#codingforkids

Meet Lucas Loh! – His Learning Journey with The Lab Singapore

Meet Lucas!

Lucas is not your typical 11 year old. Like many boys his age, he loves his computer games  – but he is also passionate in programming.

His mom quoted, “He loves playing coding games (particularly Clash of Code)”.

“Coding is sometimes fun and sometimes difficult. If you can solve the question, you feel good.” says Lucas.

Early Beginnings

Lucas’s journey began at an early age with a robotics school in the East.

“I love Lego and my parents enrolled me into a robotics school while walking in a shopping mall one day!”

Unfortunately, as much as Lucas loved Lego/robotics, his journey was cut short as the learning environment did not suit him.

Months later, Lucas’s mum came across The Lab Singapore and enrolled him. Since then, his skills and enthusiasm have gone from strength to strength.

Lucas has been a student of The Lab since 2019. His humble beginnings of programming begun with The Lab Junior Program for ages 7-9 years old. Lucas did not start out as a star. He was a normal student like anyone else. He was not the fastest or smartest in class. Yet, it was The Lab’s learning style that allowed him to thrive in the class. 

The Lab strongly believes in learning without boundaries. What that means is that we give students the required amount of time for them to learn and understand, especially when programming can be quite complex. Each student are given their individual tasks and leaning journey. Through this way of learning. Lucas blossomed.

To date, he has completed The Lab Coder Program and is now in The Lab X Competitive Programming Course. 

Last August, Lucas competed in one of the largest coding competitions in Singapore, the Coding Olympics Singapore 2022, held by the Singapore Science Centre.

More than 100 primary schools in Singapore with thousands of students participated in this single event and Lucas emerged as one of the winners under Category B. 

Days before the competition, he said nonchalantly “The practice questions are so easy!”.

The Lab is highly fortunate to have aspiring programmers like Lucas who enjoy coding and appreciate The Labs unique teaching style.

We hope that Lucas’s story will inspire more young coders to take up programming and one day be as passionate as Lucas!

What does Lucas wants to say to you, aspiring coders?

“You must have interest to do coding because it takes a lot of patience. MOST IMPORTANTLY, never give up! “

What does Lucas’s mom has to say about us?

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Coding Olympics Singapore 2022 – The Lab Singapore Winners

Congratulations to our Coding Olympics Participants!
 

On 6 August, 42 of our students set out to compete in one of the biggest coding competition in Singapore, the Coding Olympics Singapore 2022*, held by the Singapore Science Centre. All of our students have fought very hard and we are proud of those who have participated. <Remember, it is the experience that counts!>

We have emerged victorious with 3 of our winners bagging the Category A and B of the competition among the thousands of participants across Singapore.

Congratulations to them for a job well done! It is an incredible milestone for these young coders and an inspiration for our students. We hope to see more of our students participate in the competition next year.

Once again, congratulations to all!

* The Coding Olympics Singapore is prized as Singapore’s largest National Coding competition for kids (ages 8-12 years old).

 

Create DSA Portfolios by joining competitions:

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DSA Process

One of the common questions Parents usually ask us is DSA. DSA stands for Direct School Admission. It is an entry into secondary schools before taking the PSLE. Because it is an admission without PSLE grades, competition is highly stiff to vie for the few precious spots specially in prestigious schools. Students are meant to showcase their talents in sports, CCAs and specific academic areas, depending on the schools they are applying for.

Below is the road map on the DSA process:

For more details, you can visit the MOE website at https://www.moe.gov.sg/secondary/dsa

Also, here are some links you may wish to read on how The Lab Singapore can help your child in his/her DSA process:

https://www.thelab.sg/how-can-the-lab-singapore-help-in-my-childs-dsa-application/

https://www.thelab.sg/a-guide-to-dsa-direct-school-admission/

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Lego Mindstorms EV3 vs Spike Prime

Spike vs Mindstorm

Should I buy the new SPIKE Prime or get a second hand Mindstorms for my child?

