Teaching children to program robots

"Programming is child’s play." That’s the motto of our new German cloud platform "Open Roberta" which simplifies programming for small robots for both teachers and students.

Its a priority to encourage students to program  - and indeed in the rest of Europe. Every year, the German Federal Association for Information Technology, Telecommunications and New Media estimates that Germany lacks 39,000 trained IT experts. Initiatives like Open Roberta are designed to fill this gap, allowing students and teachers to start programming with ease - and enjoy it by making learning into a fun game.

This Open Roberta cloud-based platform allows school kids to program LEGO® MINDSTORMS® robots and control them using mobile devices. The cloud-based approach makes it simple to open the Open Roberta website and get started right away, eliminating the need for any installation or regular updating of PC software.

Researchers at Google and Fraunhofer IAIS have been collaborating since the spring of 2013 on ways to simplify programming of these little robots. The aim was to minimize technical hurdles for both students and the 1,000 certified 'Roberta Teachers'. Our solution with Open Roberta is to put the software in the cloud and open source it. Google.org provided Fraunhofer IAIS the necessary EUR1 million in funding to develop the new program. In parallel with the launch of the platform, LEGO Education introduced 160 all-new kits to be given in ten-packs to schools in the 16 German states.

Open Roberta makes it possible for kids to work on their programming projects both at school and at home, share them with others, and tinker away on them together – anywhere and anytime. At the same time, this approach is of particular advantage to schools, which often do not have enough computers for all their students.

Tutorials soon will be available for teachers on using Open Roberta in ways that meet the diverging interests of girls and boys. We at Google are proud to be supporting this initiative. Additional information is posted at open-roberta.org. To get started with programming, just visit the Open Roberta Lab at lab.open-roberta.org ... and unleash the robots!