The Tickle App Made Me Fall in Love with Sphero All over Again

Programs, Sphero, STEAM stuff

A question that has come up a few times about some of our robots is, “Does this have any educational use, or is it just a toy?” I’d like to always say that it’s educational, and emphasize how kids learn through exploration and play. But I do see the other side, especially when it comes to Sphero. Sphero can be used as the amazing round robot it is with apps like Draw ‘N Drive and MacroLab, or it can be played with as an RC toy. When I’m showing kids Sphero for the first time, I start with the basic navigation to get them used to controlling it, and it’s all too easy to stop there and just roll it around the room.

tickleFrom the moment I tried out the Tickle App, I was excited by how it taps into Sphero’s potential. It has a visual interface that resembles Scratch, which many kids in my community are familiar with from school, the library’s coding club, or their own pursuits. It’s easy to get started — just drag and drop commands into place. It was so much fun I may have been a bit of a menace at first because of how fun the commands are — “Just pick it up and shake it. See what happens! What what it does when I drive it into the wall!” We’ve been pretty enthusiastic about Sphero ever since we got our hands on them, and the fact that after all this time we can discover a new app to control the basic hardware just reinforces that this is a good robot to have around.

Chicago Toy And Game Fair


We took an adventure to check out the Chicago Toy and Game Fair. The fair is a showcase of toys and games of all kinds. You can find pretty much anything there – we saw board games, creative play toys, robots, and even some cardboard forts. Admission is free for educators and librarians* – definitely a bonus.

Some highlights:

sphero gutsCheck it out! This is what Sphero looks like inside! The folks from Orbotics were at the fair, so we got to tell them how much we like Sphero in a library setting. They also encouraged us to try the Sphero out in water (they’re very confident of it’s structural integrity), so look out soon for our test of Sphero in the water.




The DJYRO  provides a DJ turntable experience with an iPhone or iPad. We liked that it’s 3D printed, and this could provide programming inspiration for 2015 iREAD’s Read to the Rhythm. It is only compatible with Apple products at this time, and the Android users among us hope someday this will be available for our devices too.


IMG_20141123_110925_826HEXBUGs can be assembled into robotic bug shapes, or the pieces can be used to build other robots. The exhibitor had a large table of components for us to start putting together, which can be great fun for some and intimidating for others.




Perplexus is a puzzle maze game that we thought could be a nice manipulative to have in a library setting. It’s all self-contained so there are no pieces to loose. Plus, it’s hard, so you could have it out in a teen area as well as in the kids’ area where you might think it would belong. Check out the giant Perplexus ball to the left of Michelle. Cool, right? Unfortunately, they aren’t for sale. But hey – wouldn’t it be a cool item for the library if they were?!


itsphunA toy we didn’t notice at the fair but that one of our community members who also went was talking about (and even posted about it on the library’s Facebook page) the next day is ITSPHUN —  Interlocking Triangles, Squares, Pentragons, and Hexagons Using Notches. The Girl Scouts she took (admission was also free for troop leaders and scouts in uniform) had a great time building with them.

Overall Impressions:

The Toy and Game Fair was a unique experience. It is not something librarians would probably think of visiting, but I would suggest checking one out if you get a chance. Vendors are eager to talk to you once you tell them you are a librarian so you get a chance to talk to a lot of different perspectives. If you do programming at all, you will probably also get a few ideas and contacts.

I will say I did expect the fair to be larger – it was a bit smaller than I expected. Maybe it is because I’m used to the giantness of ALA. The selection is definitely more limited, but you will come back to your library with a few ideas after attending the fair.

*As librarians, we were able to attend the fair for free. We received no compensation for our coverage or reviews on any of these products. All opinions are our own.

Holding out for a Sphero (2.0 vs the Original)


Hi, I’m Jacquie and I’ll be your Robot Advisor today. One question on a lot of our minds is, “Which Sphero is right for me (and for my library, and for my budget)? Is it worth it to pay more for Sphero 2.0, or will the original model be a good fit for us?” Let’s compare and contrast and you can decide which Sphero you need in your life.

By numbers alone, the first difference is about $30. You can purchase Sphero 2.0 on the Sphero website for $129.99, or you get pick up an original Sphero (let’s call it 1.0 for a moment) on Amazon for $99.99. Other numbers of interest: on the box, Sphero 2.0 purports to be twice as fast and three times as bright as the original Sphero, as well as waterproof and pet-proof.

Both models synced with an iPad with relative ease, but I could only get 2.0 to sync with an Android smartphone. I tried with a couple of different Spheros on a couple of different days, but I haven’t given up yet — I’ll keep working on this (I may even contact Sphero’s tech support, which has been very helpful in the past). For the purposes of this road test (which really took place in a hallway), I only used the iPad.

SpherosThey seemed equally bright to me, although our 2.0 has a few more miles on it and so is not as shiny. Perhaps the difference is more apparent in a dark room. I didn’t get out a stopwatch to determine if the 2.0 is twice as fast, but it definitely has more spring in its step; the extra power is apparent. The 2.0 starts smoothly from a stopped position, whereas the 1.0 needs a few extra taps on the iPad to get going. The 1.0 is also a little harder to rescue when it finds it’s way under things. I did send them both down a hallway that’s the length of our library, and while the 2.0 is zippier, the 1.0 is also satisfyingly fast. You can also adjust the maximum speed of either. They both operated just fine from as much distance as I could give them

I’m just covering the mechanical differences here, but the smoother handling of the 2.0 will streamline any apps that are used with it. As to the final claims of durability, I’m not brave enough to put a Sphero in water, so I’ll just take their word that it is waterproof. I never actually set out to pet-test the 2.0, but my dog did indeed chase it down and then drop it at my feet, and it was unscathed.

Hopefully you now know what you need to make an informed Sphero decision. I’d recommend either for library use, buy you do get what you pay for, and for $30 more Sphero 2.0 is somewhat faster and easier to maneuver, and possibly more durable.