Did you know that the infamous Lego Mindstorms EV3 has been officially retired as of 31 June 2021? It has been with the Lego Robotics family for 8 years! SPIKE Prime is the latest lego education robotic kit ready to replace the Lego Mindstorms EV3.

Let’s compare the difference between Mindstorms and SPIKE Prime.

Mindstorms

SPIKE Prime

Hardware

Odd Shape

 

Have a more rectangular shape

Improvement
Overall easier to build with SPIKE Prime Lego.

Gyro Sensor
A sensor that detect movement.

A stand alone sensor with drift and lag issues

Built-in gyro sensor with no drift and minimal lag

Improvement with SPIKE Prime
– The built in gyro sensor for SPIKE Prime is more reliable than Mindstorms gyro sensor.
– Do not need to plug in the gyro sensor so 1 more port available.

Touch Sensor
Touch Sensor is an electronic sensor that can detect touch

There are three modes of a touch sensor in Mindstorms. They are Released (default), Pressed and Bumped (i.e. pressed, then released).

SPIKE Prime’s touch sensor has the function of Mindstorm’s touch sensor and also act as a force sensor. It can measure pressure of up to 10 Newtons.

Improvement with SPIKE Prime
– SPIKE Prime’s touch sensor also act as a force sensor.

User Interface

Diagram based coding interface

Scratch-like block coding and Python available

Improvement
There is no clear winner as both are not perfect. Nevertheless, if we must choose, we prefer SPIKE Prime as it prepare Kids for programming in text-based programming languages.

Charging and Download Cable

Stand alone charging and downloading cable

2 in 1 cable for both charging and downloading

Improvement with SPIKE Prime
– 1 cable for both charging and downloading

Cable for Motors and Sensors

Stand alone thicker black cable with different length

The white cable that connects both the sensors and motors are non-detachable and thinner.

Improvement with SPIKE Prime
– Wires are easier to manage when attached to the motors and sensors.

Port

4 inputs (sensor) port
4 output (motor) port

6 universal ports that can be used as both sensors or motors

Improvement with SPIKE Prime
– Can plug in the sensors or motors on either side of the SPIKE Hub is an improvement

SD Card Port

The SD Card Port increases the available memory for Mindstorms Brick by maximum of 32 GB

Not available on SPIKE Hub

Tradeoff
– Code fails to download with very large programs
– The latest version of the software provides a warning when the limit is reached and does not allow you to download the code to your robot

Batteries

Can use the special rechargeable battery that comes with the brick or six AA batteries.

You can only use the special Rechargeable Battery that comes with the Hub and the SPIKE Prime Set. The battery is charged using the micro USB cable that’s included in the set. The Rechargeable Battery is also available to buy as a separate item (45610 – LEGO Technic™ Large Hub Battery).

Tradeoff
– Battery must be connected to the hub to charge. As a result, you cannot have extra batteries on the side charging (i.e. you must own another hub to charge the extra battery)

Resources

Many available for Mindstorms

Few resources for SPIKE Prime as it is a new.

Tradeoff
There are few resources or SPIKE Prime now but many available for Mindstorms. However, new resources for SPIKE Prime are coming out every week.

Bugs
A software bug is an error, flaw or fault in a computer program or system that causes it to produce an incorrect or unexpected result, or to behave in unintended ways

Mindstorms had bugs but mostly addressed throughout the years

SPIKE Prime is new. There are constant updates coming in all the time to fix bugs. Need to constantly install the updates

Tradeoff
SPIKE Prime will have bugs and it needs to be constantly updated

Mindstorms Brick vs SPIKE Hub

With menu navigation and allow you to change some settings.

With light matrix technology that doesn’t offer any high resolution display and limited menu navigation.

