Few months back, we were out at Atria shopping mall when we saw some people distributing leaflets and upon closer inspection, we realized that it is about Little Botz™ Academy, a new store opening just a close distance to where we were. They conduct robotics classes for young children and knowing our 6.5-year-old boy loves anything robots and Legos, we decided to check out the place. We were given a quick tour in the premise, briefed by Mr. Lok Kah Fai, the founder of Little Botz™ Academy himself. He explained to us the programmes offered and the facilities provided.
Hubby and I were scouting around for some extra classes to enrich our kiddo's knowledge and thought of giving this robotics classes a try. I got in touch with Mr. Lok and asked a few more questions with regards to the programmes and he generously offered us a 1-month trial lessons for our boy before we decide for sure.
About the company:
"Little Botz™ Academy is a technology hub that provides a fun and interactive platform for the community to express their creativity and innovation while learning. We aim to develop a pool of innovative generation by providing them with the necessary tools and space to satisfy their curious minds. We are convinced that by instilling awareness about robotics and technology while providing the basic skills, tools and space, we can cultivate creativity and encourage their inquisitive mind.
Our learning methodology is to groom our children on their Higher Order Thinking Skills (H.O.T.S) through the means of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in education for a world that is increasingly automated and technology reliant.
Our team work together with University of Malaya (UM) Research Centre to bring cutting edge learning experience, focusing on instilling Higher Order Thinking Skills (i.e. Analyze, Evaluate, Create) in our children learning environment.
Our learning methodology supports Malaysian Education Blueprint 2013 – 2025 to raise the bar in thinking skills and inculcating problem solving, innovation and creativity in our future generation’s learning experience."
I'm sharing with you guys my feedback and pictures of Little Botz™ Academy that I snapped during the 1-month period. The place is spacious, brightly lit and there is a classroom at the further end of the premise.
For parents who are paranoid of security and safety of your child, rest assured, there is a turnstile barrier gate at the entrance of Little Botz™ Academy where you need to tap or swipe your access chip in order to be allowed into the premise or you need to alert one of the staff before they will let you in.
As you can see below, our boy was given a lanyard tag with an access chip (RM50 refundable deposit) and thumb drive which he must wear at all times when he is at the premise. Students who enrolled for the classes were also given a Little Botz™ Academy T-shirt to wear (though you can wear your own clothing as well as long as you are wearing your lanyard tag)
Back to the facilities in the premise - on the right hand section of the premise you see a few tables, with lots of colourful stools and a few standing racks holding boxes after boxes of Lego bricks. Students at the premise can make use of the Lego bricks there and design and build to their hearts' content. Just make sure you clean everything up and put them back into their respective storage boxes after you are done playing. Students attending the classes also need to put their bags and water bottles at one of the standing racks here before they start their classes.
What impressed me about Little Botz™ Academy is their level of service and commitment where they SMS-ed you beginning of each week to inform you the timing of the classes that will be held during the coming weekend (it is either 10am to 2pm session or 3pm to 5pm session) and you can SMS-ed back to them to confirm your child's attendance on which session for the weekend.
There was once when I really need to reschedule our boy's timing (I had earlier confirmed the morning session and last minute had a family outing to attend) and immediately SMS-ed them the night before the class to ask whether I can reschedule his class. They replied back promptly with my request and I'm really happy they accommodate to my request despite the very last minute change.
During the 1-month period, our boy attended 2 classes - Scratch Programming and Lego Mindstorm EV3. Before the classes begin, the teacher will run through the rules which must be adhered by all students during the class. The ground rules are no teasing/bullying/kicking or cursing, no mobile/tablet in classroom, no jumping or running around and students must listen to teacher and always ask for permission to go somewhere (such as toilet or drink water).
