Flying a drone without a remote control? No problem. We can do that through code! In collaboration with Apple Orchard, Roboto Coding Academy presented ‘Kids Hour: Fly a Drone Using Code with Roboto Coding Academy’ at the Forum at Apple Orchard, on 8 and 16 December 2018. As one of Apple’s many free programmes held in conjunction with Computer Science Education Week, ‘Fly a Drone’ aims to make coding fun for kids and was made available to kids ages 6 through 12.
The sessions were well-attended with a total of more than 40 children with different levels of understanding about coding. However, what matters is that the children were looking to code for fun and fly a drone using code–and so they did!
Introducing the basics of drone-flying
To fly a drone using code, the children were first introduced to Parrot mini-drones and the theory of drones. The theory explains the anatomy of the drone, the physics of drone-flying, and the various parts of the drone that determine its different movements. After introducing the hardware, the software was next. Courtesy of Apple, each child was provided with an iPad that came installed with Swift Playgrounds; it is an application by Apple that makes learning Swift programming interactive and fun so that kids can code in a “playful” environment. And with that, the coding began!
Guided by Roboto Coding Academy’s team of trained facilitators, the children were first tasked to do simple coding exercises. Thereafter, they dove into sprints of more coding to test out various drone-flying moves–it was time to fly! The young coders were brimming with excitement as they tested their codes for drone take-offs and landings, and eventually tinkled with more codes to fly their mini-drones on “missions”. Hoops and chairs were introduced to a designated flying zone in the Forum space to form different terrains, where each presented a different challenge for the children complete.
Children trying out the drones
As with any challenge, there were trials and errors. The drone-flying missions not only required the young coders to exercise systematic thinking to break down and solve the problem, but it also taught them patience. Even though coding for the drones was trying, many kids were intrigued by the drones whirring, buzzing, and moving through the obstacles while they anticipated the results of their codes.
Many young coders who struggled to keep up were able to tweak their codes with more confidence with the support of their parents, which helped them accomplish their missions along the way. One such parent who supported his 9-year-old son throughout the session was Mr. Goh. “I think coding programmes like this is good exposure for him, and it is definitely something he enjoys”, said Mr. Goh, who told us that he encourages his son to attend such events to learn to code.
Finding out more about the drones
Despite the difficulties in coding, many participants found the programme to be fun. Caroline Eckblad, 11, who has some prior knowledge in ‘Scratch’ programming language, said she enjoyed the programme, while 7-year-old Venko Yap, also the youngest participant of the event, expressed his interest in seeing the drones fly. Even as the event drew to a close, a handful of children were still keen and excited to test their codes on the drones!
It was a pleasure for us at Roboto Coding Academy to see young ones learning to code for fun. We certainly look forward to seeing them at another coding workshop in the near future!