- What is it? The Finch Robot is designed for computer science education. It uses a variety of programming languages. See more information here: http://www.finchrobot.com/
- What’s in the Box? The Finch Robot, cord, and a 1 page instruction sheet.
- How Much? $99
- Age Range? The Finch is good for kids who are comfortable with the idea of programming. I would probably say 3rd grade and up.
- How Did We Acquire it? Through the ILEAD grant funds.
What I tried:
I have not used Finch in a program and I’m not sure if I ever will. My goal with the Finch was just to attempt to figure it out. After reading of Kim’s problems, I wanted to give it a try. I had a similar experience as her kids attempting to make it work.
The Finch requires software downloads and also at least a small understanding of some coding languages. I downloaded Scratch, since that was the program I was most familiar with.
The Finch requires software downloads and also at least a small understanding of some coding languages. I decided to try Scratch, since I had a basic understanding of the program. The Finch also requires you to download certain software depending on what programming language you pick. It definitely takes a little bit to get started. I found their instructions to be incredibly lacking. It felt very much like the designers had not user tested the instructions on us normal folks.
It took a lot of plugging and unplugging of the USB to get the Finch to talk to Scratch. Once it seemed to recognized the software I thought it would be smooth sailing. Incorrect. It was difficult to figure out how to get the Finch specific codes into Scratch. And then once I did, it took me a while to even find a code that worked. When I did look at the examples, (uhh, yeah I know, should have done that first), I thought they were rather weird. The codes worked, but they were not basic things that most people would want The Finch to do – like make it go.
After a big of struggling, I did finally make a program that worked with The Finch and it was exciting when it finally happened. I consider myself an intermediate coder and this was difficult for me. I do not think The Finch is suitable for beginners at all.
To use the Finch you must have some coding skills, familiarity with a programming tool like Scratch, and be patient when it comes to Troubleshooting. You also need some time to figure the thing out.
I do think you could use The Finch with a coding club, or kids who already have some experience. I don’t think it will be good with kids who are at the beginner stages.
The Finch is very frustrating. It is the most frustrating robot I have worked with yet. What I find even more troubling is how much it has been promoted. It seems to have gotten positive press and while I do think that it has potential – it is not there yet. They need to make sure The Finch is responsive when you first plug it in, and it would be much easier to work with if it was wireless. In the end, I think most kids would get frustrated with The Finch.
If you have an interested coding club, give it a try. Otherwise, save yourself $99.