Harvard's Root Robotics markets an educational coding robot that teaches children about computer programming and has now been acquired by iRobot for an unspecified amount.

Root Robotics, a US-based educational coding robot maker spun out of Harvard University, has been acquired by robotic technologies supplier iRobot for an undisclosed sum.

Root Robotics has developed a robot that can be used to teach computer programming to both young and high school children.

The robot is controlled by coding commands issued via an iPad interface which instruct it to perform creative tasks, using its built-in sensors, bumpers and touch-sensitive surface.

Root Robotics’ product has been introduced in more than 500 schools, and iRobot now plans to incorporate the robot into its own educational offering, while also scaling up the spinout’s manufacturing and content.

The idea emerged from the lab of Radhika Nagpal, core faculty and co-lead for bioinspired soft robotics at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering.

Root Robotics was founded in 2016, going on to secure $2.5m in a seed round the following year, though it is unclear whether this includes $400,000 raised from a Kickstarter campaign.

Raphael Cherney, a co-founder of Root Robotics who has moved to iRobot as a principal systems engineer, said: “The tangible nature of a robot really brings the code to life, because the robot is ‘real’ in a way that code is not — you can watch it physically carrying out the instructions that you have programmed into it.”

“It helps turn coding into a social activity, especially for kids, as they learn to work in teams and see coding as a fun and natural thing to do.”