By Michael Ray
Saturday, August 4, the Century City’s Apple store hosted a Kid’s Hour featuring a Sphero Maze Challenge. The event introduced basic coding, as well as a hands on demonstration of the round robot Sphero. The Apple Geniuses were on hand to help the young participants navigate through the maze.
The maze, constructed with numbered tape, featured a series of straightaways, sharp turns and fellow coders on the track. The Apple Geniuses guided the group of participants, aged eight to twelve, with one-on-one training. The training included how to use Sphero’s app, as well as tips for navigating the maze. Founded by Adam Wilson and Ian Bernstein, the duo has created an array of robots including Sphero, Ollie, and most recently, BB-8 from “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” Bernstein has stated “My passion is in electronics and robotics. Ever since I was 12 years old I have been building robots and in 2010 I started a company so I could work on cool stuff all the time!” His current robot project is Misty II, a programmable robot with speakers, facial recognition camera, USB ports and more.
Inside the Apple Store, the Kid’s Hour is just one several programs that is hosted throughout the week. An Apple Genius told Century City-Westwood News that the store was opened in November of 2017 and coincided with the release of the iPhone X. The new store is complete with a new design in that the “Genius Bar” has been replaced with a multipurpose space. The redesign is credited to Apple’s Senior Vice President of Retail, “with the goal of educating, inspiring, entertaining and enriching communities” according to the Ahrendts’ Apple Biography. From studio hours to workshops and classes the Apple Geniuses assist participants in understanding products, programs, and apps.
During the Maze Challenge, participants used an iPad to program the Sphero to navigate through series of twists and turns. According to a press release by Sphero, users can “Download SPRK lessons, learn the basics of programming, and actually have fun doing it. Then unleash Sphero’s inner robot and program like a pro using the MacroLab and OrbBasic apps.” The robot has a max rolling of speed of up to seven feet per second and is waterproof. The Sphero has several accessories, as well as internal lights and is compatible with multiple operating system. Sara S. from La Crosse, WI cited that her nieces and nephews had used Sphero in the previous year and so she decided to get one for them this summer. She wrote in her review of the Sphero, “they’ve showed me some of the things they learned in school and it’s incredible what these [seven] and [eleven] year olds can do with an app and a robot.” During the Maze Challenge, the Apple Geniuses guided the participants through the technical aspects of the maze and helped to calculate distance, speed and rotation of the robot. During training sessions like the Maze Challenge, people have an opportunity to have a hands on interaction with a specific device or software. An Apple Genius stated that the store also has sessions for other devices including the iPad and Apple TV.