After soft-launching a blocks-based educational robotics kit in the US last summer to gauge local interest, Sony has judged the reception for its Koov kit warm enough to fire a fully fledged educator offering into the US market. The Koov Educator Kid goes up for pre-order today, with an estimated shipping date of March 25.
The $520 price-tag puts it at the pricier end of the spectrum so far as STEM-targeted learn-to-code gizmos generally go. (And there are a lot of those quasi-educational ‘toys’ for parents to choose from these days.) But, as the name suggests, Sony’s Koov kit is specifically designed for educators and for use in classrooms, with each kit supporting multiple users.
Specifically, each Koov Educator kit is good for “up to five students”, according to Sony — presumably so long as the kids play nice together and fairly share the blocks and bits. So in that context the pricing, while not cheap, looks more reasonable.
Sony is also explicitly targeting ‘STEAM’ learning, with the ‘A’ in the acronym standing for ‘Art’, alongside the more usual Science, Technology, Engineering and Math components, which sets Koov apart from some less flexible learn to code gizmos in the market.
Though other modular electronics coding kits, such as from the likes of LittleBits and Sam Labs (to name two), are also playing in much the same space.
The Koov system is designed for children aged eight and older. And as well as translucent plug together blocks and Arduino-compatible electronics bits, there’s a Scratch-based drag and drop coding interface to link physical creation with digital control, via a cross-platform companion app.
The Educator Kit contains more than 300 connectable blocks in all, plus multiple sensors, motors, LEDs and other electronics bits and bobs (the full inventory is here). It also includes class management software, curriculum-aligned lesson plans, step-by-step guides for kids and student progress reports.
Sony says the Koov app serves up more than 30 hours of educational content, via a Learning Course feature which it says is intended to offer students an introduction to “key concepts” in coding, building and design. As with the majority of these STEM gizmos, the educational philosophy leans heavily on the idea of learning through playing (around).
The Koov kit also includes 23 pre-designed, pre-coded “Robot Recipes” to encourage kids to get building right away. Though the wider aim of the Koov system is to support children being able to design and build their own robots (back to that ‘Art’ element) — and indeed Sony claims there are “countless” ways to stick its blocks and bits together. So much like Lego, then.
It also bills the system as “flexible enough” for students to use independently while also providing material to support structured learning too.