Coding Concepts: Code and Go Robot

Code and Go Robot Mouse Activity Set is a hands-on tactile coding concept game, designed for ages 4 and up. This fun coding activity is a wonderful place to start coding logic and for students who are visually impaired, this fully accessible game also teaches orientation and mobility (O&M) and math concepts!

Activity Set

The activity set includes the following items. Note: The robot mouse can also be purchased separately.

  • Robot Mouse (requires 3 AA batteries which are not included)
  • Cheese triangle
  • 16 connecting 5"x5" squares (board that the mouse runs on)
  • Walls: Plastic rectangular pieces that create walls to block which block the mouse
  • 3 tunnels
  • Command Cards (1" squares with arrows or lightening bolt)
    • Note: These cards need to be modified to be accessible
  • 18 Activity cards

Robot Mouse

This mainstream set is perfect for students with visual impairments with it's bright colors, hands-on materials, raised arrow buttons and fun sounds. Pressing an arrow button creates a clicking sound and pressing the Clear button creates a tone. The mouse squeaks when the Go button is activated. The mouse moves one square at a time, making it easy to follow his movements along the path (students can hear his movements). When the mouse makes a turn, he backs up slightly, making a different sound. Students can hear if the mouse bumps into a wall. When the mouse's nose touches the cheese, he squeaks and lights in his eyes flash. 

Board

There are 16 squares that form the board that the mouse runs on. These 5"x5" squares click together and can be configured in different ways. When the squares are fastened together, there is a crevice between each square, making it easy for students to identify by touch when moving from one square to the next. The beginning courses use a 4x4 grid; however, the advanced courses use a variety of odd shaped boards.

Initially, the teacher/parent can set up the 4x4 grid and the course. As the student progresses, the student can duplicate the course set up and in more advanced scenarios, the student can set up the odd shaped boards.

Note: The mouse does run best on top of the squares (different floor textures may cause the mouse to run inconsistently). Full disclosure: there were a few times that the mouse stopped short or did not make a full 45 degree turn when running routes on the board; however, when the mouse was started again, he did run the course correctly the second time.

Command Cards

The command cards (often called 'code blocks' in more advanced coding games), are 1"x1" squares. Each square has either an forward arrow, backward arrow, right turn arrow, left turn arrow or lightening bolt (representing Action command). 

Note: These cards need to be modified to be accessible for a student who is blind. The cards do have high contrast colors, use different colors to represent each command and large arrows, making them accessible for some students with low vision. Arrow and lightening bolt cards can easily be modified using different textures cut out in the shape of the desired arrow or lightening bolt.

Activity Cards

There are 17 different activities cards, each displaying a different course. Courses start off easy and become more challenging. Modify the activity cards for students who want to duplicate the course from the visual card.

Action cards are an advanced feature which enable the student to code the mouse to squeak, etc.

The kit comes with three tunnels that the mouse can go through. Modify the tunnels so that there is a sound as the mouse goes through (i.e. Bead curtain, bells, strips of crinkly paper or anything that will make noise when the mouse passes through without impeded the mouse's movement).

The next video will demonstrate Activity #2. Note: In this video, when demonstrating the arrow command cards, I should have faced the "move forward" arrows so that the arrows pointed up. When using the Code and Go mouse, the mouse can only move forward. It is not important that the mouse is facing right when he moves forward (i.e. The mouse is not moving 'right'; he is moving forward irregardless of the direction he is facing). This 'move forward' concept is consistent with other coding games. The same concept is true for O&M; the student should always be 'moving forward' (not side stepping to the right), no matter which cardinal direction he is moving towards after making a turn.

 

Note: When introducing a student with visual impairments to a grid, it is often best to start in the top left corner rather than in row 2. Grids are typically introduced with the row and colum numbers starting in the top left. However, for more advanced math grids, the row and column numbers will start counting in the bottom left corner. For more advanced coding apps, the row and column numbers start in the bottom left (and in the case of Swift - Apple's coding language for iOS - the numbering starts with zero rather than with one. Since this is an introductory coding game, it is recommended that students are introduced to the easiest method. Once those concepts are mastered, additional concepts can be introduced. Teachers - YOU can create your own obstacle courses that best fit the needs of your student; you do not have to start with the activity card courses!

Incorporate Concepts

When introducing the Code and Go activities to students who are visually impaired, carefully consider additional concepts that can be taught through these coding games.

  • Systematically tactually explore the course
  • Incorporate grid terms (4x4 grid, rows and columns)
    • Include row and colum number of where the mouse, cheese, tunnels are located
    • Provide row and column number and ask the student to add walls and tunnels or place the mouse and cheese
  • Develop mental mapping (O&M skill)
  • Develop route planning (O&M skill)
  • Develop sequencing skills (commands in order)
  • Develop listening skills - What is the mouse doing? Where did he move?
  • Debug the code - Where did the mouse go off course?
  • Develop logic skills
  • Find shortcuts or other routes

The Code and Go Activity Set (which includes the robot mouse) is currently available on Amazon Prime for $41.99 and school packages (for multiple sets) are available.

The next video demonstrates Activity #11 which is a longer course that includes multiple turns and going through two tunnels. In this course, students (and many adults!) typically find that they need to use the arrow command cards in order to remember all the directions. This video also talks about finding a shortcut route, which encourages students to think outside-outside-the-box. Just because the mouse's nose is facing to the left, does not mean his first step has to be 'move forward'! Encourage your student to name the location (row and colum) of the mouse and the cheese. Ask the student to point from the mouse to the cheese (diagonal line to the left). How can the mouse get there in a more direct route? Because the tunnel is in Row 4 colum 3, the mouse cannot move forward then turn right. What is his other option? (Turn right then move forward.) With a diagonal line, the student has to move forward and turn or turn and move forward.

As an O&M I often use the term "zig-zag" meaning that the student wants to go in a straight line, but cannot, due to an obstacle in his path. In the zig-zag scenario, the student moves forward, goes to the right, moves forward, then corrects his path by moving to the left. (Or, he moves forward, goes to the left, moves forward and corrects his path by moving to the right.) If a student is traveling along a sidewalk with an obstacle, he will "zig" to the right then "zag" to the left (zig-zag route).

Summary

The Code and Go Robot is perfect for hands-on beginners - it is simple, mainstream, tactile and FUN!  Kids of all ages will enjoy 'programming' the mouse and watching as the mouse runs the route. This game teaches many coding concepts and logic and can also be used to teach critical foundation skills unique to students with visual impairments. Activities can be expanded to teach more complex skills. Purchasing the activity kit is definitely worthwhile as the squares which make up the board provide much-needed tactile information for students who are visually impaired; the activity cards and arrows can easily be modified enabling students with visual impairments to fully and independently participate in the activities. Best of all, the mouse provides cute auditory feedback as he runs his route! (Many coding activities are visual and do not provide auditory feedback which is necessary for students with visual impairments.) The materials are sturdy and with normal use will last. The price is certainly resonable for school use and for home use. I highly recommend this game to teach and reinforce skills!

Coding concept collage