surface so it's easy to use paper to quickly create fun coding challenges. With Root, you don't need to spend hours building complex robots from construction kits before getting to the actual coding. Root sets up within seconds.
And what's great about paper is that you can save activities to play creations over and over again. Or if you program Root to draw some artwork, it is easy to keep forever and share with family and friends.
Or start with a whiteboard.
A whiteboard is a great arena because it’s natural to interact with Root just by drawing and erasing — change a maze or a racetrack layout in seconds — and Root can change its environment right back.
For homeschooling and classrooms, whiteboards are already there. Root makes setup and takedown time practically zero, with the robot running on the board at the front of the class where everyone can see. And robots have a unique and universal appeal that engages any aged students.
Root beta testing results.
Technology transforms possibilities in every domain, across every field. That makes computing literacy an essential skill for all students, regardless of their future career choices. What’s more, the need for increased diversity in technical roles makes it important to bring authentic coding experiences into all classrooms. Research has shown that early, positive experiences with computing raise students’ interest in technical subjects later on. Root will reach students as early as kindergarten, and grow with them as a familiar and consistent platform as they advance, opening doors that otherwise would have been invisible.
Over four years of development and eight iterations of the hardware, we now have the right collection of hardware, sensors, algorithms, and interfaces. We've already tested Root at the Boston Museum of Science, homes, and local classrooms to make sure Root is ready for this Kickstarter.
Funds from this campaign will be used towards paying for the production tooling of Root. Our design is complete and ready to release.
Root has been certified by Dragon Innovation, ensuring that we will meet deliverables to our backers. The creators of Root are fortunate to be able to build upon a working relationship with the Dragon team that extends back to our former employment at iRobot.
Accessories are coming.
For now, we're focused on Root and getting it out as fast as possible, but we have a lineup of integrated accessories planned. Accessories will give Root even more capabilities, like a camera for vision programming, physical coding blocks to program away from a screen, a communication module to let multiple Roots talk to each other directly, and even a charger to drive onto. Root is an extensible platform that lets you make and add your own accessories with a 3D printer, Raspberry Pi, Arduino, BBC Micro:Bit, or camera.
The root of Root.
Root was born at Harvard University, Wyss Institute.
Our team has over 50 years of collective experience in launching and building consumer products (iRobot, Sonos, Apple) and software/education services (Microsoft, Disney, PLTW, Harvard, MIT). This includes launching four coding robots (Create, Kilobot, AERobot, Multiplo), launching two graphical coding environments (MIT App Inventor, Minibloq), and launching three consumer robots (Roomba, Scooba, Looj).
This project is promoted by Jellop, a direct response online advertising agency specializing in Kickstarter campaigns on Facebook Ads and Google AdWords.
Risks and challenges
Android will not be available at launch. We know this will affect many people and we will work hard to make an Android version of our interface happen as fast as possible.
Level 1 for Root Square is already approved and in Beta with schools using Apple TestFlight. Level 2 Alpha will start shortly. Level 3 is currently in Alpha and starting Beta shortly. Betas for all three will be complete by shipment of Root. If there are any delays to Level 2 & Level 3, we do not intend to delay shipment of Roots. In this scenario, we will provide software updates via the App Store as a staggered release after launch.
While we have been diligent in our efforts to make Root's launch go smoothly, there are inevitably going to be bumps during production. Thankfully our team has been through this before and we know that robots need attention even after production. In anticipation, we put risk mitigation into Root with the ability to update the firmware after launch. We will keep all our backers updated with frequent communication along the way.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
The same Root that we are selling now will also work with Android devices that support Bluetooth Low Energy (also called Bluetooth 4.0 or Bluetooth Smart). We will do all we can to keep the environment lightweight, but obviously better specs can give a faster and more natural-feeling environment. (The low bar for specs really depends on what you are willing to accept as a user). Just as a reminder, Android support will not be available until after launch. We want this to be as soon as possible, but we currently have limited development resources. If you know of any good Android developers, please send them our way!
Our goal is to roll out Root Square Level 1 for Android in June. This date could be affected some by things like hiring, so we didn’t include it in our initial timeline.
Once we reached our goal we will give more stuff to all our pledges as we reach new levels of funding. This includes upgrades to Root's app interface as well as free add-ons that we can include with your shipment.
To receive an add-on simply add the value of that add-on to your pledge amount. After the campaign closes backers will use backerkit to specify which add-ons you pledged for.
If for example, you want two Roots, a whiteboard, and a Root T-shirt, you would select the Two Roots pledge level at $340 but change the amount to $385 [$340 (Two Roots pledge level) + $30 (for Whiteboard) + $15 (for T-shirt)] plus shipping.
Root works vertically on any metal backed whiteboard. These are extremely common in every classroom and most whiteboards are like this. You know if a whitebaord is metal backed if a magnet sticks to it.
By the power of awesome magnets hidden in Root's belly.
No, Root works with regular markers that fit into Root's pen holder, perfect for drawing on paper.
Root also works with dry-erase markers and does not require a specific brand of markers. Standard width markers (e.g., Expo brand chisel tip) fit into Root’s center pen holder too. Root’s color sensors work on a whiteboard with dry erase markers or on paper with any type of markers. Root Square’s Level 1 recognizes the four standard colors red, blue, green, and black; higher levels give more access to the sensors and flexibility with colors.
Of course you can! Root's top is like a mini whiteboard so you can draw on it with dry erase markers and easily erase. This is great for personalizing Root but is functional too. The top of Root has four capacitive touch points and now you can add custom reminders what each touch point does.
Plug into Root's USB port and add your own accessories on top. We love re-using the marker hole but you can also attach magnetic items to Root. Also, we will share an open repository with reference blueprints for 3D printed accessories that fit in Root's bodywork, so you can use them as a starting point for your own designs!
Chromebooks are definitely on our roadmap. After the initial launch of Root Square for iOS, our next release will be for Android. Some modern Chromebooks will be able to run the Android version of Root Square. We plan to work on a specific version of Root Square for Chromebooks after the Android app is fully released.
ROS integration should be relatively easy by connecting your ROS system to Root's TCP/IP server.
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