I'm a paranoid mother and always, always reminded our young boy to always let the staff know if he wants to go to the toilet and must always ask someone to accompany him (even though the toilet is less than 100 meters away from the premise but still, I'm paranoid remember?). I'm happy to share that I get the opportunity to witness once how the staff actually asked the students while the teacher is preparing for the class whether any of them wanted to go to the toilet and they actually got the children to line up and escorted them to the toilet and back. My heart was assured in seeing that the safety of our children is on the mind of Little Botz™ Academy.
Other than the teacher, there is also another staff who will assist the teacher during the lesson. There may be time when the students need to share the computer but most of the time, the ratio is a student to a computer.
I did find myself alerting one of the staff during one of my observation period when I noticed that the student sharing the computer with our boy decided to hog the mouse and computer to himself, causing our boy to crane out his neck to see what is on the computer (as it was not placed in the middle on the table) and trying his best to get his chance to hold and click the mouse during the lesson. The staff listened to my concerns attentively and promptly went into the classroom and whispered to the student and soon after, I noticed them sharing the computer and taking turns to click the mouse and keyed in instructions on their computer.
After the lesson ends, the student will be required to save their work into the thumb drive. Robots built during the Lego Mindstorm classes will need to be dismantled and put back into the respective storage boxes.
Now feedback on the classes itself - Scratch programming is a visual programming platform developed by MIT University media Lab specifically for children to provide a stepping stone to more advance tools in computer science world. Little Botz™ Academy's Scratch programming is a 3-months development program aimed to educate children on programming as well as structural thinking skills sets. They included steps taken to visualize how programming made to enhance their skills in science experience in school and enhance their computer literacy in general.
I did on few occasions asked our boy to explain to me what he learned in this class. In fact, I use the Scratch website and told him to come up with something for us to see. He did a few simple instructions, getting the cat character to say or move for a specific time. We had earlier (prior to starting the trial at Little Botz™ Academy) introduced Minecraft Hour of Code to our boy so he did have some basic feel of how to code things but I honestly feel he is still too young for this.
I mean, this problem is partly from our side as we have yet to teach our boy how to operate or use a computer/notebook. So for him to understand terms like 'left-click', 'right-click', 'hover the cursor' etc is a bit confusing to a young child. But I'm glad to share that he did understand the concept on how programming (coding) helps to get something to move/work.
The other class that our boy attended was the Lego Mindstorm which is an educational tool by Lego Education used by schools all over the world in enhancing their Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) applications. The Robotic Lego Mindstorm in Little Botz™ Academy is a 3-months development program aimed to educate children on the tools as well as problem solving skills sets by defining key takeaway elements to program and problem solve.
Our 6.5-year-old really enjoyed the Lego Mindstorm classes as he gets to build robots using Lego Technic as well as see how the robots work with the coding applied. In this class, children will assemble the robot by following the diagrams shown on their computer step-by-step. They will then need to put in the coding into the robot's core processor in order to get it to function.
From our boy's feedback, they get to build different robots every time. One time it was car robot, one time it was scorpion robot. I didn't manage to snap pictures from those classes (sorry!!) but it was amazing to see the enthusiasm and excitement in our boy.
At home, I also quizzed our boy what he learned in his Lego Mindstorm classes. He explained to me in the class, they had to assemble the robot first. Then they had to do the coding (few times he even said loudly 'I want to be a programmer when I grow up!') and finally plugged in the cables to the robot and let it move. He also mentioned they learned to do mazes in the class and proceeded to draw a maze layout for me to see.
To sum up my feedback, I think this is a great initiative to get children to be interested in robotics stuff and a creative outlet to nurture their interests too.
For more info, do check out Little Botz™ Academy's website.
Do note that I received no monetary compensation for this review, we were provided with a 1-month free trial in order to facilitate my review. All opinions expressed in this post are my own. Please do your own research when purchasing products, as your opinions may differ from mine.
** Note: I have disabled the commenting feature on my blog engine thanks to all the spammers who happily spam my blog every day. If you wish to ask me any questions, you can find me at my Facebook page (I'm there almost everyday) or just drop me an email if you wish to maintain some anonymity.