SendGrid’s Denver office was transformed into a robotic playground two weeks ago. That’s right a playground for spherical, rolling robots!  As the host of the latest Sphero Rangers meetup, we opened our office to the kids (those young and young at heart) who wanted to hone their BASIC programming skills with the help of their friendly neighborhood Sphero ball.

Sphero Rangers is an incredible new program, sponsored by Orbotix, that aims to get kids (and their parents) into programming. No previous coding experience is required to participate — all you need to bring is your enthusiasm. Each event provides hands-on programming instruction and plenty of opportunity to play. Spheros, as well as the iOS and Android devices needed to control them, are provided for each participant who doesn’t bring their own.

Participants split into beginner and advanced groups, and received instruction from those who know Sphero best — its creators. After mentoring sessions that walked the kids through the ins and outs of BASIC and visual programming, they were issued a challenge: write a program to navigate their Sphero through a course that was set up in SendGrid’s hallways. Whoever successfully completed the course the fastest and did so with the fewest lines of code won their very own Sphero to take home for further hacking!

It was amazing to see how dedicated the kids were to perfecting their code. If they didn’t complete their challenge right the first time, they went right back to fixing their code so they could jump in line to try again. There was so much enthusiasm on display, and it was especially nice to see parents and kids working together to solve a problem. As one of the parents at the event noted “If you want your kids to learn something about coding, this toy will motivate them to figure it out– ‘How do I make Mr. Sphero do XYZ?  Lemme try THIS…’’’ It was easy to see how addictive playing with Sphero can be — many of the kids who were in the experienced group at this event had been novices at the last Sphero Rangers event in Boulder.

Our Director of Ecosystem Development, Paul Kincaid-Smith was one of the many SendGridders on hand to help and participate. He noted how gratifying it is to work with Sphero since it’s such an “open-ended toy” that allows you to experience something unique — a tangible result to your programming. “What I like about Sphero is it takes something complicated and makes it accessible to kids. Tools like this show kids what’s possible — that computers are theirs to be used and controlled and that they can be in charge. There’s a power there.”

We couldn’t agree more. At SendGrid, we take great pride in opening our doors and our resources to the community. We are so thankful that we were able to team up with our friends at Orbotix to help future generations do what we do everyday…play with technology. Who knows, maybe some of the Sphero Rangers from Saturday will be future SendGridders! If you’re interested in the next Sphero Rangers event, check out their Meetup page to sign up.

And if you’d like to join us as we test the limits of technology within our community, come take part in Hack4Colorado, an initiative of the National Day of Civic Hacking May 31st-June 2nd at Galvanize in Denver. We’re really looking forward to seeing the next great hacks that come from this community and would love to see you there.

Jillian Wohlfarth
As SendGrid's Director of Content, Jillian is responsible for ensuring that SendGrid provides valuable thought leadership content through the blog, whitepapers, webcasts, and more. When not writing and editing, you can find Jillian frequenting Denver restaurants in search of the best queso.