Announced today, the Sphero SPRK is a new version of the company’s namesake product geared toward robotics education. The new bot is physically and mechanically identical to the Sphero 2.0 but uses a transparent plastic enclosure allowing you to see the intricate mass of components inside. The Sphero SPRK is available immediately, priced the same as the Sphero 2.0 at $129.
Just as with the original Sphero, the SPRK Edition can be driven around much like a remote controlled car, using your smartphone or tablet as a wireless remote. But what now takes this product out of the world of R/C novelty and into the world of robotics is the ability to create and save custom programs that your Sphero can execute.
The transparency of the Sphero SPRK is more than skin deep. What truly gives the product its educational hook is the ability to program the robot using a number of tools geared for different levels of experience. A free SPRK app, available now for both iOS and Android, offers a Blockly-style interface for visually programming the Sphero and fine tuning parameters such as speed, spin, color, and more. So, if you want to program your Sphero to solve a maze and change color when it reaches the end, the SPRK app allows you to program precise instructions using a series of core programming commands.
For those wondering, the SPRK name is more than just a vowel-hating marketing phrase, it’s an acronym for Schools Parents Robots Kids. Sphero’s push for using their products for robotics education can be seen as far back as April 2014, when the company unveiled their SPRK education program along with supporting lesson plans for educators. Those lessons made use of the Sphero 2.0 product, which is still supported and compatible with the new SPRK app. Previous Sphero programming apps, such as MacroLab, OrbBasic, and Draw N’ Drive, will also work with both the new and old versions of the hardware.
Sphero’s goal with both the SPRK product and SPRK educational program is to put their robot in the hands of students and educators, and they’re a good fit for this market. Sphero has a great user community, a solid and fun software platform, and a sealed, nearly indestructible polycarbonate design that can stand up to classroom abuse.
— Ryan Welnetz (@SuamicoElem) May 6, 2015
Already, since the 2014 launch of the SPRK educational program, there have been a number of impressive and unexpected student projects involving Sphero, including the solar system model shown above, an insane Sphero maze tower, and an aquatic racer. With the SPRK Edition and software in kids’ hands, it will be exciting to see what new projects they create.