Meet Photon, the robot teaching children to programme

An educational robot called Photon developed in Poland is rapidly gaining fans abroad – among them Prince William and his wife Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge. During the royal couple’s visit to Poland last July, they were seen playing with the robot. Photon is not just fun, though; he is designed to teach children valuable problem-solving and programming skills, which are increasingly sought after by employers. 

Photon comes with a story: just like E.T., he is an alien whose flying saucer has crashed on Earth and who wants to find his way home. Children join him on his adventures, solving maths problems and completing coding tasks to help him rebuild his spaceship. The toy grows with them, setting new tasks that boost skills and stimulate learning. 

With his moving antennae and glowing eyes, Photon is an engaging companion. He communicates with children and even expresses feelings. Touch, sound, surface contrast and light sensors help him navigate his surroundings. Children give commands using the Photon app, which works on smartphones and tablets. 

Designed by four students and their professor at Białystok University of Technology, the robot is a response to growing demand for IT and software developers in Poland and abroad. From a young age, children interact naturally with technology, but few are taught programming in a way that is hands-on, accessible and fun. 

Photon’s creators have already won several international awards, including Microsoft’s Imagine Cup 2015 in the World Citizenship category and the silver medal at Brussels Innova 2015. One Kickstarter campaign and a Polish government grant later, children can now have a Photon to call their own, for around PLN 800 (EUR 190).