Tradeoff
Although the Mindstorms brick is a bit old school, we prefer to have a brick that have more control

If you have the Lego Mindstorms EV3, you can continue to use this great product to learn Robotics and Programming. There are several online resources available for self learning at home. Nonetheless, we won’t advise you to buy a new Mindstorms as Lego has stopped production. This means that replacement parts would be hard to find. Though Lego SPIKE has its flaws, it is generally a new product and in time to come, it would be as wholesome as the Mindstorms in terms of its online resources and also software bug issues.

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Coding V.S. Robotics

Coding… Robotics… Programming… STEM… STEAM… Today, parents are spoiled with a myriad of choices for their kids. And with choices, comes confusion – the paradox of choice. In this article, we will focus on a very common question most parents ask: Coding vs Robotics. These two terms are often interchangeably used. But are they the same?

Let us look at the differences between Coding and Robotics.

What is it about?

Coding

Children learn to write instructions for robots or machines. There are 2 types of languages:

1) Block-based (eg. Scratch)

2) Text-based (eg. Python)

Robotics

Children learn to design and build robots. They learn to program the robots to perform and execute certain tasks. There are 2 types of languages:

1)Block-based (eg. Lego Robotics)

2) Text-based (eg. C++)

What do they learn?

Focus on software and developing step by step instructions by applying logical thinking skills and mathematical knowledge.

Focus on hardware (i.e. the structures and mechanicals of the robots) and software (i.e. coding knowledge).

Accessibility

There are free coding games available for home-practices (Tynker, Minecraft, Scratch etc.).

Robotics kits are required for home-practices.

Is it suitable for remote learning?

Flexible for on-site and online learning.

On-site learning is highly recommended.

What can they use with the knowledge?

Children equipped with the knowledge of text-based language (ie. Python) are able to develop apps or games so long they have a computer.

Children develop high logical and critical thinking skills. These skills tend to assist children in their school work, particularly in subjects such as Mathematics and Science.

Children are able to use their creativity to design and create their own robot or even modify their toys.

Children develop strong technical skills for engineering. Engineering can help a child to understand real-world technologies and problems, thus allowing them to see how their other school subjects are relative to their lives and the world around them.

Future Perspective

Children have broader selections including Robotics engineering, Web and App developing, Software engineering etc.

Children may pursue education in specific areas in engineering such as Robotics engineering , Aerospace engineering, Mechanical engineering etc.

Robotics school usually caters to younger children, as robotics can be a good starting platform for children. Robots serve as a useful educational tool as kids learn faster and better through visual cues. As such, some coding schools include robots as part of their facilitation elements for younger children to see tangible results based on their coding.

As we move up the age levels, it may be advisable to move to a coding/programming school as visual cues are no longer necessary in facilitating the learning progression of a child. Additionally, learning coding gives a child a broader selection of choices for them to pursue their interests.

The Lab Singapore provides coding to children ages 5 to 16 years old. The unique difference lies with the use of robots to teach coding as the school believes that robots are a good tool to facilitate the deliverance of their curriculum. 

Interested to find out more? Register for our free trial class at www.thelab.sg to experience The Lab!

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Christmas Ideas for your child’s present this year

Choosing a coding gift for kids but don’t know where to start?

Let us help you! The following list has some of our favourite coding gifts for children!

The Best Coding Toys

Coding toys are the perfect way to spark your child coding interest.

It is also a great way to develop their current coding interest too.

For Age 5+

Botley 2.0 The Coding Robot Activity Set

The winner of an innovative Toy of the Year Award in 2019 is an interesting screen-free coding toy suitable for young children to learn how to code. The latest version, Botley 2.0, adds new features.

For Age 4+

Code and Go robot Mouse Activity Set

A great way to learn coding without even realizing it. Build a maze, code your mouse and find the cheese. You can use the activity card or build your own maze and solve it with your own codes.

