Adorable tiny codable robots - A review of the Ozobot Bit
Meet Ozobot Bit, a stylish miniature robot to accompany your adventure into a unique platform of coding and creativity! At first glance, the Ozobot is a compact and charming toy, and I’m excited to find out more about what it can do.
Diving into the box
There are a few main components that can be found within the box, and they can be categorised into Ozobot-related items and items that provide instruction and playing fields.
Ozobot Bit essentials
Firstly, there is the Ozobot Bit itself! It is a miniature robot encoded to read and follow blue, black, red, and green paths that determine their speed, movement and direction. The Ozobot is compact, easy to manoeuvre and keep, on top of being cute and appealing. Its mobility allows it to respond by "dancing" to coding. Furthermore, it can flash brightly coloured lights corresponding to the colour of the path, such as in the picture to the right, which increases its visual interest, especially for children. This robot can read colour coding well on both tablets and traditional surfaces such as paper.
It charges fast and comes with a micro:USB cable, which is commonly used for electronics and therefore easily replaceable. It is elegantly designed, a smooth dome shape with only one button to operate, serving the dual function of power button (press) and calibration button (long press). The calibration process is extremely simple and explained in a mini guide, therefore children can independently operate and care for the device. Colour signals of white for initializing calibration, green for correctly calibrated, blue for moving, and red for try again, is intuitive and user friendly. Once powered on and calibrated, the robot automatically responds to paths without further need for instruction.
Ozobot Bit accessories
The Ozobot comes with several accessories, such as a rubber helmet, stickers and other decorative attachments.
The Ozobot is therefore customizable with brightly coloured stickers in varied designs from skulls to ribbons - even before unboxing I was charmed by the cute rabbit ear attachment displayed on the packaging. Unlike the stickers however, the attachments require additional adhesives to be used on the ozobot helmet.
Coloured markers required to code the Ozobot are provided, and it is recommended to use the provided markers as it has the exact tone that the Ozobot reliably responds to. For black paths however, any reasonably sized and filled black surface functions perfectly.
For example, when I drew the line width experiment in the picture on the right, I used a black permanent black that was not provided in the box. The advantage of using the provided black marker is seen in the full diagram below, where the provided black marker was used and therefore the line width is consistent and the Ozobot responds perfectly. The markers expand the range of possible play, allowing the Ozobot Bit to be played with on both a small surface like the pages provided, or a large playing area for extended games. As such, it can easily be taken out of the game pages to create your own games such as board games, races with other ozobots, simulation games, mazes or even Ozobot performances!
Games and Guides
There is also a user guide booklet, and a loose-leafed stack of games and brain teasers with simplified diagrams and interactive instructions. The games are illustrated clearly, which makes it very easy to follow and thus makes it suitable for children to play with independently. The play surfaces are included with the instructions which allows children to immediately test out what they have learnt. If the game sheets are followed in numerical order, there are clear lessons on programming concepts to follow. For example, diagrams of intersecting lines are presented to allow for random selection of paths, allowing children to learn conditional probability and later, manipulate the provided stickers to choose a path for the robot. This will challenge them to think ahead to produce their desired outcome. Many of the mazes provided a challenge for children to draw their own lines or use command stickers on existing lines to bring the Ozobot from point A to point B, thus teaching them creative problem solving as well as practical goal-oriented application of coding.
Although the game sheets are easy to use and have clear illustrations and instructions, it is not packaged well, as loose leafed paper stacks are difficult to keep track of and review. Good for attempting in one go but difficult to keep and even more difficult to retrieve. Fortunately, the strength of the product lies in its versatility, which means that gameplay can go just as well and the game sheets only serve as optional guides that do not require repeated usage.
Sticker pack for coding
Stickers of different colour patterns are provided for convenience, and also because it is more reliable than drawing the codes by hand. The order of the coloured units form a pattern that is picked up by the ozobot, sending instructions ranging from movement to light and dance. As these are patterns, the order matters, and an Ozobot travelling from the opposite direction of a unique code may pick up a different instruction. This is intentional, and used in commands such as Timer On (30s to stop) in Red, Black, Blue Green, and the opposite order for Timer Off.
There is a transparent plastic covering to place the stickers on the layer above the paper like in the above picture, which makes sticker usage neat and reusable. When applied to the game sheets, this plastic covering allows the game sheets to be reused, thus increasing replay value.
Block Programming Ozoblockly
It is also possible to program and code Ozobot Bit utilizing the OzoBlocky program on the official ozobot.com/ozoblockly website. After doing block coding by dragging action blocks in a string, the Bit is placed on the display screen to load the data. This allows more elaborate games and usage of the Ozobot. There are also pre-programmed coding on the site that can be downloaded for play, and to serve as an example of what Ozoblockly can do, such as the example below. However, children may require additional guidance to access and use this site as it is not as intuitive or user-friendly as the colour coding stickers.
The Ozobot Bit successfully blends art with basic concepts of programming, thus becoming not just a versatile and novel toy, but a valuable teaching tool in basic coding applications and creative problem solving. The game is easy to understand and most components require minimum explanation to use, making it very accessible to children. The playing field is limited only by how much the user can cover in black paths, making it a very flexible product that encourages creativity and imagination in how it can be used. This product can easily occupy children’s time and attention with the various attractive features, and generate excitement for technology. However, this product is also more durable as a toy than an educational tool. As a game, it is replay-able but the learning experience stagnates once you play it a few times. Recommended as a beginner teaching tool or toy for kids, mainly to inspire interest for STEM careers or for teachers to use as teaching aid to engage children
This review was written by Jing Ting, awaiting university to start. She'll be double majoring in English Literature and Art history at NTU.