Lake Tahoe company teaches programming with robots | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Lake Tahoe company teaches programming with robots

Local tech company TahoeJS is beginning an outreach program to get kids more interested in problem solving — all through playing with robots.

"The main goal is to teach kids about programming, and not just boys who love math and science. It's solving problems — a majority of future kids solving technology, making it less scary and developing a love of it for some of them," TahoeJS founder Jordan Papaleo said.

The company's outreach events will utilize block-style programming to control Sphero, a small spherical robot. Papaleo expressed interest in helping kids develop mazes and navigate Sphero through the finished product, but as the robot can connect with over 30 apps and is highly durable, activity possibilities are seemingly endless.

"There's a couple pieces right now. One would be a kid program event we're going to debut Nov. 3 in Truckee to get kids programming — teaching people to solve problems with robots, visual programming language.

"It doesn't feel super out-of-control techy. It's 'Hey, go forward for a second, then turn right, go forward for a second at a faster speed.' It's teaching kids to solve problems using some technology," Papaleo said.

No tech experience is necessary to participate in TahoeJS Outreach events. After completing a course, students will have the knowledge to write block programs that control robots. In advanced courses, participants will learn to write commands by hand, as opposed to block programming.

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The first event is held Nov. 3 at the Truckee STEAM Fair, but Papaleo wants to expand the program, encompassing the greater Tahoe area. It also doesn't stop with children — he wants to get parents involved with the process, too.

"I think it would be cool to get families in there and make it a family event. When kids get stuck on trying to do something, they can work through it together as a family instead of going on YouTube and searching. This is new technology and programs that parents won't know how to use," Papaleo explained.

His vision of expansion goes further — he hopes to hold events on a regular basis, starting at an introductory level to make concepts accessible to all.

"The little Sphero robots we're using now is just the first phase. We can get into small drone things — there are many different robotics types of things that kids can use. In a few years all these different robots will all be part of our lives," Papaleo said.

The inspiration behind it all?

"I just enjoy seeing people learn," he said.

The TahoeJS Outreach team is currently in the crowdfunding portion of their campaign, raising money to purchase hardware needed for the programs to run. Visit http://www.gofundme.com/sprk-tahoe to learn how you can contribute.

Additional information on the company can be found at http://www.tahoejs.com/outreach. More details about Sphero are available at http://www.sphero.com.

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