For Age 7-12

Lego Boost

This is the best robotics kit for beginners. It is a joy to put together and easiest to program. A great gift to make cool projects and let your kids enjoy many hours of Lego and programming fun. Do note that you will need either a mobile device or tablet to program the robot.

For Age 10+

Lego Education Spike Prime Set

For kids who love to build LEGO. This is an excellent coding gift! This is a great robot-making kit to learn coding. Learn at your own pace with endless possibilities. Do note that you will need either a mobile device or tablet to program the robot.

Age 6-14

Kano Computer Kit

Build your own computer with Raspberry Pi 3 and discover how it works. Learn to code with 100+ step-by-step creative challenges. Don’t just play, learn to hack it and do something new with this winner of the family choice award, webby award, red dot award, cannes gold lions and more.

Age 12 and above

Raspberry Pi

You can build many things with a Rasperry Pi. Not just one project but many projects as a Raspberry Pi can be re-used to create many projects. It is something new, exciting, and enjoyable. Work as a toy and also an educational tool. At around age of 12, it is a good time for children to explore it on their own. The real fun starts when you use your Raspberry Pi for projects and learn along the way. Can be purchased from https://www.thelab.sg/shop/ with other accessories.

Conclusion

Whether it is a toy or a holiday camp mentioned, our list delivers great gifts and experiences that will get kids more interested in coding.

These are the 6 best coding gifts for kids this year!

  • Botley 2.0 The Coding Robot Activity Set (Age 5+)
  • Code and Go robot Mouse Activity Set (Age 4+)
  • Lego Boost (Age 7-12)
  • Lego Education Spike Prime Set (Age 10+)
  • Kano Computer Kit (Age 6-14)
  • Raspberry Pi (Age 12+)

It can be a School Holiday Camp to create a game. Have fun coding and playing games! Happy Holiday to our readers!

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Developing your child’s fine motor skills

Every baby has an innate curiosity to explore the physical limits of their body when they’re born. Generally, they are able to roll over by the age of four months and hold items by eight months. During these early stages of their life, your child develops motor skills.

What are motor skills? Motor skills are movements and actions of the bone structures. There are generally two groups of motor skills — gross motor skills and fine motor skills. As your child learns to walk, run, jump and play ball games, they’re developing gross motor skills, which engage the large muscles in their arms and legs, as well as improve the coordination of their entire body. On the other hand, when your child writes or zips clothes, they’re developing fine motor skills which make use of the small muscles in their fingers and toes.

Importance of fine motor skills

When your child is able to coordinate their fingers and toes, they are able to complete simple everyday tasks on their own as well as use tools like scissors and pencils. Furthermore, your child’s handwriting and cognitive learning abilities will improve.

Developing fine motor skills

As your child starts to develop fine motor skills, they need your unending support and patience in guiding them along the way. Here are some possible activities you can do with your child:

Quick and easy tools found at most homes: Tweezers, clothes pins or chopsticks. Use tweezers, clothes pins or chopsticks to pick up and sort objects like beads, cereal, cotton balls, pompoms or other small objects (watch closely for choking hazards).
Provide them with a variety of art supplies like chalks, crayons and finger paints when they are drawing and unleashing their creativity.
Encourage them to use utensils when eating. It is normal for children to mess up when they are initially learning about using utensils, so do be patient towards them.
Let them play with small objects like beads, marbles and Lego pieces. Since Lego pieces come in all forms and proportions, attaching Lego pieces together require fine control of the strength of the smaller muscles. Hence, playing with Lego pieces will improve your child’s dexterity.

The more your child practices using their smaller muscles, the better their dexterity and strength. Hence, introducing some fun activities and games involving the use of small items will go a long way in building their fine motor skills.

So, why don’t we start ‘training’ our fingers with our children, starting from today?

In The Lab, students age 5-9 years old learn coding with the use of Lego robotics. Connecting the bricks with precision and detail strengthens fine motor skills and improves hand-eye coordination. Picking up LEGO pieces with their fingers builds muscles and skill your child may need when holding and controlling a pencil to write or draw. Curious to understand or learn more about our programs?

