If you follow me on social media, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of the Root Robot. I also really like Ozobot for their screen free coding capabilities, especially given since our K-2 FUNdamentals program is mostly screen free.
Recently, another teacher in a Facebook group asked about the Root Robot and whether it was worth the price. After my initial response, she mentioned that she already had a class set of Ozobot Evos, and felt like their multi-level coding capabilities had her questioning if Root Robot had much else to offer besides their multi-level coding and drawing capabilities. My thoughts are that Root absolutely has much more to offer than those two features, though there’s advantages to each robot that may inform which one you buy. I’ve created a quick reference chart below and will write out some of my thoughts.
Ozobot Evo overview
I first heard of Ozobots a few years ago when I was searching for a simple and affordable robot for a STEAM Lab after school program I was putting together. I ended up getting several Bits, and have since used Ozobot Evo as well in programs. As a side note, it looks like Ozobot is moving to only selling Evo, especially for the academic setting. This makes sense because the capabilities of Evo are much greater than Bit, and that allows for more learning. Evo has two ways to code, drawing color codes and OzoBlockly, their online coding program.
My primary praise for Ozobot is the screen free coding capabilities of Ozobot. As we run screen free STEAM programs for our younger students, this is an automatic bonus. I also feel that their screen free coding, which is done by drawing color codes with markers, is both a little more interactive than coding on a screen, more young elementary student-user friendly, and adds an element of art unique to Ozobot. Having said this, I’ve found that some students have trouble drawing the lines and codes just right, not too thin or too thick, not putting codes too close together or on a turn, etc. This can make some students who haven’t developed fine motor skills for drawing get easily frustrated. In addition, despite that I appreciate the screen free coding opportunity, I’ve found that it is very easy to go through a lot of paper very quickly, producing a lot of paper waste, especially when students are just starting with Ozobot color codes. Depending on the students, they may be rough on the markers, requiring them to be replaced often in order to keep the color quality and marker shape necessary to draw working codes. Pro tip- you can use the Crayola markers to draw the lines and code blocks.
Price wise, Ozobots are a fairly affordable educational robot at $99 for one, $1200 for a class set of 12, and $1800 for a class set of 18. They come with a set of markers for drawing the codes, a charging cable, and an activity book with a few sticker type accessories. You also always have access to their printable and online resources and their app. I’ve been impressed with the quality of resources that they put out, as well as the fact that they invite educators to contribute lesson plans, and their blog is definitely worth checking out. It is possible to become an Ozobot Certified Educator; not having gone through this program I can’t speak to what it involves. Size wise, the Ozobot is a very transportable robot, though if you’re operating a mobile program, you also need to factor in paper and/or electronics for transport.
Root Robot Review
I was introduced to Root at the Bay Area Maker Faire 2017. I purchased one soon after, though I didn’t get a chance to use it in any programs because I didn’t have an iOS platform for teaching. I did play around with it at home using my iPhone though, much to my dog’s dismay- robots are apparently very scary! They since have made multiple improvements to their app, are releasing app compatibility with other platforms including Chromebooks, and have been acquired by iRobot.
There are several approaches to using Root; many classrooms just have one and use it to run one program at a time. However, you can have multiple students involved in coding with Root because they have a simulator program in their app. This allows individual students or student pairs to work on coding for Root without actually needing access in the moment to Root. If you choose to purchase more Roots for the classroom, they have class sets available, with additional features such as naming each Root for quick pairing- experienced robotics educators know what a benefit that is!
Root Robotics have online lessons and curriculums, both pre-written programs and lessons/challenges. If you follow them on social media, they highlight some great applications with Root that may inspire you to do more with your Root. They have an Educator Team Program, with Educator Insiders and Educator Advisors that provide unique opportunities for those committed to using Root in their programs. As the iRobot team is always improving and adding on to Root, if you are selected to participate in this program, you get to be on the front lines of testing out new features.
There are many more robot options out there, but these are the two I’ve chosen to start out with in my programs. I already have plans for the next several robots I’d like to purchase (Finch and Microduino Itty Bitty Buggy are next on my list), and I look forward to doing more reviews of products like these. If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. This wraps up my review, but be sure to check out the feature comparison chart below (created January 2020, some features may be subject to change over time).
Feature comparison chart