Case Study: San Jose Public Library

San Jose Public Library Loan ProgramThe San Jose Public Library participated in the Finch loan program between June and November of 2015. During this time, they used the 20 borrowed robots for 13 programs at a variety of libraries. These programs were targeted to children ages 8 - 13 and their parents. Attendance at the programs ranged from 8 to 40 people.

Content/Structure of Finch Program:

Each program was 60 - 90 minutes in length. A short summary is given here, but all the details are available in the program outline.

  • 5 minutes: Introduction, Programming basics
  • “Program Your Partner” activity
    • Participants work in pairs and use only two commands, STEP FORWARD (take one step only) and TURN LEFT (turn 90 degrees, one quarter turn left).
    • One partner programs the other to trace out an 'L' using only these commands. 
    • Partners switch roles and trace out a 'T.'
  • 5 - 10 minutes: Finch robot overview; Snap! basics
    • Point out features of the robot.
    • Show participants how to connect the Finch and open Snap! Level 3.
    • Describe the basic commands. Students can refer to this reference card as they complete the program activities.
  • 30 - 40 minutes: Participants create basic scripts to move the Finch robots forward and backward, to make the robot stop, and to make the robot’s beak change colors.
    • Activity 1: Stop when the 's' key is pressed
    • Activity 2: Forward when the 'f' key is pressed
    • Activity 3: Backward when the 'b' key is pressed
    • Activity 4: Change color of beak
    • Activity 5: Turn in a circle
    • Activity 6: Turn right (or left) when an arrow key is pressed
    • Activity 7: Make buzzer sound three different notes
  • 15 - 20 minutes: Participants race the Finch robots.


Finch in classroom

  • At each branch, children's books related to computers and programming were placed on display at the program.
  • Take-home handout showing free online coding resources (Lightbot, Scratch).
  • Overhead projector to demonstrate the Snap! programming environment
  • Birdbrain Robot Server was installed on 20 laptops with the assistance of IT staff.
  • This program requires space so the Finch can move around. Library community rooms were used, but the size of this space may limit the number of participants.


Number of Participants

An ideal number of participants in the targeted age range (ages 8 - 13) is 12. This number is based on instructional requirements, space, and time. With more children, the space was overcrowded, and staff were not able to assist everyone. At several locations, participants required one-on-one assistance navigating the Snap! programming environment. In some cases, participants had never used a laptop touchpad and required more assistance and time.Time

At least 15 minutes of instruction was needed to present even a brief introduction to programming and robotics. After the introduction, staff covered how to operate the Finch robots and gave participants time for free play. When the program included a race with all participants, it lasted 80 - 90 minutes. Most kids and parents were willing to stay for this amount of time, but in some cases participants were expecting a one-hour program.


The number of programs was limited by the logistical challenge of moving the equipment from branch to branch. The Finch robots themselves were easy to carry, but the laptops required more space and special handling. The San Jose Public Library enlisted the help of interbranch delivery staff, and they delivered the laptops in two large pelican cases to each branch in advance of the program.

Finch in classroom setting

Feedback from the Public

Participants universally loved the program! The library received very positive feedback from participants; people wanted to take the Finch home, check it out, or know where they could purchase one.

All ages loved playing! In most cases, children worked with an adult (family member or caregiver). The program leader met a lot of grateful parents/adults/caregivers who were very happy to see their child programming and having a great time. Parents were very interested in the take-home handouts about free online coding resources.