Sky high coding: using drones to get kids programming

Kids love drones. It’s an almost universal truth and a huge part of what makes this particular collaboration so appealing. No sooner had I cracked open the packaging of the Mambo – which includes a grabber arm and (most exciting of all) a gun which shoots tiny orange pellets – had my son wrestling it from my grasp to inspect it more closely. 

The Mambo is tiny and ideally used indoors; like many quadcopters of this size it has plastic guards which prevent the blades from hitting things like walls, furniture and delicate human child-flesh, so I was able to rest easy knowing that even though my son was about to use his almost non-existent coding skills to let this thing loose around our home, the damage should be minimal.

The building blocks of coding

Tynker’s coding language is based around stitching blocks together to create sequences of movements and actions, so while kids aren’t typing in lines and lines of text, they’re getting an understanding of how code works and fits together. Using this system they can swap actions, remove those which don’t work or add new sequences, all using the friendly, building-block-style interface.

This $150 (roughly £115, or AU$190) bundle could well be one of the most valuable Christmas presents you ever buy for your child. While Tynker’s courses are available separately from the Mambo minidrone, combining the two definitely makes sense; I highly doubt I’d have been as successful in roping my unruly offspring into this exercise were it not for the intrinsic allure of flying a drone. 

This aerial toy is the hook that pulls young minds in, with Tynker’s software turning programming into a game in very much the same way that Minecraft is creating a new generation of architects and builders (coincidentally, Tynker’s software can also integrated into Mojang’s famous video game). And who knows; once your child has had their first taste of Tynker in conjunction with the Mambo drone, they may be intrigued enough to keep using the software and – in the fullness of time – move onto more complex programming languages.

And if all it does is fuel their love of flight? Well, then there are plenty of amazing drones to choose from.

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