learning together. Our job is to guide the children along the path, but we will all
walk the path together.

Basic Terms and Concepts
Robotics activities fall under the category of STEM learning. Every robotics activity
has some connection to each of the four STEM subject areas, but technology and
engineering are probably the most obvious connections. The term “technology”
is often used synonymously with the term “computer science.” The formal defi-
nition of “technology” includes any kind of machine or equipment invented to
solve a problem (such as a wind-up alarm clock), while the formal definition of
“computer science” is restricted to the study of devices that are programmed by
computer code. Informally, however, people often use both terms to refer to any-
thing related to computers and electronics. In this book, I’ll usually use the term
“technology” broadly to include both computer science and engineering, such as
mechanical engineering, and “computer science” to refer specifically to computer
programming–related topics. The term “coding” is often used broadly to mean all
things related to computers, but coding is actually a more specific task. To code,
or to write code, means to program a computer. You may be familiar with the term
“code” as related to secret codes or Morse code. A code is a sequence of symbols,
such as letters or numbers, that represent meaning. Coding in computer science is
an active process in which the programmer makes decisions about what to accom-
plish and then writes or creates a code to make that happen. Some of the robotics
devices introduced in chapter 3 involve coding at an introductory level.

What makes robotics so exciting for young children is that a robot is a tangible
thing that can be built or moved or manipulated in some way. The three-dimensional,
real-world characteristics and processes of robotics involve engineering—the “E” in
“STEM.” Building robots and robotic devices may involve many different subcat-
egories of engineering, depending on the materials and structures used. These
different kinds of engineering include mechanical engineering, electrical engi-
neering, and design engineering. For most young children, these tangible, concrete
aspects of building, manipulating, and maneuvering are more meaningful than the
abstract coding aspects. For this reason, we’ll focus on engineering first, in chapter
2, before we move on to coding or programming activities in chapter 3.