Sign up for a complimentary trial class now!

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What skills does my kid develop from learning Coding?

5 main skills which are HIGHLY transferable:

(1) Logical and Analytical Thinking

Logic is a skill students have to practice while coding. Through dissecting existing programs to understand the process and flow to achieve the solution through written code, students become increasingly analytical. Whether they are building or debugging, they are exercising their logic faculties on a regular basis. Understanding machine operations, conditionals, and progression in coding projects strengthens logic. Being able to break down issues into small, separate parts and figure out how each is affecting the other will help students think in a systematic and objective way, rather than relying on solving problems emotionally.

(2) Problem-solving

Computers require specific instructions for it to work effectively. As such, students need to break down the problem and give direct and specific instructions for their program to work. Students have to be aware of and apply appropriate coding skills for different requirements or scenarios. Students that practice this will improve their ability, having broken down a problem that may seem complex or abstract, to recognise the optimal way that its solution can be articulated.

(3) Abstract thinking

Abstract thinking is the ability to think about objects, principles, and ideas that are not physically present, for example the use of analogies. Once students begin to learn languages like JavaScript or Python that are not immediately visualized, students will need to practice speculating and predicting results in how the interrelationships of the code happen as a whole.

(4) Project planning

Project is something that The Lab students does on a regular basis. It is proven that Coding is best learned through project-based learning. Students practice and learn planning by thinking through the steps necessary to achieve their end goal. In order to meet the deadline, set by the teacher, students learn how to assess their resources and knowledge to get the project done on time.

(5) Attention to detail

Coding is great practice for attention to detail. Not only from the perspective of the accuracy of the code itself, but also accounting for users’ needs; for example ensuring a well-designed user interface and experience. A savvy coder may develop a system to avoid repeated mistakes. Where errors are present, they will examine their work systematically. Experienced software developers often try to “break” programs to identify problems and areas of improvement before launching a product to the market. This iterative and creative process can be applied in your classroom as well. Get students to demo and test each other’s creations and see what they pick up on.

For more details on The Lab program, visit our website at: https://www.thelab.sg/programs/python-program/

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Difference between physical and online classes – What is your choice?

Before the pandemic, online classes for kids were almost unheard of or not a popular choice to parents. It was the ugly duckling of higher education, being less prestigious method than classroom-based courses. Nowadays, online classes seem to be the way to go. Given that we have been almost 2 years into the pandemic, our young learners and parents have adopted and embraced online as a new way of learning.

Online and classroom-based education are two different types of learning. Although both offer high-quality learning, each has its own teaching method and establishes its own channels and guidelines for learning.

Online education uses the Internet and information and communications technology to provide students with tools like chats, blogs, video conferences and shared documents, making courses dynamic, intuitive and easy to follow. This asynchronous system enables students to attend classes, work, communicate, take exams and access content wherever they may be.

Another aspect of remote learning is that it stimulates students’ independence and curiosity, collaborative work, critical thinking and self-directed learning. This system also diversifies sources of knowledge. With classroom-based learning, students go to a physical classroom where the teaching and much of the learning takes place. With this method, the students take a more passive role and adapt to the teacher’s rhythm and teaching method. The teacher is the primary source of information.

However, the above advantage of online learning assumes that the student is proficient with the use of technology and possesses a reasonable level of maturity. This comes with age and does not work well for young students ages below 7. Young kids are visual and social creatures. Most don’t have the finger dexterity to proficiently use a keyboard or even have the maturity level to explore and be independent.

To sum up, a choice between physical and online learning depends greatly on the age of the learner.

In The Lab, we offer online classes for students ages 7 and above, but strictly only physical classes for our The Lab Kinder Program for ages 5-6 years old. For more details on our programs, do visit our website at https://www.thelab.sg/programs/

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