When it comes to tech for the classroom – particularly STEM resources that usually have a higher price tag than any other subject, it’s important to make investments that give the best bang for your buck.
I’ve researched and tested a lot of EdTech tools and for me Marty the Robot is an integrated STEM solution that covers all bases.
- Design: I’ve never had a reaction like it when we first unboxed Marty in class. What you might not think is that children, even these days, are pretty traditional in their views of how a robot should look. And Marty looks like a person – has arms, legs and an expressive face, which means children relate to them. Add in Marty’s moves: Marty can walk, sidestep, kick, balance and turn i.e. is a star turn on the dancefloor and soccer pitch – and you’re onto a winner.
- Spec: Winner of the BETT 2022 Hardware Award, Marty packs a big spec for a small package. Motor position sensors, acceleration and tilt sensor, Infrared (IR) sensor for obstacle detection, colour sensor for screen-free coding; Bluetooth, WiFi, USB and I2C connectivity all come as standard and Marty is compatible with Rasbperry Pi and BBC micro:bit. LED add-ons for the full ‘disco’ effect are an optional extra, but worth every cent.
- Build: Marty is built to last, which is what you need in a busy classroom, made from robust moulded plastic parts with nine metal-geared motors and eight sensors. Marty comes pre-assembled but part of the fun for budding engineers is learning how all the working parts go together so, despite being a pretty complex piece of hardware, Marty can be easily taken apart and rebuilt.
- Ease of Use: Marty can be up and running within minutes and can last 2-3 hours on a single charge. Robotical’s quick-start guide explains the set-up process in clear, easy steps. Once Marty is on, it’s a case of downloading the free ‘Marty the Robot V2’ app or new webapp, which can be used with any PC or tablet device, and simply connecting to Marty over Bluetooth.
- Capability: There is no other piece of hardware I’ve ever used that can comfortably straddle all K-12 year groups, can ‘speak’ multiple programming languages (unplugged coding, block-based and text-based programming) and can work alongside micro:bit and Raspberry Pi.
- Teaching Support: Robotical’s online Learning Library has over 100 free lessons mapped to NGSS and Common Core to help educators plan and deliver activities that meet success criteria. The materials are all clearly set out by skill level so teachers can plan learning experiences that enable students to move at a comfortable pace, developing creative thinking and problem-solving skills, while learning important concepts across the curriculum: from computational thinking to numeracy, literacy and more.
- Affordability: Marty is $449 for one unit but class bundles are a really good option and you can trial Marty free for two weeks before committing.
- Funding: Marty is listed with School Specialty, an approved vendor on Donors Choose. Never applied for funding before? Robotical has tons of good advice on pulling together a killer grant application.