This isn’t the first time I’ve had the pleasure of using a Sphero. Our former editor introduced me a few years back and showed me how durable and entertaining these toys were. I was jealous, to be honest, I would have loved this as a kid and could see myself playing with one for hours.
So when I heard Sphero was introducing a new Sphero that teaches children (and adults!) how to code, I decided it was time to dive into the world of robotics for science (but mostly for fun.)
Meet the Sphero SPRK Edition, SPRK stands for School-Parents-Robots-Kids and the idea behind releasing another iteration of Sphero is to make learning fun in a way textbooks simply can’t do, by interaction and through fun.
The SPRK Edition comes in a clear casing made of polycarbonate that allows the owner to see how the Sphero is built, and how it works in motion. It’s the same Sphero that’s been released before, but, it’s not what makes this one special, it is the app that was created for the SPRK Edition that really makes this one shine. Side note: you can use a ton of the already available apps through the App Store in addition to the SPRK app, so, go out and enjoy them!
While the SPRK is aimed towards kids, the whole thing can definitely be geared towards adults who are looking to break into coding. There is a ton to learn by simple drag and drop commands, or, by a more advanced text-based mode for those who wish to view what the code looks like behind the blocks.
The SPRK app or Lightning Lab, by proper name, is the hub of where the real fun is. You start out by creating a new program and from there can start creating simple programs by dragging a command (or block) from the bottom of the app to the top in a sequential order. You can set the speed or the Sphero, or what happens when you collide with a wall or drop the Sphero, does it change to a certain color? The block-based programming is simple to pick up allows the user to view properties of each action.
The SPRK app experience lets you give your robot orders with visual blocks representing code – our own C-based language called OVAL. Immediately see the connection between the program you created and how the guts of your Sphero work and react. Sphero SPRK Edition will inspire a love of robotics, coding, and STEM principles… all through play.
Straight from Sphero, they have developed a fun way to bring coding to children by developing the OVAL language.
There are sample programs created to give some ideas on where to begin your journey to programming too, and provide a good foundation on how to begin. The coolest thing I’ve been using is the community tab which allows one to ‘copy’ programs made by other SPRK owners onto your own Sphero, they’re new programs being added that create a light show, or, have Sphero do a figure 8, even have Sphero move in a square pattern.
There’s so much you can come up with once the basics of programming have been learned and with the help of Sphero and the Lightning Lab application, you have all the tools to become a programmer.
A major issue to me, but, will probably be minuscule to someone else is how quickly and easily I destroyed the casing of the Sphero. Within a couple of days, my poor Sphero was covered in battle scars from running into things, having me drive it down the stairs, and on my hardwood floors. I even attempted to buff these out but had little success on that front.
Thankfully, Sphero is durable and able to take whatever I’ve thrown at it with no issues, relieving me of my anxiety of breaking it before really getting a chance to put it through its paces. It’s well-built and long-lasting.
If you’re interested in purchasing a Sphero, either for your child or even for yourself, this is the best iteration that provides the best experience. Learning should be fun, and when you throw robotics into the mix, there is only fun to be had at discovering that you and your robot are capable of producing.
The Sphero SPRK Edition is available for $129.99 USD at the Sphero store, or through Amazon.