Sphero, one of the leading companies in K–12 classroom robotics, announced its acquisition of littleBits, inventor of the electronic building blocks for science, technology, engineering, art and math learning, on Friday, Aug. 23.
The merger will bring the companies’ hardware, software, curricula and training programs — used by nearly 6 million students and 65,000 teachers worldwide — together under one roof, according to the Sphero press release.
“Teachers will see Sphero and littleBits as a united front. They will see one leader in the space, with Sphero developing robust products and, most important, content and curricula to help teachers bring these tools into their classes,” a Sphero representative told EdTech. “As a larger company, Sphero will be able to provide educators more support and deeper offerings.”
Robotics in K–12 classrooms has increased over the past decade as experts have noted improvements to test scores, student engagement and classroom equity in schools that take a hands-on learning approach to STEAM.
Jeff Newsom, technology education teacher at Penn-Trafford High School in Pennsylvania, sees robotics as a “hook” to lure students into STEAM “because it’s fun, it’s interesting, kids like it.”
“But all the underlying things that we’re teaching them can be applied to so many other things — from cell phones to printers,” Newsom told THE Journal. “It gives students the ability to not just create a program on a screen that plays a game, but to create a program that does something physical.”
According to Sphero, the company will use the merger to create a number of new ways teachers can use its current robotics programs and littleBits’ engineering products to teach students 21st-century skills.
“Having a complete offering to meet the learner where their interests lie is important for the deployment of STEAM-based learning tools and project-based lessons,” Sphero told EdTech. “LittleBits brings an important way for kids to learn through invention and construction on top of Sphero’s dominant position of robotics, coding and music in the classroom.”
Educators can expect to see the effects of the merger immediately, Sphero noted.
In addition to new technology, Sphero will embrace the community of educators involved in littleBits’ Bitstars program, which has trained teachers to help their peers implement robotics into the classroom effectively.
The company says it plans to have training resources available to help schools that invest in its technology to integrate those tools as active components of their curriculum.
“Teachers and students will have access to the biggest and best platform of educational technology tools and content. Schools will get more robust, complete and deep STEAM experiences that can engage children and learners of all ages in fun and enriching play,” Sphero states.