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In third-grade science class, Runnels School students Reese Downing, left, and Paige Hileman watch Ozobots respond to their programming instructions.

With the help of a fleet of pint-sized robots called Ozobots, students in Candace Ortlieb's third-grade science classes at Runnels Elementary School are learning how to program.

Ozobots are tiny toy robots that have light sensors to allow students to direct their actions. The robots follow patterns on surfaces that are drawn with special red, blue, green and black markers.

"The students create the paths and decide which commands to give their Ozobots," Ortlieb said. "Different color sequences tell the Ozobots what to do."

Popular commands include the Turbo, a burst of speed that students programmed using a blue-green-blue color sequence; and the Snail Dose, a three-second interval of exceedingly slow movement that requires a red-green-blue color code.

"This is a gateway program to help students learn about basic coding," Ortlieb said. As the school year progresses, students will use OzoBlockly, Ozobot's code editor, to learn more about computer programming.