Bumblebee robot helps teach computer coding to kindergartners

- Computer coding isn't just for college students, or even high-schoolers anymore. 

Kindergartners in Mrs. Margaret Giunta's class at Jamerson Elementary are learning to code with a robotic bumblebee named Bee-Bot.

It's happening at schools across Pinellas County.

"What kinds of things could you do or make or learn if you followed a series of steps in sequence? We talk a lot about sequence and why it's important for first, next, last," said Giunta.  

Students use flashcards to coordinate in which direction to send the Bee-Bot to get to its destination.

"They're learning how to follow a series of directions, in upper grades, we call that an algorithm," explained Deborah O'Hare, Jamerson Elementary's Engineering Magnet Coordinator. "In kindergarten, it's just as simple as a series of steps. Kids can follow directions. What we're trying to do is get them to not just follow them, but write the directions, or in turn, code the directions into the Bee-Bot."

Coding for kindergartners is all about some basic life skills, like left from right and the cardinal directions.

"Kindergarten is a perfect age to start with this," said O'Hare. "Whether it be following a series of directions on the playground, or at P.E., they get it. Taking that one step further into actually putting it into work with the Bee-Bot, is something that's just second-nature to some of the kids."

The kindergartners in Mrs. Giunta's class are years away from choosing a career path. The Bee-Bot coding robot is just an early taste of what they may decide to do later in life.

"If they can use that set of logical steps to solve a problem, or solve a task, then that's going to set them up for future success in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) fields, in math," said Giunta. "You can apply that to anything, it's not just about the coding exercise."

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