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Thomas the humanoid helps teach coding

Thomas the humanoid robot has taken St Peter’s Girls School’s Early Learners’ Centre in South Australia by storm, teaching children as young as 4 basic computer programming and coding literacy.

In the program, students are taught how to decipher the robot’s emotions and behaviours using drag-and-drop software called Choreographe. The girls program Thomas’s behaviour in sequence, choosing commands such as ‘stand up’, ‘sit down’ and ‘speak’ from a list. They are also taught that Thomas has computer-generated feelings.

“I think it’s important to expose children to a range of technologies from a young age because this is their future,” Kate Mount, director of the Early Learners’ Centre, said.

Monica Williams, an educational consultant from the Association of Independent Schools South Australia (AISSA), was surprised by how incredibly capable the children were of quickly understanding sophisticated robotic concepts. She explained that the children had improved in “critical and creative thinking, computational skills and the ability to think in a logical way”.

She added, “The students in the Early Learning Centre have been able to, without being told, work out how Thomas is controlled by programs, codes and symbols that are transmitted to him [wirelessly].”

Mount observed that the children had been exposed to great problem-solving and said, “It’s been good to see children work things out before educators tell them the solution.”

AISSA has partnered with researchers from Swinburne University, University of Queensland and Queensland University of Technology to work on a three-year research project that will study the robot’s impact on students’ learning.

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