Cubetto is a hands-on, screen-free, computer programming toy geared for children ages three and up

Seven-year-old Thalea Paquette places a handful of plastic blocks into slots on a computer control panel, one by one, in a line. Then she presses ‘start.’

She watches as a small, smiling, wooden robot moves forward about six inches and then stops. It turns left and then moves forward six inches again.

This is Cubetto, a hands-on, screen-free, computer programming toy geared for children ages three and up.

On Saturday, children and their parents got to meet Cubetto during an event at the Chilliwack Library. The friendly robot first made its appearance in Chilliwack last year in April when it was travelling throughout the Fraser Valley and made a stop in Yarrow.

“Cubetto offers a fun first step into the world of computer programming. Because there’s no computer screen, this is an ideal learning activity for our littlest coders,” said Heather Scoular, Fraser Valley Regional Library (FVRL) customer experience director.

Cubetto is unique, however, because it is designed especially for children as young as three years old. There is no reading involved – children use shapes and colour to learn the basics of coding, directions, logic and pattern recognition.

Kids control the robot’s movements by placing coloured coding blocks on a wooden control panel.

Each block represents one command – forward, left, right, etc. Place a green block into the control panel and Cubetto moves forward. A yellow block commands it to turn left, and a red block is for a right turn.

The toy comes with a square mat on which to travel. There are different themed mats (space, ocean, city) and each mat is made up of 36 squares. Children program Cubetto to move from square to square.

Want it to travel from the moon to the sun? That’s forward one square, turn left, forward three square. How about from the submarine to the jellyfish? Forward two squares, turn right, forward one.

Cubetto is one of the newest additions to The Playground at FVRL – a collection of library items and experiences to foster STEAM learning (science, technology, engineer, arts and math). It is the third programmable robot in the FVRL Playground. It follows on the success of two other robotic learning tools – the Sphero SPRK+ and the Ozobot Bit – both of which have been popular with library customers.

The FVRL has 24 Cubettos which are shared throughout its 25 locations. It is one of the FVRL’s “in-library experiences,” so it cannot be borrowed from the library.

The next Cubetto event takes place on Saturday, Feb. 8 from 11 a.m. to noon at the Chilliwack Library.

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