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Sphero -
­ Invent a game

Years 7-8

This lesson will explore how to program the Sphero using functions and show the benefits of decomposing the behaviour of the Sphero into functions, instead of writing line by line repeated behaviours.

This lesson idea was created by Celia Coffa.



  • Sphero or Sphero Sprk+ robot
  • Sphero Curriculum available online
  • Introductory video of the Sphero and Meet Sphero
  • Building and construction materials such as Knex or Lego, cardboard, bottle tops, tape, plastic cups, scissors, tape, straws, pipe cleaners etc (general construction materials)
  • Sphero Apps including
    • Sphero Macrolab by Orbotix Inc.
    • SPRK Lightning Lab ¬ Programming for Sphero Robots by Orbotix Inc.
  • Examples of adaptations to Sphero ¬ eg Chariot races, Sprk Examples on Pinterest

Prior Student Learning

Students have been exposed to Sphero using play­based learning, and are able to create simple algorithms using Lightning Lab. They are familiar with the coding aspects to enable basic control of a sphero eg ­ move in a square.

Learning hook

What makes a good game?

Present some examples of good games that could include the Sphero. For example, in PacMan, the Sphero can play the role of monsters.

What elements are essential? Optional?

How can we use Sphero to create a game that requires programming to play (not simply using the Drive tool)?

Ask the students to think about tasks that are repetitive or complex in the game: for example, if the game is a pong¬like game, the Sphero would need to move for a while in one direction, then move into another, etc this type of behaviour is a good candidate for using functions.

Introduce the students to the concept of functions, showing how functions dramatically reduce the number of lines of code we have to write.

For each algorithm, students work in groups to identify the basic building blocks for achieving the task:

  • How many building blocks can students identify?
  • What are the advantages/disadvantages of using each of them?

Introduce the concept of function parameters and how these are used within functions.

Learning map and outcomes

  • Revisit previous knowledge of Sphero
  • Introduce and attempt challenge of creating a game:
    • Rules
    • Game Play
    • Winning condition
    • Integration of Sphero in the game play
  • Team teach game to another group, self¬ and peer¬assess
  • Challenge: students program the Sphero following the game rules
    • Students write the pseudocode for your algorithm, identifying building blocks that could be used as functions
  • Is the Sphero doing something repeatedly?
  • Is the Sphero doing something where some key parameters change?
  • Students identify the key building blocks for the algorithm
  • For example, if a Sphero is playing the role of a monster moving in a maze, like in the game PacMan, the key building block could be:
    • roll in a straight line for a while, corresponding to x meters (x is a parameter)
    • make a turn if a variable is set
  • The algorithm would then see the repetition of this building block a number of times, with different parameter values.
  • This building block is called a function, say move
  • Students write the algorithm using repeated calls to move:
    • move(5)
    • move(4)
    • ...
  • Students write the SPRK program and test the program in groups
  • Students write the code for the Sphero and load the code on it.
  • Students test and debug the code in pairs.

Learning input

Revisit the coding and use of Sphero What is possible?

Discuss elements of a good game What is the aim of the game? Rules, instructions, variations

Discuss why/how Sphero may be a good addition to a game

Learning construction

Students are now asked to design a game using Sphero that matches the elements of a ‘good game’ discussed earlier. The choice of game is up to the students, however must be playable by a small groups (2¬4 players). A variety of materials will be provided to provoke thoughts and ideas. Students work in small groups.

Learning demo

Demonstrate examples of Sphero games (photos, videos) such as the ones below. Be aware that showing examples may lead to ‘copying’ without thought. Copying with variations will be acceptable.

Two different photos showinge xamples of Sphero games

Learning reflection

Groups must then combine and team¬teach their game to another group. Students must self¬assess and peer assess their own game and someone elses’ based on the following criteria:

  • Ease to understand
  • Fun factor
  • Use of Sphero
  • Creativity

Class discussion:

  • Was the game a mix of challenge and fun?
  • What sort of features can students think of to enhance the game?
  • What was difficult about creating this game?
  • What are the challenges about coding this game for the Sphero
  • What are the benefits of using functions in this case?
  • Was this game easy to test/debug?
  • What were the challenges when designing the functions?
  • What were some of the advantages?
  • What other things do you need to consider when writing a program with functions?
  • Was it difficult to program the Sphero using functions?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of using functions?
  • What was challenging about using functions?


There are many Sphero apps now available to explore with your students on the iPad, more being added over time. Only a few are currently compatible with Sphero SPRK+. Here are some of the ones you might explore with your student: