Code Rocket by Let’s Start Coding is a coding set intended for ages 8-12. The set includes a rocket-shaped PCB, a USB cable, and eight double-sided coding cards. In order to use the Code Rocket, the user must download the Setup program (which appears to be a fork of the open-source Arduino IDE) from www.letsstartcoding.com and then select the “Code Rocket” option. This ensures that the user is coding for the correct device and that the code they are working with corresponds to the rocket.
The rocket is then connected via USB to the computer, where it can be programmed. The online learning program includes 21 different coding projects of varying difficulties, and introduces coding in a simple and easy way for younger users. These programs help the user understand exactly what each line of code represents and how that code produces reactions from the rocket, e.g. a light on the rocket turning on. Once the user understands what the code for a given project represents, they can then take on a challenge called a “Bug Hunt” where they are given lines of faulty code to fix. Because one incorrect letter/symbol can derail a program (those sneaky semicolons!), it can be sometimes frustrating for younger users to find the mistake, but this will only build up their perseverance in locating problems and fixing them.
An added bonus of this program is that the code is designed very similarly to real-world coding programs. This is extremely beneficial, as it will make the transition from this coding program to a professional coding program very smooth (if the user continues to pursue an interest in coding). This toy fosters an interest in computer programming, and also enhances their computational, critical, and creative thinking skills. Once the user understands the basic aspects of coding, they will be able to create their own code for the rocket. The problem solving aspect of this coding kit allows the user to employ iterative design, as if the code is not correctly inputted into the program it will not run. To find the problem, the user will have to analyze the solution, locate the faulty code, fix it, and run the program again to see if the problem was truly fixed.
The Code Rocket is an outstanding toy for fostering computation thinking, computer programming, and iterative design skills in young children.
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Moore, T.J., Glancy, A.W., Tank, K.M., Kersten, J.A., Smith, K.A., & Stohlmann, M.S. (2014). A framework for quality K-12 engineering education: Research and development. Journal of Precollege Engineering Education Research, 4(1), 1-13.
One reviewer said,
"I really loved this kit. I thought the lessons were good and easy to follow. I really liked how each lesson provided sample code that could be modified to experiment with the coding options. Mistakes in the code were clearly marked and suggestions were given to fix them. I love the fun rocket shape and theme of the coding kit, as it makes interacting with the rocket a lot of fun."