In a continuing effort to make sure my 10-year-old son Johnny has access to educational programming tools, Santa brought him Dash and Dot from the Wonder Workshop for Christmas. Johnny loves all things robot, so I felt sure that Dash and Dot would be a hit with him. Johnny already had Scratch experience as well as LEGO Mindstorms EV3 programming skills, so I knew he’d be successful with Dash and Dot, too.
I became aware of Dash and Dot last April after seeing their crowdfunding campaign, and I quickly ordered them with promised delivery for Christmas. (I’m pleased to say that they were delivered a few days before that.) I even received regular updates on my order, which kept me up-to-date on the progress towards production and fulfillment, and I felt well informed.
Co-founder and CEO Vikas Gupta, Co-founder and CTO Saurabh Gupta, and Co-founder and VP of Product Development Mikal Greaves founded Play-i in 2012. Then, in September of 2014, Play-i was renamed to Wonder Workshop. The robots originally known as Bo and Yana would become Dash and Dot. The goal of bringing coding curriculum to elementary school students was coming alive for all kids.
As Johnny and I unveiled Dash and Dot on Christmas Day, I quickly realized the power these robots have along with how well thought-out they are. They come in super packaging, or homes as Johnny called them. I certainly don’t expect the robots to spend much time in their boxes, but the boxes are certainly sturdy enough for storage, travel, and even passing on to another child. One of the first things Johnny programmed Dash to do was drive back into his box; it was quite cute.
The robots have built-in rechargeable lithium ion batteries, which can deliver 3 to 5 hours of play. I love that Dash and Dot won’t be eating costly batteries. There’s plenty of play time for a fun-filled outing before a recharge is needed. For charging, you can connect the included micro USB to a computer or power system, both of which are standard and worked fine. However, I am not a fan of micro USB, because I had the charging port on a tablet ruined by a child trying to force-plug it in the wrong way. Do provide some supervision and training with plugging Dash and Dot in.
Dash and Dot use Bluetooth Low Energy (aka Bluetooth 4.0), so check the tech specs to make sure you have a compatible device. I ended up buying a new iPad Mini 3 because our older iPad 2 does not support Bluetooth 4.0. I guess it was time we got an iOS device that supports the latest Bluetooth technology, but it was an expense I hadn’t counted on when Johnny received Dash and Dot.
There are four iOS apps available for Dash and Dot:
1. Path (ages 5 and up). Use your finger to draw a path and watch Dash take off.
2. Go (ages 5 and up). Control all the sensors on Dash and Dot.
3. Xylo (ages 5 and up). Create music with Dash and his xylophone (sold separately).
4. Blockly (ages 8 and up). Program Dash and Dot using Blockly, which is a puzzle piece style programming tool.
They make it very easy to connect Dash and Dot to the Bluetooth. After struggling to connect Bluetooth speakers to my iPhone for years, I am amazed at how simple it is to connect Dash and Dot and start programming!
And when they say ages 5 and up, they mean it. The apps are very intuitive and allow even smaller children to make Dash move and both Dash and Dot make sounds, flash lights, etc., all with easy finger controls. I would say that they are well designed to allow the smallest child to have success programming the robots, while also testing the creativity and advanced skills of older children.
Kids will love the colorful screens and consistent look and feel of the apps. There are virtually no words of instruction on any of the screens, yet your child and you will understand at a glance what to do.
Here’s a sample of Johnny’s first Blockly program. You can see why this is called puzzle piece programming. Kids connect the programming instructions together as pieces of code that have a specific function. It’s impressive to see all of the things that kids can make Dash and Dot do.
The Blockly app ships several program examples and also allows kids to save their programs/projects as they go.
Don’t miss the super-cool eye and lights, too.
Overall, Johnny and I have had a very positive experience with Dash and Dot. They are durable, the rechargeable batteries work great, and the robots are simple enough for Johnny to play with on his own, while being challenging and entertaining enough that he keeps coming back. If you have a young child and want to give a head start on programming, I think Dash and Dot are great.
If you like what you see, you can order Dash and/or Dot from Wonder Workshop. Dash retails for $199 or you can get Dash and Dot together for $259 or $349, depending on accessories. I just ordered Dash’s xylophone separately and can’t wait for Johnny to give it a try.
I’m including three videos below, showing Johnny using Dash and Dot with the Path, Go, and Blockly apps, so you can see them in action. Enjoy!