Google Teach Kids to Code with Programmable Lego-like Blocks
To encourage kids to participate in tangible programming, allowing them to learn computational skills without looking at a screen, Google has unveiled a new system tagged ‘Project Bloks’. Using a system with just three main components, children can customise and rearrange their blocks to create a set of instructions that will control any connected toys or devices.
The system developed in collaboration with, Paulo Blikstein (Stanford University) and IDEO, is made up of three main components: pucks, base boards and brain boards. Pucks are for individual functions, like on/off switches, sensors, dials for adjusting amounts, and arrows indicating direction. Pucks are designed to be easy and cheap to make, allowing developers the flexibility to create whatever it is their system requires.
Pucks are what make the Project Bloks system so versatile. They help bring the infinite flexibility of software programming commands to tangible programming experiences. Pucks can be programmed with different instructions, such as ‘turn on or off’, ‘move left’ or ‘jump’. They can also take the shape of many different interactive forms—like switches, dials or buttons. With no active electronic components, they are also incredibly cheap and easy to make. At a minimum, all you would need to make a puck is a piece of paper and some, Google states.
Google was smart enough to make the system work little like Lego, with modular blocks clipping together to make different shapes. Each block can be assigned an attribute or function, and developers and kids can use these to create simple sets of instructions for robots, toys and other devices to follow. Google likens the project to a physical version of its simple on-screen programming language, Blockly.
Designing kits for tangible programming is challenging—requiring the resources and time to develop both the software and the hardware. Our goal is to remove those barriers. By creating an open platform, Project Bloks will allow designers, developers and researchers to focus on innovating, experimenting and creating new ways to help kids develop computational thinking. Our vision is that, one day, the Project Bloks platform becomes for tangible programming what Blockly is for on-screen programming, the company said in a blogpost.
Built on a Raspberry Pi Zero (super-small, hackable, and ultra-low-cost computer) , the brain board is the core of the system, providing power to the base boards and processing the instructions as a whole. It then transmits the complete code via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth to any external device with an API. Also using a prototype of the system called the Coding Kit, the researchers demonstrated the concept by having kids instruct a Wi-Fi-connected robot to draw a square, rotate 60 degrees, and then repeat that sequence six times.
The system is designed in such a way that developers can customise, reconfigure and rearrange to create all kinds of different tangible programming experiences.
Google is calling all educators, developers, parents and researchers to help give Project Blok a better face. Naija parents what are you waiting for?